VALUE #1: God the Father is, “…the providential source…the initiator and final goal of the missio dei” (Tennent 2014:124); and therefore we are invited to join His mission.
But what is Mission?
“What is mission?” is a question Soul Action often asks, and gets asked by, the people, project and church leaders we work with. Reading this you are probably already thinking of ‘mission’ or ‘missions’ in terms of spreading the gospel, converting unbelievers and / or planting churches (Muller 1987:31-34). Although one can trace such ideas back to the Catholic Jesuit response to the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation (Ferguson 2005:59), many of our current views on mission are probably most influenced by the mid-twentieth century when, “The last world-wide Awakening” (Orr 1952:202) ended, “…nearly four decades of ‘spiritual famine’” (Rosell 2008:128).
In the 1940’s and 50’s Harold Ockenga, Charles Fuller and Billy Graham (photographed here in Boston, 1950), formed the evangelical community into a nondenominational network, “…to bring lost souls into a relationship with Christ” (Webb 2004:265). Webb believes this remains, “…the central preoccupation of evangelicals today.” The 1950’s also saw the birth of what we now know as short term missions (STMs) as, “…enthusiasm for evangelism drove…young people into missions” (Howell 2012:92).
Maybe as a result of people’s experience of missions, especial as flying overseas became affordable after the War, but not everyone was satisfied with the evangelical ‘preoccupation’ with souls. Students, for example, “…pushed to make mission a more comprehensive activity, embracing humanitarian as well as, or in place of, evangelistic work” (Howell p.89).
This desire to ‘embrace’ social or ‘replace’ evangelistic activity suggests something of a narrow view of evangelism, which Tennent (2010:388) defines as, “…the proclamation of the good news that through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ sinful people can be forgiven and reconciled to God. Thus, the church’s primary mission is to proclaim this good news.”
Souls + Action
An all encompassing view of evangelism understands mission as “life-widening” (Ross 2012:23), in that it integrates, “…proclaiming the gospel and inviting people to respond to Christ as Saviour and Lord with involvement in action for justice, bringing social transformation to structures and communities” (Samuels and Hauser 2007:10). What many now call integral mission, or misión integral in Spanish, is largely down to 1970’s Latin American theologians’ like René Padilla, and their search for, “…a more biblical theological framework than the traditional one…accepted in evangelical circles due to the influence of the modern missionary movement” (Padilla 2011).
Missio Dei, God’s Mission
Since God’s mission involves, “…the church speaking of and living out its faith in Jesus Christ in an undivided way in every aspect of life” (Integral Mission 2014), misión integral moves mission beyond such limiting terms as evangelistic and / or social action towards the all encompassing missio Dei, God’s mission. His Holiness Aram I (2010:21) explains:
The goal of missio Dei is a reconciled and transformed humanity and creation. Missio Dei is also holistic in its action.…It questions ‘private Christianity’ and calls for a koinonia of faith, live and hope…an all-embracing vision of life, history, humanity, and creation.
Prior to the sixteenth century the word ‘mission’ was only ever used to describe the mission of God, i.e. “…the trinity…the sending of the Son by the Father and of the Holy Spirit by the Father and Son” (Bosch 1991:1). It is this meaning that Hartenstein (1928:59) revives in coining the phrase missio dei – “the sending of God.”
Missio dei is the context for holistic of integral mission, since it identifies God as mission’s, “…the initiator and final goal” (Tennent 2010:124). Mission is, “God’s purpose to restore every dimension of human life” (Corrie and Rose 2012:55). Missio dei reminds us that:
“Mission is first and foremost about God and His redemptive purposes and initiatives in the world, quite apart from any actions or task or strategies or initiatives the church may undertake. To put it plainly, mission is far more about God and who He is than about us and what we do” (Tennent p. 54).
Too Busy Not to Pray?
Missio dei does not so much make the church’s role in mission “illegitimate” (Hoekendijk 1966:38), but highlight that, “…missionary thinking is bound to go astray” (p.38), whenever it forgets that, “There is no better way to situate all missionary endeavours and mobilisations in the missio dei than through a commitment to prayer” (Tennent 2010:249). How Soul Action Prays has been influenced by a old little book by Granger-Fleming (1914:64, 99), who insightfully concludes that:
Prayer is not so much a means of bringing God to see as we do, and to act as we desire, but rather giving opportunity to the Lord to carry out His great desires and purposes….rich opportunities [await] the soul that comes into line with the holy will of God, and has learnt the art of being awake to His delicate leadings.