Mission is why we exist as disciples. God’s love inspires us to be missionaries to the world around us. Emil Brunner says, “The church exists by mission just as fire exists by burning.” Mission begins at home, serving in our local church, and reaching our community. As disciples, we have been sent as missionaries to share the gospel in our present culture and to fulfill the Great Commission. The church is rooted in the concept of the missio Dei, which recognizes that there is one mission, and it’s God’s mission. The missio Dei is a Latin theological term that can be translated as mission of God. The word missio literally means sent. The church is not an end in itself; the church is sent into the world to fulfill the mission of God.
God is a Missionary
Understanding what it means to be a part of the mission of God begins with understanding that God is a missionary God. The very being of God is the basis for the missionary enterprise. God is a sending God, with a desire to see humankind and creation reconciled, redeemed, and healed. God’s mission can be seen throughout the pages of the Bible and history. Nowhere is the mission of God better understood than in the person and work of Jesus Christ. John 3:16 tells us, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Many Christians and churches teach and preach that missions are something we support or do, such as sending or supporting missionaries in other countries. This was the case twenty to thirty years ago. However, in the twenty first century the mission field has come to us.
We live in a post-Christian world where people simply don’t know the gospel anymore. Therefore, we are all called to be missional disciples and share in the mission of God. Ed Stetzer says, “Being Missional means actually doing mission right where you are. Missional means adopting the posture of a missionary, learning and adapting to the culture around you while remaining biblically sound.”
Jesus: The First Missionary
Being a missional disciple is simply following the way of Jesus. Jesus Christ was the first and greatest missionary. The Bible tells us that he came from heaven to earth to die for a lost and dying world. The following scriptures reveal how the mission of God was fulfilled through Jesus Christ and how we are called to continue and complete the missio Dei in our culture.
- “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work’” (Jn. 4:34).
- “I can do nothing on my own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (Jn. 5:30).
- “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (Jn. 6:38).
- “I know him; because I am from him, and he sent me.” (Jn. 7:29).
- “And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (Jn 8:29).
- “We must work the works of him who sent me, as long as it is day; night is coming, when no man can work.” (Jn 9:4).
- “And Jesus cried out and said, ‘He who believes in me does not believe in me, but in him who sent me. And he who beholds me beholds the one who sent me’” (Jn 12:44-45).
- “For I did not speak on my own initiative, but the Father himself who sent Me has given Me commandment, what to say, and what to speak” (Jn 12:49).
- “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives me; and he who receives me receives him who sent me” (Jn 13:20).
- “And this is eternal life, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (Jn 17:3).
- “For the words which thou gave me I have given to them; and they received them, and truly understood that I came forth from thee, and they believed that thou didst send me” (Jn 17:8).
- “As thou didst send me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (Jn 17:18).
- “Jesus therefore said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent me, I also send you’” (Jn 20:21).
Sent on a Mission
As the Father sent Jesus, he also sends us into our time and culture. Mark Driscoll says, “It is imperative that Christians be like Jesus, by living freely within the culture as missionaries who are as faithful to the Father and his gospel as Jesus was in his own time and place.”
We have been chosen by God to live in this time and place in order to fulfill the mission of God. Acts 17: 26-27 tells us that God has determined the exact place and time where we should live so that that men may find him. It is truly awesome to realize that you have chosen by God to be his representative to this world. It is both a great privilege and great responsibility.
Paul describes our calling in the following way, “We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).
Being missional is God’s way of showing the love of his Son Jesus through his church. Christians must strive to always be like Jesus, our perfect example. Jesus said, “The Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45). This scripture beautifully embodies the task of Christian ministry. To be a disciple is to be a servant. We are to serve and give our lives for others. Serving is the example that Jesus gave; therefore, we should follow it.
As the church we are called to care for a lost and dying world that is in desperate need of a Savior. Too many times we compartmentalize the different ministries of the church. We have viewed social ministry as something we do on one hand and evangelism on the other. God is calling the church to rediscover the biblical model of holistic ministry.
Jesus met both the physical and spiritual needs of the people he ministered to. As the Body of Christ on earth, we are his representatives to a lost world. Therefore, what we do and say are of eternal importance. Being missional disciples is not an either or situation. It means that we care about people’s souls and their bodies. It means that because we care about the gospel we should care about social and environmental issues. Being missional disciples brings all of life together under the banner of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Winfield Bevins is the Director of Asbury Seminary’s Church Planting Initiative. He frequently speaks at conferences and retreats on a variety of topics. He has a doctorate from Southeastern Seminary. He has written several books, including Our Common Prayer: A Field Guide to the Book of Common Prayer. As an author, one of his passions is to help contemporary Christians connect to the historic roots of the Christian faith for spiritual formation. He and his wife Kay, have three girls Elizabeth, Anna Belle, and Caroline. Find out more at www.winfieldbevins.com.