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MultiplyIntroduction

Truth is under attack for it is no longer considered to be absolute within our postmodern society. George Barna reported that only 33 percent of Americans accept the idea of absolute moral truth.[1] Barna’s poll also found that even Christians struggle to accept moral truth as absolute. According to Barna, only 49 percent of those born again believe in absolute moral truth.[2] Postmodernism is stripping away the traditional ideas of truth. Therefore the modern Christian believer is required to accurately understand God’s mission through the study of missiology in order to competently relate God’s message by implementing specific evangelistic methods.

Relevant Old Testament and New Testament Text Related to Mission

World evangelism was God’s plan from the very beginning as it was revealed to us in Genesis 12:1-3. God did not choose Israel to simply flex His sovereign power and extend blessing to a favored people. God chose Abraham to be the Father of a special nation in order to bless all of mankind. Genesis 12 reveals how God would specifically accomplish this task. He would elevate a nation for the sole purpose of blessing the world. Isaiah 49:6 indicates how God would achieve such purpose. God would preserve the nation of Israel in order to give the world a Savior. Of course Isaiah is speaking of the Messianic hope that the Jews were anticipating, but this promise was not for the Jews only; the Messiah was the “light to the Gentiles”.

Matthew 28:19-20 is the Great Commission and Christ’s final words while on earth to the church. This mandate illustrates the Lord’s intention for the Body of Christ to go to the utter ends of the world to proclaim the good news. The church is not called to be a holy huddle only, but rather an evangelistic sending agency. Acts 1:8 declares that church is to be mere witnesses of Christ. That is to say that the believer is to give testimony to the mighty acts of Christ as a faithful witness. Simply put, we must tell the world about Jesus for communicating the gospel to every man and woman was God’s idea from the very beginning and ultimately speaks to God’s very nature.

Relating God’s Nature to Mission

The term “mission” refers to everything that the church is doing which points toward the kingdom of God.[3] The Christian mission rests squarely upon biblical revelation. As Scripture is studied, God’s nature in regards to mission initiatives is clearly seen. In the Bible, a divine drama revealing the missionary nature of God is seen woven into the fabric of the Old and New Testament narratives.[4] There are implications in American pop culture that God is a God of wrath in the Old Testament. From this point of view, God is believed to exhibit love in the New Testament dispensation only.[5] However, this is not true. From the opening verses of Scripture God’s mission themes are clearly evident and then expanded upon within the entire canon of Scripture. Perhaps the best way to recognize God’s nature is to examine the thematic events throughout Scripture. One way is to explore the major events of the Bible, is to examine the events of God’s word as one would watch the acts of a play unfold.

Scripture can be divided into 7 acts: The creation and fall of man, Abraham’s call and setting a people apart for Himself, God’s deliverance of His people, God exiling His people, God saving His people, God sanctifying His people and God renewing all of creation.[6] These acts discloses God’s specific mission and reveals His missionary nature. Therefore, God’s love for all people and the Christian’s responsibility in light of God’s mission is compelling. The body of Christ must define a theological approach to mission.

Relating Mission Theology to Other Aspects of Theology

Mission theology is often seen as merely a specialized study confined to the mission departments of American colleges and seminaries.[7]   However, if God’s concern is for all the nations of the world to be evangelized and called to worship, then theology mission is at the core of all theological studies. In other words, mission theology is not simply fitted somewhere within the structural walls of theology, mission theology serves as the foundation in which all other theological matters rest upon and spring forth. Mission theology is at the heart of the church’s theology serving as theology’s core. Mission theology is only superseded by the Bible itself for the Word of God is the ultimate authority to guide the believer in all matters of faith and practice. The Holy Scripture alone provides the general principles on which a mission theology can be built. Once a proper theology of mission is established, the mission theology can support a guiding theme.

