Imagine an infinitely unfolding autobiography written on an equally infinite unfolding piece of paper where the author forever reveals himself. The manifold nature of God is like that. It gives me great comfort to know that God is manifold and that He will never cease to be so. It has been popular of late to say things like ‘God is a sending God,’ ‘God is a missionary God,’ etc. I think those ideas are true, but dwelling on God’s sent-ness without considering His manifold nature ultimately limits our missiology. The Apostle John says;
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
This likeness or ‘similarity,’ is certainly not exhaustive because we don’t become God or gods, but continue in some process of forever growth throughout eternity because God infinitely persists in unfolding Himself to us. As I have been meditating on this, I’m relating God’s manifold-ness to mission. One popular pastor is noted for saying that;
“Missions 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”*
There’s much to cheer in this quote, but ultimately I can’t accept that ‘missions will be no more,” because we simply cannot justify that idea with scripture. Yes, the psalmist says “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.” (Psalm 22:27), but then what? Likewise Paul the Apostle wrote about God’s mission to ‘reconcile all things,’ (Colossians 1:20), but again, then what?
I would rather say that ‘I don’t know what’s next in mission,’ than to say that ‘mission will be no more.’ With that said, I love looking at how groups of people move and how they are moved. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ (Acts 17:28) When looking at movements, and in particular, Christian movements with respect to mission, I often wonder at what kicked them off or why some persist and other do not. Also, and to be clear, I’m not talking about waves of emotional experiences and captivated crowds that bear no long-term fruit.
[Tweet “When I talk about movements, I’m talking about movements that make disciples who do likewise for multiple generations.”]
In looking at the most natural of movements, I like to muse about how plants grow. Lately, I given much thought to spiraling plants. Now, I’m certainly no botanist, but I think it’s a valid idea that I can learn a thing or two about God the creator and how things that he has created move, their purpose, and trajectories. I’ve always loved looking at spiraling plants. In my mind they’ve represented a sort of spring-loaded intelligently designed example of mission. But, util recently, I think i’ve gotten things backwards. I’ve looked at these plants as spiraling inwards in order to latch on to something and then reach outward and upward from there. There are some plants that do that. But most, upon closer examination, spiral outwards, or unfold. The picture in this blog represents one like that. I suppose what I’m trying to get at is that the mission story is still being written. We can’t, at least I think, get at the heart of mission by limiting ourselves to what has already happened. We can, and certainly should learn all we can by analyzing the great movements in scripture and those of history, but if mission, or should I say the Missio Dei (God’s Mission) is like Him (manifold), then ‘forgetting what lies behind and pressing onwards and upwards to the high calling of Christ’ (Philippians 3:14), might be the thing to do.
In correlating Christian movements with natural plant growth, I’m wondering what valid comparisons and conclusions I can make. And so, A few questions:
1. Is mission, to you, a movement which is constantly unfolding or spiraling outward? Or, is it better represented in some other way?
2. What does your gut say? Will ‘mission be no more,’ or is there something else?
3. If God is a manifold and a missionary God, then how should that affect our mission right here and right now?