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Missional Mondays: Tony Stiff 2

posted by Scot McKnight

Missional.jpg

Following the situational shift fresh reflection has been given to theology proper (ie the doctrine of God). The theological awareness that is spreading across the Church in the West is that God himself is missional. This may sound like an odd thing to say, who doesn’t think God has a passion for mission? But in popular discourse today mission is often treated like an interim program between creation and new creation, an activity largely of the church, something that had to occur because something was missing and will fad away once what was missing is restored. John Piper’s book, Let the Nations Be Glad, is a good example of this when he says (note: there is much that is beneficial in Piper’s book);

 

Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Mission exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever. Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions.” *



 

Fundamental to the missional church is the
belief that mission is not primarily the activity of the church but the
Trinity’s. God’s passion for revealing his Trinitarian glory through creation
and covenantal relationships is what defines mission, is what the Missio Dei
(Latin for “the sending of God” or “mission of God”) is all about. His
mission is bigger than the church, is bigger than redemptive history. His
mission is eternal. Our God is a missionary God. He always has been and always
will be. Our call is to witness to His mission, joining in what He is already
at work doing. God is sent and we as his people must see our churches as
sent.  “It
is not the church that has a mission of salvation to fulfill in the world; it
is the mission of the Son and the Spirit through the Father that includes the
church.”
(Jurgen Moltmann, The
Church in the Power of the Spirit
) God’s mission to reveal himself began in
original creation takes on a redemptive yet connected shape in fallen creation
and will continue on into the new creation (see Chris Wright’s book, The
Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative
). This is the theological
shift
for the missional church. God is a missionary God.

 

In light of that worship is not the
instrumental cause of mission, rather worship and mission are both connected to
God’s desire to reveal Himself, and are inseparable from each another (worship
should be missional, mission should be worshipful).
 Thomas H. Schattauer in, Liturgical
assembly as locus of mission
, fills this out. He says;

 

“The
visible act of the assembly (in Christ by the power of the Spirit) and the
forms of this assembly–what we call liturgy–enact and signify this mission.
From this perspective, there is no separation between liturgy and mission. The
liturgical assembly of God’s people in the midst of the world enacts and
signifies the outward movement of God for the life of the world. Note that in
this approach, the relationship between worship and mission is not
instrumental, either directly or indirectly, but rather the assembly for worship
is mission.”

 

The missional
church joins God in the Missio Dei. The churches worship as well as her
approach to discipleship, mercy and justice
, preaching, community life, and
everything else takes place in the context of the Missio Dei and is an
expression of God’s eternal character.

 

* I chose
John Piper’s book because of its wide acceptance and because Piper’s book is
very beneficial. In offering the critique of his view above please note several
overlaps in concern for worship and God’s glory. The main difference between
Piper and the missional church is a difference in how to define mission. Piper
defines it in soteriological terms, The missional church seeks to define
mission in light of theology proper (i.e. the doctrine of God). For Piper
mission happens between the fall and new creation. For the missional church
mission is apart of God’s nature and as such plays a defining role in all God
does. God has a mission in creation, in the fall, in consummation, and in new
creation. How He realizes his mission is different in each but his mission is
the same – His glory (something Piper would certainly agree with). The
missional church defines mission in broader biblical-theological terms, Piper
defines mission in narrower systematic-theological terms. Both offer helpful
perspective into the meaning of mission.

 

Discussion Questions:

 

1.   
Is missions merely an interim agenda for God, something he pursues
between the fall of Adam and Eve and the full and final coming of His Kingdom
at His Son’s return; or is mission eternal?

2.   
Does mission exist because worship does not, and then pass away with
the new heavens and new earth? How are the two related?



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posted November 9, 2009 at 4:09 pm


I agree that God’s mission is permanent, not merely about justifying sinners. But this is likely one of those areas where words fail: I have a hard time seeing “God’s glory” as the best summation of “God’s mission.”
I’ve heard Willard, I believe, define “love” as acting for the good of another. I have an easier time seeing “love” as God’s mission (which rightfully brings him much glory) than “God’s glory.” To say that God’s mission is “love” also locates it within the eternal character of God rather than mere soteriology as Piper describes. It “remains.” It justifies, sanctifies, heals, glorifies, etc. It also fits as the mission in this sentence: “God has a mission in creation, in the fall, in consummation, and in new creation. How He realizes his mission is different in each but his mission is the same.” It would seem from the incarnation and crucifixion that God, in Christ, has demonstrated a willingness to lay down his glory in order to truly love; that he would chose love over glory if he had to. If the cross is the greatest revelation of God, I don’t see glorifying himself as his chief mission. Maybe I will someday, since it’s clearly a widely held view. For now I see “love” as a better summary of the “Missio Dei.”



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T

posted November 9, 2009 at 4:10 pm


Sorry, comment 1 is me.



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Tony Stiff

posted November 9, 2009 at 4:45 pm


T,
I guess my Calvinist tradition is showing in choosing “God’s glory” as the way to sum up the Missio Dei; a la Jonathan Edwards. To be sure there are other ways to summarize it, His glory seems best to me in light of my tradition but I think love is another good way to summarize it as well.
I’m reminded of 1 John 4.8 “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
Thanks T



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Jjoe

posted November 9, 2009 at 6:44 pm


I don’t have all the theological terms to use, but Jesus commanded us to do mission and not once told us to worship him. Worship is essential but it is in love that He is revealed. Mission is where we demonstrate that worship is ‘sticking’.



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Travis Greene

posted November 10, 2009 at 11:33 am


The eternal mission of God is also demonstrated in His Trinitarian nature. God is missional, and his mission is love, the love shared between Father, Son, and Spirit. The Father is eternally sending the Son. The Son sends us, and sends the Spirit to help us (or just the Father does, whatever. I don’t want to get into the whole filioque thing).
In Genesis there is a mission of creation and stewardship. After the fall there is a mission of redemption. After the eschaton (in Revelation), there is still a mission of continued healing, judging among the nations, and so forth. Worship is wound through and around all of this, of course.



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