Before you do anything else and lose focus (shiny object!) read the list below:
Point #1: God is on a mission (which flows out of the love intrinsic to His nature).
Point #2: The church is a product and expression of God’s mission and exists for that mission.
Point #3: We don’t get to determine the mission, God does.
Point #4: We don’t get to determine the methods for mission, God does.
Point #5: Mission is the organizing principle of the church.
Point #6: Mission is for all disciples of Jesus.
Point #7: Success or failure can only be determined by reference to the mission.
What do you think about that list of missional claims? Do you agree with those claims?
If you disagree with that list, that's cool. You should probably stop reading this and read something else. Maybe the bible, since you seem to have missed some key parts of the story... Just kidding! Seriously, it's okay to have theological disagreements, and now you know exactly where I stand as we move forward.
If you agree with the above list, then it's time to get down to business, because you have work to do. Whether you agree with my view of the church's mission (below) or not YOU are called to insert your definition and then ask the hard questions about what applying the the aforementioned missional claims would entail.
Up until this point I have declined to define the mission of the disciples of Jesus (aka the church, or the people of God, or however you want to say this). I chose to do that to avoid a battle that would distract us from the task of understanding the logic of missional theology. But now I'm going to lay my cards on the table so that you have a clearer picture of how I see these ideas coming together in practice. This is, for the record, one working definition for the church. It is not THE definition. And, I didn't come up with this; it is a synthesis of other people's ideas.
The mission of God's people is to...
1. Embrace the King and the Kingdom of God,
2. Embody the King and the Kingdom of God,
3. Reveal the King and the Kingdom of God, and
4. Invite all people to come to the King and join into this Kingdom mission.
My conception of our mission is directly related to my understanding of the Gospel. I believe that through the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and enthronement of Jesus, sin and death have been decisively defeated and the Kingdom of God has been made available to all who will give Jesus their allegiance (repent and believe). This comes with the promise that Jesus will return someday to establish the Kingdom in power, resurrect the dead and rid the world of evil (judgment).
Because I believe these things I don't think it's our mission to change the world, to "build the Kingdom," or something along those lines (shout-out to my friend Michael Bare who wrote a great FaceBook post on this the other day). That's all God's job, and frankly we don't have the knowledge or power to do it very well. Change for the good is a good thing, but it's a fruit of mission, and not the mission itself.
However, it's also not our mission to just "save souls" for a disembodied heavenly existence. God's Kingdom will reign in this world; God will not abandon His creation! This world will be regenerated by God. So we don't preach escapism and we don't just hold on until death to get out of here. We faithfully live under the reign of Jesus and help others to do so while trusting in the eventually victory of the King and His Kingdom.
Now that I have laid out my definition of the mission we can move on to thinking about what the implications of applying the seven missional claims I've made to that mission would be. In the next few blogs we'll look at arguments and perspectives from several sides the issue, and consider what changes might help us stay closer to the mission that God has given us.
I want to close today by sharing how this thinking impacts Burning Bush Communities. What we strive to do is to partner with disciples who have embraced and embodied (always in process, of course) the King and Kingdom, to then go and reveal the Kingdom and invite others into it. We believe that in many local churches disciples are not called, equipped and empowered to carry out these tasks (usually it's left to the ministry professionals). We believe that God has called us to step into this gap and serve as a community, resource provider (material, theological, etc.), coach and cheerleader for disciples who are ready to fulfill these tasks of revealing and inviting.
Recommended Reading: The Forgotten Ways, by Alan Hirsch
Recommended Reading Bonus: Endangered Gospel, by John Nugent