Christopher 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.