Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Missions 101: Defining Missions

Reconciliation by Cindy Alsop 
A few Sundays ago I had the opportunity to speak on missions in a youth meeting at Shiloh Hills Fellowship in Spokane Washington. I was asked to speak on missions in a way that would be compelling for the youth. I only had a short time to prepare, and an even shorter time to present--but I liked the challenge.

There were so many things that I could have said--missions isn't simply a subtopic within theology, as the theologian Martin Kähler (1835-1912) once said, "Missions is the mother of all theology." That actually complicates the matter quite a bit. It's like being told, 'sum up the bible in twenty minutes.'

Never one to back down from a challenge I dived head in. Thankfully the Holy Spirit used me to articulate what I actually felt afterwards was something that might be beneficial to share with my readers here on JoyField (all three of you, thanks mom!).

I began by asking the youth if they could give me a definition for 'Missions.' I got a lot of great answers. The youth understood that it meant going to another place and sharing a message, that it included danger, but also excitement. There was some vagueness about the specifics, but there was a general consensus that it was important.

The word Mission actually comes into the English language from the Latin word missio, which means 'to send,' or 'to be sent.' This word was used to translate another very important Greek word from which we get the word Apostle, that is, one who is sent. One of the most important ways to understand missions is that it is the imitation of Christ in his incarnation and ministry of reconciliation.

Jesus was sent by the Father, and He sends us.

Missions is rooted theologically in the incarnation of Jesus. In John 20:19-21 Jesus appears to to His disciples after His resurrection from the dead. "On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”"

In Jesus' parable in Luke 14, He compares heaven with a banquet--unable to get the invited guests to come, the host sends his servants out into the roads and country lanes to invite in whomever they can find to experience the festivities. This is just one of numerous references to being sent in the New Testament, but it is a story that illustrates the very heart of missions. We have been commissioned by Jesus to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that Jesus taught (Matt 28:18-20).

This commission is a high calling--and one that is given to the entire body of Christ. It is not limited to a select group of highly trained religious professionals. Instead, as we see in the New Testament it was to be accomplished by fishermen, tax collectors, tent makers, soldiers, slaves, linen dyers, medical doctors, farmers--in short, everyone who belongs to Christ is given this command.

The great commission is a recommissioning of Adam's commission given in Genesis 1:27-28--to fill the world with image bearers. We participate in the mission of God both individually and corporately as the Holy Spirit works to restore the image of God in us.

In the book of Revelations we get to see the end of the story--all the treasures of the nations being brought into the heavenly city. Jesus' blood "has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation."(Rev 5:9) Jesus will be the center of the new heavens and earth--the glory of His face will be the source of its light, "The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it." (Rev 21:24)

Jesus' incarnation and ministry of reconciliation are the blueprint for missions.

There is very little disagreement in regards to the 'going' of missions, but there is great contention as to what the content of missions is supposed to be. Thankfully Paul gives us a good reminder:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:17-21)
God has entrusted us with this ministry of reconciliation--to reconcile people to their creator. He invites us to be part of this very exciting rescue mission. We join together with Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit to reconcile the world to the Father. Jesus crossed over the greatest  cultural divide when he became incarnate as a man, and He did it in obedience to His Father who sent Him. He came on a mission of redemtion, to go to the cross and defeat death and Satan through his suffering on the cross. He rose again from the dead victorious and invites us to partner with him in reconciling and restoring all the nations to God the Father.

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