Recent missional ecclesiology states that since the Triune God of the Bible is on a mission, the church that God creates must share his mission (see, eg, Guder. “The Church as Missional Community,” in The Community of the Word: Towards an Evangelical Ecclesiology, ed. Husbands & Treier; Downer’s Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2005: pages 116-9, 124-7; McIntosh, “Missio Dei,” in Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions: 632). On the surface of it, this sentiment is correct. As we saw in our last instalment, the Bible demonstrates God to be a missional God.
Unfortunately, missional ecclesiology is confused about the nature of God’s mission. The ecumenical movement of the World Council of Churches repeated the mistakes of their Liberal forebears. Operating with a low view of scripture, and denying the uniqueness of the incarnate Christ, they eviscerated the gospel of its supernatural power, and fail to distinguish between God’s preserving, “common” grace from the special, redemptive grace. Their definition of mission is, unsurprisingly, focused on political and economic action, and indistinguishable from secular humanism.
The solution lies in reasserting the gospel’s primary theodynamism. Christ established God’s kingdom through his death and resurrection, whereby he demolished the power of evil, and established God’s redemptive rule. The cross is the locus of the kingdom. The cross demonstrates that the Triune God is radically other-person centred: he gives his whole self, in the person of his son, to reconcile rebels to himself, in his redemptive kingdom. Therefore, the community defined by the redemption—the church—must also be radically other-person centred, and give its whole self to reconciling rebels to God, through pleading with them to access the benefits of God’s redemptive rule by trusting and following Christ the king. The church’s mission is Christ’s mission, which is the Triune God’s mission: “repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand”.
This does not denigrate works of compassion. While they are not “mission”, they are intrinsically good acts, pleasing to God. Compassionate works are not merely a prelude to evangelism. We do not have to feed the poor in order to create evangelistic opportunities. We feed the poor because we love them, as our God loves them.
The primary way the church enacts its mission is through verbal proclamation. This is because God’s kingdom comes through the invisible work of the Spirit in illumination and conviction. In our next post in this series, we shall examine how the church participates in God’s mission.