The Spirit of God’s Mission For The Church
I don’t know about you, but I have been on many honey-do runs in the course of my marriage. A honey-do run is simply a time when your wife sends you out (or because you are already out) to get some things for her. The mission is doing something for your honey, which is important in its own right.
However, the effectiveness of the mission will also be based upon your understanding of what she wants you to get. In other words, the message is a vital component of missional effectiveness. If you misunderstand or forget what it is your wife sent you to get, the effectiveness of the mission will falter.
With regard to the missio Dei, the message of mission is a vital component of missional effectiveness. If we misunderstand the message, or get the message wrong, the mission will be either off, or wrong altogether. Therefore, it is essential that we understand the message of God’s mission.
Simply put, the message of the missio Dei is that God is on mission to glorify Himself by means of advancing His kingdom on earth through the means of His people, empowered by His Spirit, who share and show the gospel of God’s kingdom in Jesus Christ.
There are at least five themes that serve as the elements of the message of God’s mission.
Element 1: God’s Glory
The message of God’s mission is that it’s all about Him! His glory is the ultimate goal and point of mission. (1) We were created in His image to reflect His glory in all areas of our lives, but we rebelled and distorting the image of God. Thus, God is on mission to redeem and restore our damaged image in order that we may reflect His glory once again.
Element 2: God’s Kingdom
The message of God’s mission includes the establishment of His kingdom. Richard Bauckham expresses, “The Bible is a kind of project aimed at the kingdom of God, that is, toward the achievement of God’s purposes for good in the whole of God’s creation…” (2) Because the nucleus of His mission includes both His glory and His kingdom, God has always had a pattern of creating a place for His people (us) and calls us to live life under His rule and reign.
From the beginning, God desired humanity to extend His rule and reign throughout the entire created order. G.K. Beale argues that as Adam and Eve were faithful to God in the Garden, living out His commands, enjoying perfect communion with Him, they inevitably would extend the geographical boundaries of Eden (i.e., His kingdom) until Eden covered the entire earth. (3) As a result of living under God’s rule and reign, we experience blessing.
Element 3: God’s King
The message of God’s mission revolves around His king, King Jesus. The first Adam failed at imaging God and effectively ruling as God’s vice-regent over the created order. As a result of the fall of humanity (Gen. 3), we are incapable of glorifying God. Moreover, we aren’t only incapable of glorifying God, but we have been severed and separated from a relationship and connection with Him.
However, because of God’s great love for His glory, kingdom, and creation (and especially His image-bearers), He sent the second and better Adam, King Jesus, to redeem sinners (not to mention the entire cosmos). Because of Christ’s obedient life, sacrificial death, temporary burial, victorious resurrection, and glorious ascension to the throne, God has highly exalted Christ giving Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:9–11)
Jesus is the center of God’s kingdom (and His mission), for it is in Jesus that God is reconciling the world to Himself (Col. 1:20).
Element 4: God’s Spirit (Power)
The message of God’s mission involves the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit for effective operation to ensue. While the Spirit is definitely present in the Old Testament (under the Old Covenant), the Spirit under the New Covenant will indwell all believers, empowering them for kingdom living and advancing their commission.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NKJV)
A New Covenant
31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
Ezekiel 3:22-27 (NKJV)
22 Then the hand of the Lord was upon me there, and He said to me, “Arise, go out into the plain, and there I shall talk with you.”
23 So I arose and went out into the plain, and behold, the glory of the Lord stood there, like the glory which I saw by the River Chebar; and I fell on my face. 24 Then the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet, and spoke with me and said to me: “Go, shut yourself inside your house. 25 And you, O son of man, surely they will put ropes on you and bind you with them, so that you cannot go out among them. 26 I will make your tongue cling to the roof of your mouth, so that you shall be mute and not be one to rebuke them, for they are a rebellious house. 27 But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ He who hears, let him hear; and he who refuses, let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house.
Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV)
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
John 20:21-22 (NKJV)
21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
Acts 1:8 (NKJV)
8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
The two major roles of the Holy Spirit are to convict the world of sin (John 16:8) and conform God’s people into a worldwide worshiping missional community (Acts 1:8) who are sent out on mission. Thus, prior to his ascension, Jesus tells His disciples to wait in Jerusalem to receive the Holy Spirit. Alvin Reid asserts: When Jesus declared that His followers would receive power after the Holy Spirit had come upon them and that they would be witnesses, He meant that we could be effective witnesses—but not in our own strength. Effectiveness comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. (4)
In short, the Spirit of God is the power source for the embracement, embodiment, and enactment of God’s mission.
Element 5: God’s People
The message of God’s mission includes His people’s participation. Essentially, God’s mission creates the instrument of His mission, namely His people. That’s us. From Adam to Israel and from Jesus to the Church, God’s people are called to participate in His kingdom mission. In Jesus, the body of Christ was created as the redeemed saints of God to be His worldwide witnessing agents. Thus, as Emil Brunner once pointedly penned, “The church exists by mission, just as fire exists by burning.” (5)
In order to fulfill God’s mission, His people (those who are in Christ, us) are to verbally share and demonstrably show the good news of God’s kingdom in King Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. In doing so, we proclaim the good news that Jesus is making all things new (Rev. 21:5), while demonstrating that reality as we enact God’s kingdom ethics in all areas of our lives—personal, marital, familial, social, relational, cultural, vocational, etc.
By Ed Stetzer
(1) Zane Pratt, “The Heart of Mission: Redemption,” ed. Bruce Riley Ashford, ed., Theology and Practice of Mission: God, The Church, and The Nations (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2011), 48.
(2) Richard Bauckham, Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 110.
(4) Alvin Reid, Evangelism Handbook, 154.
(5) H. Emil Brunner, The Word and the World (London: SCM Press, 1931), 108.
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