The Rev. Ross Anderson
Mission as sending
The English word ‘mission’ originates from the Latin missio – meaning ‘to send’. The actual word ‘mission’ is not a biblical word, any more than words like ‘Trinity’ and ‘sacrament’. Yet, the word ‘mission’ describes an important biblical concept, viz. what Christ sends his people into the world to do.
As the Father sent his Son, and as the Father and the Son sent the Spirit, so the triune God sends his church to bear witness to the world. God is a sending God, a missionary God. Here are just a few examples: Genesis 1:1-2, Isaiah 6:8-9, Galatians 4:4, and John 20:21.
Our God is a sending God, a missionary God. And it is very important that we understand this – the Christian mission is based not simply on a few of our favourite verses like the great commission, it is based on the nature of God himself. And we must remember that it is not the church or mission organisations that send missionaries, it is God who sends his church into his world to bear witness to him. We need to grasp the full biblical basis for the Christian mission. We need a Biblical Theology of mission.
This goes beyond our favourite missions-verses to the nature of God himself. Mission begins in the heart of God. We need a theology of mission if we are to understand what ‘mission’ is – our motives and methods; the purpose and nature of mission; the foundation and practice of mission.
Mission and the Church
What is the relationship between mission and the church? The question might be asked, does the church have a mission, or does God’s mission have a church? To claim that the church has a mission is to posit that the church has an existence apart from its mission. In an institutional sense this is true. But our understanding must go beyond mere institutional conceptions.
God has called the church into existence for the very purpose of serving his mission. The church in the power of the Spirit becomes God’s instrument to bear witness to the redemptive work of Christ and the coming kingdom (cf. the Book of Acts). The mission of the Triune God must have primacy in our understanding of the church, and the church’s very existence and legitimacy are linked to its mission in the world.
The church and mission are intimately intertwined. We cannot biblically speak of mission apart from speaking of the church, and we cannot speak of the church apart from speaking also of mission. A missionless church and a churchless mission are theological oxymorons.
Mission in South Africa
In our South African context ‘mission’ must include evangelism, social action and social service. We are called to preach the gospel and invite our fellow South Africans to respond to the claims of Christ in repentance and faith. Furthermore, the church must speak to the legacy of apartheid, the ongoing economic injustice in our country, institutional racism, gender violence, state corruption, creation care and other relevant social and political issues. Authentic biblical mission will reject all shades of dualism, whether between the personal and corporate, the church and the world, or the spiritual and the material. But such witness will be costly, for witness (martyria) means the way of the cross.
Several GWC students have left GWC to engage in missionary work. Click here to watch our Alumni in Missions https://youtu.be/e2EmTD5ykXA