Key Themes and Motifs of Mission Theology

Guiding themes are metaphors which help characterize the mission. Themes are clearly seen in the motifs or repeating patterns that reinforce recurring ideas.[8] There are key themes and motifs permeating throughout mission theology. The Kingdom of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Church, Shalom and the Return of Christ are six motifs that prove to be integral to mission for they are rooted in evangelism, church planting, discipleship, church growth and salt-and-light living. [9] These motifs serve as themes through which mission theology can better be explained and enhanced. The motif kingdom of God runs through every layer of the foundational mission focus. It grows as evangelistic initiatives are implemented. The motif Jesus identifies the Christian faith as a belief system not centered on a book or a set of ideals but rather a person. Therefore, Christ is central to the faith and to the mission having enabled the mission through his sacrificial death.[10] The Holy Spirit motif is critical for He is the agent who empowers the Christian for mission. Ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit which makes mission work possible for the church. The Church motif identifies a relationship with God, the world and itself.[11] The church is to send praise to God, call people of the world to repentance and purify as well as edify itself. The Shalom motif speaks to a personal and social peace. This theme reflects the idea that Christians have meaning and purpose for they live peaceable lives. Finally, the Return of Christ motif has 3 eschatological implications.[12] First, evangelism is God’s response to a lost and dying world. Second, the return of Christ offers believers hope. Third, Christ return motivates the saint to be mission minded. Having this recurring themes guides the Christian in specific methods which affirm the mission.

Specifically Relating Mission Theology

As the mission is defined, the believer has an eternal perspective in which to follow and function. The central need of humanity is then made evident. Every person needs to be redeemed in order to reestablish a living and loving relationship with God. The ultimate goal is for man to love God with all his heart, soul, and mind.[13]

Once the need of man is discovered the mission becomes obvious and is appropriately articulated in the Great Commission of the church.[14] The commission identifies the specific functions necessary in reestablishing man’s relationship with God. First, there must be an effective witness of Christ.[15] The church must share the gospel of Christ communicating God’s plan to redeem fallen man. This is accomplished with a personal and public witness both verbally and relationally. Second, the believer is to build up and edify those who have responded to the gospel message and have committed their lives to the Lord. This can be achieved the discipleship efforts of the local church. The church should serve as a place where believers are nurtured, strengthened and encouraged in the faith. The goal of every church should be to lead others to live a life that loves God with all ones heart, soul and mind. Finally, the mission of the church compels the believer to live as the light of the world.[16] Therefore, the saint practically and specifically functions in radiating the message of Christ while dispelling the darkness of the world. Therefore, every believer regardless of whether he is a fulltime missionary, church leader or layman is called to participate in God’s mission.

Conclusion

David Livingstone once said, “God only had one Son and He made that Son a missionary.”[17] Today, it is essential for the Christian to accurately understand God’s mission through by studying missiology in order to competently relate God’s message and implement biblical evangelistic methods. World evangelism was God’s plan from the very beginning. The Bible, through ordained events and circumstances, reveals the missionary nature of God for it is woven into the fabric of the Old and New Testament narratives. Therefore, mission theology serves as the foundation in which all other theological matters rest upon as seen by the motifs that are clearly identifiable in the study of Scripture. This enables every believer to specifically relate the mission of God to a world in need regardless of his vocation or position in today’s body of Christ.

Bibliography

Kane, J. Herbert, Understanding Christian Missions, 4ed., (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House,

1986), 15.

 

Moreau A. Scott, Corwin Gary R., & McGee Gary B., Introducing World Missions: A Biblical,

Historical, and Practical Survey, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), 14.

 

Winter, Ralph D. & Hawthorne, Steven C., Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A

Reader, 3ed., (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1999), 3.

[1] A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, Gary B. McGee, Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), 14.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ralph D. Winter, Steven C. Hawthorne, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader, 3ed., (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1999), 3.

[4] Moreau, Corwin, McGee, Introducing World Missions, 25.

[5] Ibid., 27.

[6] Ibid., 27-70.

[7] Ibid., 74.

[8] Ibid., 79.

[9] Ibid., 80.

[10] Ibid., 81.

[11] Ibid., 84.

[12] Ibid., 85.

[13] Mt. 22:37

[14] Mt. 28:19-20

[15] Acts 1:8

[16] Mt 5:14

[17] J. Herbert Kane, Understanding Christian Missions, 4ed., (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1986), 15.