As I prepare for my upcoming mission, I am thinking quite a bit about missions and the missio dei. The following is a discussion board post that my daughter, Mattie, recently submitted for a seminary course at Regent University. I modified it slightly to make it a little more accessible as a blog post. Enjoy the read then think deep thoughts! - Scott
In the first section of Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, David J. Bosch discusses the crisis within contemporary missions. He considers 1) the secularization of Western society, 2) the rise of technology, and 3) the disintegration of the “Christian world” to be issues that are pushing us to shift our thoughts around missions.
Bosch suggests that we must focus on the mission of God (Missio Dei), as opposed to international “missions.” Sadly, many international missions sent out from the United States today have not been birthed out of an understanding of the Missio Dei. Many of them are nothing more than a disturbing amalgamation of vacationing, taking jobs from third world contractors and craftsmen, and a not-so-subtle continuation of colonialism. When international missions are completed as an outpouring or extension of the Missio Dei, I do not think we will face these same issues.
We are each called to engage with the Missio Dei in our own unique way. The Lord has commanded each of us to evangelize (Mt. 28:19-20), serve others (Heb 13:3), and do good (Lk 6:35), but we are not all called to minister to the same people in the same place. We each have a different sphere of influence and a different burden. For some, that burden may take them to far off places to share the Gospel or supply the needs of the Church at large. For most, the Missio Dei will be lived in our homes, the public square, and with those that the Lord leads to cross our paths.
When we focus more on the Missio Dei than on “missions,” we stop viewing international missions as one of the highest forms of ministry (missionaries after pastors of course). Do not misunderstand me. International missions are incredibly important and absolutely necessary, but the international Christian missionary is no more important than the Christian who is a missionary in the college sports world, in the inner city, in the corporate world, in the disabled community, at the mini-mart, under a bridge, etc...etc... All followers of Jesus should live as missionaries at all times! We should all be living the Missio Dei. In fact, when we shift from a missions mindset to a Missio Dei mindset, the emphasis changes from mission being something we do to something we are. We shift from doing things for Jesus to being people that Jesus is doing things through.
In our postmodern, post-Christian context, we are far removed from the logic-based rational perspective of the modern era. In the postmodern era, people no longer care whether or not you can logically prove that God exists. They care about whether or not your faith, beliefs, or ideology impact the way you feel and the way you interact with the world around you. The two primary questions of postmodern thinkers are, “How effective is this belief system?” and “Does this belief system create space for reaching out to the marginalized?” The core modern question of "is it demonstrably true" has been replaced with the postmodern question "does it work."
If Christians think, act, and function exactly like everyone else, why would anyone be drawn to us? Why would they consider our Jesus? How does looking and acting like everyone else communicate that following Jesus "works?" Our churches do not need to become more “relevant” or “trendy.” They do not need to become better reflections of the corporate world. On the contrary, our churches need to become more biblical. They need to fully embrace the way of the Missio Dei, a way that shouts to the world, "this works!"
When those who proclaim Christ live like the world, we have failed, and we will never reach our postmodern society. When we sit idly by in our beautiful church buildings while hoping that those that need help will simply “show up,” we have disconnected from the Missio Dei. Those that are disconnected from the Missio Dei will never effectively reach the occupants of our postmodern context.
27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27 ESV)
Grace & Peace,
If you have questions, want clarifications, or want to share your thoughts, comment on this blog. Mattie will be sure to give you a thought provoking response.
Bosch, David J. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991.