matters-850x443In seeking to help with re-capturing a focus on mission, particularly overseas cross cultural mission, churches have been putting aside several Sundays a year as 'Mission' Sunday, where a focus can be given to hearing from mission partners and from the Bible about God's plan for mission and how he is using particular people. Some churches have created mission teams that become an interface for people interested in mission overseas. These teams champion all sorts of mission ventures from long term mission partners to short term teams. These are all helpful and useful in promoting mission. GC3 has a missions tool kit that can help with the promotion of mission in your church (To obtain one of these email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ).

The danger is that mission can be seen to be one of the options of church life. It's one of a number of activities we can get involved in, when in fact it is the one thing that lies at the centre of the churches reason for being. Acts 1:8 suggests that we are all to be witnesses of the gospel story (Jesus) from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. We honour God by giving witness to His grace and glory. That witness, even through our worship, is mission. It was out of witness to Jesus, and Jesus' own missional understanding of the Old Testament, that the New Testament was written. Speaking of Jesus teaching the disciples on that fi rst Easter Sunday, Luke (24:13-49) says, "Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures" (45). What Scriptures? The Old Testament Scriptures! He told them, "This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high" (46-49).

One of the ways we can 'resurrect' mission as our focus is to read the Bible missionally. This is not something only for 'Mission Sunday' or a missions group. It's something for all of God's people. We need to grasp the larger story of God's mission in and for the world while grappling with the smaller texts we wrestle over. We so easily read ourselves into the text and the result is a pursuit of holiness that ends up weirdly self-centred and focused on tending our throbbing self-concern. "How can I be the happy, shiny person I've always wanted to be?" We can even pursue good things like a better marriage or a more regular devotional life and yet not be led to repent of the sin of making ourselves the centre of everything, a sin which keeps us from losing our life in the mission of God in order to fi nd it again.

I've long-liked a set of questions the missionary and Old Testament scholar Christopher Wright puts before us that really get at the heart of the big-picture-problem when we read the Bible without missional lenses. We ask, "Where does God fi t into the story of my life?" But the Bible asks a different question, "Where does my life fi t into the story of God's mission?" We wonder, "Does God have a purpose tailored just for me?" when we should be asking, "What would it mean for my life to be wrapped up in the great mission of God?" Or again, we say, "How does the Bible apply to my life?" Isn't the missional question, "How does my life apply to the Bible?" Hang on; there are a couple more questions. Is it "What kind of mission does God have for me?" or "What kind of me does God want for His mission?" Lastly, in our age of church vision statements, we query, "What kind of mission does God have for our church?" But we ought to ask, "What kind of church does God expect for His mission?" (Adapted from The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative (Downer's Grove, IVP, 2006), 533-535)

I believe as we seek to read (and teach/preach)the Bible missionally, God's mission will begin to matter and the mission of God will become our focus as communities of God's people hear and respond to the call of God to 'be my witnesses,... to the ends of the earth'.

Russell Thorp
GC3 Missions Director

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