why the church does NOT have a mission

The church does NOT have a mission?

Huh? That’s pretty controversial. How could someone who spends a whole lot of time talking about being missional say something so outlandish?

It’s not just because I’ve decided that Fridays are a good day for lobbing ‘theological hand-grenades’ (you may or may not have noticed that things continue to heat up in the discussion of last Friday’s post).

It’s because it’s God’s mission first and foremost.

Yep. I’m talking about the so-called missio Dei.

The wha…?

The missio Dei — the ‘mission’ or ‘sending’ of God. In a tremendously helpful article on the UCCF theology network site, Glen Scrivener puts it this way:

If you want to appear hip among a gathering of pipe-smoking, microbrew-drinking theologians, drop missio Dei into conversation. It guarantees instant credibility. The phrase … means this: From eternity the Father has always sent forth His Son who is Himself the shining out of the Father’s glory. God’s very being is as a sending God, even before the world began. Sending (i.e. ‘mission’) is therefore not just an action that God wills, or a response to the world. It is the nature of His eternal life.

The church is a product of God’s mission. Hence, the church doesn’t have a mission — at least in the first instance.

Of course, as a result of God’s mission (although only as a result) the church is graciously invited to participate in mission with him.

I take it this is part of why biblical scholars can’t seem to settle the argument about whether Paul wanted his congregations to actively engage in mission and evangelism — and if he did why he didn’t say so more clearly (a question on which Michael Gorman has some musings well worth reading)…

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