Why is Mission important? The simple answer is because it is very important to God. The first question ever asked in the Bible is a Mission question… “Adam, where art thou?” (Genesis 3:9) What we see is God reaching out to Adam and Eve, not to abruptly judge them but to first seek a way for redemption. God demands Mission and a complete understanding of Mission requires a look on the essential nature of God. We begin, then, where mission begins, with God.
A) GOD IS A MISSIONARY GOD
If God is a reaching-out-God, then He is a missionary God. It was Jesus himself who said “I am come to seek and to save that which was lost.” As the book Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church states, “God is a missionary God—he doesn’t wait for us to find him (as if we could). Rather, he moves into the neighborhood and finds us.”
Let me introduce a term that is well known in Mission books, forums, and debates on the validity of World Mission. “Missio Dei” is a Latin phrase that means “Mission of God” or “God’s Mission.” It was the famous Swiss theologian Karl Barth who, at a missionary conference in 1932, “became one of the first theologians to define Mission as the activity not of men primarily, but of God himself.”
An article about “Missio Dei” in Wikipedia says that “Mission is not primarily an activity of the church, but an attribute of God. GOD IS A MISSIONARY GOD. It is not primarily the church that has a mission of salvation to fulfill in the world; it is the mission of God.” I do believe that we are just laborers of the Lord of the Harvest as stated in Luke 10:2. Mission is the harvest of God. It only becomes one of the primary activities of the Church because Jesus has delegated it to us. (John 20:21) This truth confirms that which we believe – a Christian is just an instrument and a mouthpiece. It is God himself who does the conversion.
When we say that Mission is theocentric, we do mean that God is the source, motive, and end of Mission. (Romans 11:36)
B) GOD IS NOT A GOD OF ISOLATION
While God is self-contained, His very nature of light and love demands Him to shine forth and to reach out. (John 1:9) He’s nature of Light (1 John 1:5) and Love (1 John 4:16) are the Divine impulse behind Creation itself. It is also the Divine impulse behind His act of Salvation. GOD IS NOT A GOD OF ISOLATION. He may be hidden because of sin but He is not absent. Neither is He uninvolved nor is He passive. God is an ACTIVE God. This is the very first characteristic of God revealed in Genesis 1:2. He “…MOVES upon the face of the waters…” The root word for active is ACT. And that is what God is all about.
Mission is not a human invention. Neither is it a human institution nor a human enterprise made up of loving but simplistic individuals, or volunteers of compassionate or sanctimonious people. MISSION IS MADE UP OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE PARTAKEN OF THE NATURE OF GOD, who entered fully into the purpose of God, and who became co-laborers in the Plan and Will of God. God is foremost the subject of Christian Mission. Where God is most prominent, Mission is most obvious and intense. When God is the center of a local church, that local church automatically becomes Missional.
C) GOD’S DESIRE FOR MISSION IS UNIVERSAL
John 3:16 is actually the “Missio Dei” in Biblical History context. This verse is a snapshot of the all-encompassing view of God’s Mission. In this single verse alone, God has illuminated us on what we could call “The Three Ds of Mission.” The first D is the Dynamics of Mission – “God so love… that He gave.” The second D is the Dimension of Mission – “the world… that whosoever.” And the last D is the Demand of Mission – “whosoever believeth.”
If the subject of Mission in John 3:16 is God, then its object is the world. Hence, “For God so loved the world…” Because the promise of redemption was given to Eve in the Protoevangelium of Genesis 3:15, therefore it is only logical that every offspring of Eve must hear the Call to Salvation. This Call is a rightful opportunity for all humanity and God is not willing that even a single soul will be deprived of the opportunity to hear the Gospel. 1 Timothy 2:4 describes God as one “Who will have all men to be saved…” Even Paul states in 1 Corinthians 9:22 that “…I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some…” implying to us that while he hopes even for just “some” to be saved, his Missional audience is actually “all men.”
Even after The Fall, man is still man. He might be marred, depraved, and defiled, but He’s still man. He has not become a beast, neither has he become a demon. He’s still man and God’s light and love should shine on and reach him through Mission.
D) THE GLORY OF GOD IS THE PURPOSE AND GOAL OF MISSION
I agree with John Piper when he writes, “Missions is about the worship of Jesus. The goal of missions is the global worship of Jesus by his redeemed people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. The outcome of missions is all people delighting to praise Jesus. And the motivation for missions is the enjoyment that His people have in him. Missions aim at, brings about, and is fueled by the worship of Jesus.”
The Church exists to worship, but where worship is absent, mission begins. Only as Mission has its source in and derives its nature and authority from the Glory of God can it truly generate lasting and enduring motivation and become really Christian, really meaningful. On any other level it remains humanism, no matter how “religionized” or “Christianized” such humanism may be.