Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Missional Mandate

When I first began this blog, I was sorting my way through a new idea. The idea that kept cropping up over and over was the concept of the "missional" church.

In the graduate course I'm taking this fall at the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, our professor, Dr. Tim Geddert, is emphasizing the necessity of marrying mission to grace and response. In the big picture of Scripture, God always takes the initiative, i.e. God is gracious to man. But the story of redemption doesn't end with grace; it begins there but it doesn't end there. The grace of God that initiates redemption requires a response by man. For redemption to be realized, man must respond to God's gracious initiative to save.

But does it end there? Most often in sermons and Bible discussions, that's where we seem to stop. God is gracious by sending Jesus Christ; man responds to God's grace by obeying God's offer of salvation through obedient faith.

Dr. Geddert has emphasized the mission that is born out of God's grace and man's response. Once God's grace has been responded to in obedient faith, the disciple of Jesus is now launched into the mission of God in the world. Man joins God in God's work in the world -- the advancement of the kingdom.

Do we emphasize the missional mandate as much as we do God's grace and man's response? Does the mission of the church as the natural third element within the big picture of Scripture get as much attention as God's grace and man's response?

In The Realm of the Reign, Ben Witherington notes, "The early church was a missionary movement that also nurtured those already among the saints. In contrast, the modern church is a nurture institution that may also have a mission committee or mission budget. The question is, Which kind of church -- the early church or the modern church -- better manifests God's will and dominion" (32)?

That's a great question. What about your church? Is the emphasis on mission to the unsaved or nurture among the saved? Does the emphasis speak of grace and response, with little hint to the mission of God?