“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it” ~Psalms 24:1
God is a missionary God. His very nature is missional. The church only discovers the mission of God as it is gathered into the life of God. More than ever, it appears the church has misplaced its ability to faithfully engage the Missio Dei.
Today’s church has been greatly influenced by the consumeristic culture of Western society. So much so that it identifies itself as more of an institution than a living Body. Instead of equipping people for mission we seem to be producing religious consumers who treat the church more like a shopping mall than house of prayer.
Consumerism has influenced the core of our society. People fill their lives with material things looking for a sense of satisfaction. They have an inherent urge for a life-giving relationship with something beyond themselves. They do not rationally understand this void; however, instinctively they yearn for immersion in the Spirit of the Creator.
In the world’s brokenness, people have lost the awareness that God is the only true source of life. The good news is God wants to redeem the world and the church is invited to join Him. The church’s commitment to the Missio Dei is imperative in its endeavor to fulfill the Great Commission.
Mission Starts with God.
This mission is God’s mission. It is not something we decide we are going to do for God. Mission is much more than implementing a new program or getting involved with serving the community. God’s mission starts with God Himself. We too often assume that it begins when we discover a felt need and respond by giving money or carrying out a service project.
In John 17, Jesus prays: “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” This means that we do not merely send resources out of the church to solve problems. God is not merely calling individuals to individually give money to charitable programs. God is sending the church, corporately, into the world. The church is not the primary “sending agent.” The church itself is “sent.” God is the One who sends.
The church has no mission apart from God’s mission. As God expands the footprint of the Kingdom He invites us to participate, but He never coerces. Participation in the Missio Dei calls for us to identify where God is working and make a conscious decision to join Him. Engagement in the mission of God requires willing hearts.
God is Working When No One is Looking.
God is relentless in His mission to save that which is lost. Jesus can always be found on the margins—in the places where no one bothers to look. He never starts at the center and works outward. His nature is to start on the fringes and work inward. Sharing in the life of God for the sake of the world means becoming keepers of the “least of these” (Matt. 25:40). As you know, wjat we do for the leats, we do for Him.
In Philippians 2 Paul uses the Greek word kenosis in referring to Christ’s act of self-emptying. Kenosis demonstrates the out-poured love of God for the sake of the world. Emptying oneself is what being incarnational looks like. Self-emptying is the essence of the mind of Christ—let this mind be in you.
Engaging the Missio Dei means moving away from attractional models of ministry to incarnational ways of existing with God for the benefit of the world. Only as the church learns to once again identify with the suffering of humanity can it truly identify with the suffering of Jesus.
God lives on the fringes. When we serve the least we discover the heart of Jesus. This is where redemption is found. When we intentionally enter the margins we become the hands and feet of Jesus at work in the world. Through participation in the Missio Dei, the Kingdom is revealed on earth as it is in heaven.
Sources: (1) For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy by Alexander Schmemann; (2) What is Mission? Theological Explorations by J. Andrew Kirk