Mission, Missions, or Missional?

IMG_7193Christopher J. H Wright, In his book “The Mission of God’s People,” says:  “What pops into our mind when we see or hear the word “mission”? Perhaps we are more familiar with it in the form “missions”, which usually brings to mind all the cross-cultural missionary work of the churches we are familiar with. We think of missionary societies, of evangelistic and church-planting missions, of long-term career missionaries or short-term missions, and of global networks of agencies and individuals.” *

He also states that recognizing that mission has at its heart a sense of sending and being sent only raises another question:

Sent to do what? 

The Bible tells us that God did send many people. But the range of things for which people were sent is staggeringly broad. “Sending” language is used in all the following stories. Joseph was sent (unwittingly at first) to be in a position to save lives in a famine (Genesis 45:7). Moses was sent (unwillingly at first) to deliver people from oppression and exploitation (Exodus 3:10). Elijah was sent to influence the course of international politics (1 Kings 19:15-18). Jeremiah was sent to proclaim God’s Word (e.g., Jer. 1:7). Jesus claimed the words of Isaiah that he was sent to preach good news, to proclaim freedom, to give sight for the blind, and to offer release from oppression (Luke 4:16-19; cf. Isa. 61:1).  

The disciples were sent to preach and demonstrate the delivering and healing power of the reign of God (Matthew 10:5-8). As apostles they were sent to make disciples, baptize and teach (Matt. 28:18-20). Jesus sent them into the world in the same way that the Father had sent him, which raises a lot of interesting questions and challenges (John 17:18; 20:21). Paul and Barnabas were sent with famine relief (Acts 11:27-30). Later they were sent for evangelism and church planting (Acts 13:1-3). Titus was sent to ensure trustworthy and transparent financial administration (2 Corinthians 8:16-24). Later he was sent for competent church administration (Titus 1:5). Apollos was sent as a skilled Bible teacher for church nurture (Acts 18:27-28). Many unnamed brothers and sisters were sent out as itinerant teachers for the sake of the truth of the gospel (3 John 5-8). So, even if we agree that the concept of sending and being sent lies at the heart of mission, there is a broad range of biblically sanctioned activities that people may be sent by God to do, including famine relief, action for justice, preaching, evangelism, teaching, healing and administration. Yet when we use the words “missions” and “missionaries”, we tend to think mainly of evangelistic activity.

So, should we refer to it as “The Mission,” “Missions,” or “Missional?” 



*The bulk of this post has been drawn from Wright, Christopher J. H. (2010-08-24). The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission (Kindle Locations 148-151). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

0 thoughts on “Mission, Missions, or Missional?

  1. Neil says:

    Either or both, depending on what is most useful in the context in which we are speaking.
    I agree, all these things are missional-God wants us to partner with Him in building a world where His will is done on Earth as it is in Heaven. As He is Lord and not Caesar (or me, or money, or a random celebrity, or…), then we have to get to know Him and work to create a world which once again reflects His character.
    The other thing we have to acknowledge is that we are simply not capable of doing it all; and He knows that. He took that into account when He not only designed and built each of us, but also came up with the plans He wants each of us to do.

  2. Jonathan says:

    I’ve been leaning toward using the phrase “the mission” rather than “missions” for some time now. It is mostly a preference thing for me because it helps me focus and meditate that there is a singular global mission. But I understand why we’ve called this effort “missions” due to various work involved.

  3. Rob Kampen says:

    So many semantics, discussions and debate.
    All Christians should be Christ like followers – See Acts where they were first called Christians – a term used by non-Christians to describe the behaviour and activity of people that were different from the rest of society, and it was observable, noticeable, talked about as being different from the usual. They needed a label for these people marked by love for God, themselves and one another.
    For Christ followers everything is sacred, an act of Worship to our God. There is no secular for us.
    We are all called – and all of us are sent – to serve!
    Serve – where ever our calling takes us – in the market place, in our homes, in our communities, in our world – where ever He wants us to be and go.
    Are we capable of this – no, we need God’s grace and life and love flowing through us moment by moment to have any hope of doing what He commanded. His strength, His Way and for His glory!!

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