Monday, March 5, 2012

WIP: Missional

A few years ago, as our church began it's shift to an outwardly focused mindset, I began exploring what it means to be missional. But I got distracted by other things and slowly drifted away from my pursuit of understanding. I would occassionally dabble in it when I ran across a book, article or blog that pertained to the topic, but I didn't stick around and dig in. Lately I've been feeling the draw to return to digging into my pursuit of understanding this phrase and theology as it seems vital to where we find ourselves as a church right now...or at least where I find myself in my life and ministry.
So I thought peridoically I would write in WIP (work in progress): Missional to share what I am exploring as I explore it. It will be a way to help me formulate my thoughts and bring together all that I am reading. I'm not going to go back and start at the beginning of my studies from years past, but just dive into where I am right now.

At the root of studying missional is the question: What is our mission as God's people, as the Church? It's a question of purpose and identity. Yet is is also a question of mindset and lifestyle.

"Don't confuse missional with any methodology of "doing" church. Missional is about a way of "being" the church in the world. It's not about a what; it's about a who. The missional church is the people of God partnering in God's redemptive mission in the world...As the people of God we're to reflect God's heart to the world."
Reggie McNeal, Catching the Missional Wave, Rev Mag., March/April 2009

This past week I have been absorbed in looking at John's use of the word "sent" in his Gospel. John uses two Greek words (pempo and apostello) for sent/send in his Gospel and it is determined by many biblical scholars that their use is synonymous. An example of this is in John 20:21:

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

"Sent" is pempo and "sending" is apostello. John uses these words a total of 42 times in his Gospel, which is 27% of their combined usage in the New Testament.
 A.C. Winn writes in A Sense of Mission:
"A significant aspect of John the theologian's theological method is the repeated use of certain key words. He repeats ordinary words in such a fashion that they bear extraordinary theological freight. Such words include light, darkness, spirit, flesh, life, love, glory, witness, judgment, truth, Father, Son, world, work, sign, disciple, know, believe. It has not so often been noticed that there is a third great verb along with 'know' and 'believe', the verb 'send, sent'. This is the great missionary verb…" (Winn 1981:17 cf. Arias 1992:82).

So, from just this small amount of study on the frequency of John's use of the word "sent", I'm beginning to get a picture that not only is John's Gospel an evangelistic book and an edifying book, but it is also a missional book. 

"As the father has sent me, I am sending you." Jesus' mission is our mission. In many of the same passages where Jesus speaks of being sent by the Father, he also speaks of his own dependency on the Father.
"I tell you the truth, The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does....By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me." John 5:19, 30
"For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me." John 6:38
See also John 4:34; 7:16; 7:28; 8:28-29, 42; 12:49; 14:24.

Questions I'm pondering:
  • What does it look like for us to be God's "sent" people in everyday life, both individually as Christ-followers and corporately as the church?
  • If our identity as God's people is as those who are sent into the world as Jesus was sent into the world, how does that change the way we define the word mission and how we typically think of "missions" as simply a program of the church?
  • What perspectives and mindsets do we need to change in the church to live and operate as God's sent people? To live missionally? To think missionally?
  • Other words used for Christ-followers that have the feeling of being "sent" are ambassadors, messengers, apostles, missionaries. Does our view of how we live in everyday life change if we think of ourselves in these terms?
  • If Jesus, the Son of God, was so dependent on God the Father, how much more must I/we be dependent on him to do the mission He has called us to?

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