Part Three - For the Life of the World: Chapter 8 - Mission - A People Sent by God
God's Sending Mission
“Mission is what God is doing in the world through the church, and even without the church, to bring his creation to its consummation: unity and fullness [in] Jesus Christ. (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:15-20)” (193)
“Mission is thereby seen as a movement from God to the world in respect to creation, care, redemption and consummation. It is all that he is doing in his ‘sentness’ in the world. Not only does the Father send the Son, and the Father and Son send the Spirit, but the Father, Son and Spirit send the church into the world. Mission is the sending of God from first to last.” (194)
“So God is not only the One sent but is the content of the sending ‘for in every Person of the deity God works in His entirety.’… He is Sender, Sent, and Sending.” (194)
These concepts lay the groundwork for Stevens understanding of the many aspects of God’s sending mission. There is the sending of Adam and Eve into the world to full the earth and bless it. There is the sending of Abraham through whom all the nations of the world will be blessed. There is the sending of Jesus into the world to be God incarnate and bring all earthly powers under his Lordship. There is the sending of the Spirit by the Father and the Son to be the true impulse for mission, sending the church into the world. Even as the Son is sent, so does he send the apostles into the world to establish his Church. Quoting G. F. Vicedom, Stevens writes:
‘The apostles have the duty and assignment to establish the church and thereby they become the foundation of the building upon which all other work was to be based (1 Cor. 3:9ff.) …This gives their work and proclamation the character of revelation. Such a claim cannot be made by the bishops.’ Elders and bishops are watchmen, not the foundation of the house. (196)
Then there is the sending of the church by the triune God.
Stevens sums up his thoughts on the mission of God this way:
To sum up, theologically mission is not a human activity undertaken out obligation to the great commission, or even simple gratitude. It is God’s own mission in which we have been included. It is what God is doing to bless all the nations through the resurrection of Christ and the outpouring of the Sprit. Mission work itself is not motivated by the need of the world but by the sending God who calls and empowers. It is for this mission and in this mission that the whole people of God gains an apostolic (sent-out) status. Together the laos of God is the creation of God’s sending and the means of his further sending. (197-198)
Next we will take a look at sending in the OT and NT, and we will examine what it means to be God’s sent people, but I will stop with this much. There is a real richness here that is worth reflecting on. Mission is about so much more than personal piety, observance of rituals, or political action. It is about being sent into the world by God and imaging the content of what is being sent by God, both individually and corporately. Powerful stuff!