What comes to mind when you think of a Christian missionary? If you grew up in America and had some exposure to the evangelical church, you might think of someone who goes to another country to tell people about Jesus. If you have been more involved in the church, you might picture going around town two-by-two and asking people to accept Jesus into their hearts.
These ideas make a critical assumption: that God’s mission is to “get people saved” or introduce others to Jesus so they can go to heaven.
While salvation is a part of the mission of God, this provides an incomplete picture. If Jesus’ only mission on earth was to get people into heaven, why did he waste three-ish years of discipling rather than going straight for the Cross?
All of this can be confusing if we think of mission as getting people saved. Yet what if Jesus’ mission was bigger? Yet what if Jesus’ mission was bigger? What if it was not simply about selecting people to paradise who signed their prayer contract - but about renewing God’s Creation as it was meant to be?
Jesus’ mission is reconciliation, and it is our original mission too.
If our goal is not to get people to accept Jesus… then does the church have any missional action? If we cannot go out in the world two-by-two to share that Jesus saves from hell... then what do we do exactly?
In order to be truly missional, we focus on the original mission. This is not a redefining of mission, since reconciliation has been Jesus’ mission (and the Father’s mission) from the beginning. Yet we have nurtured this pervasive idea that our work in the world is about getting people to be Christians - so that they can get other people to be Christians - so we can all go to heaven; this is an incomplete picture.
Remember, our original mission is one of reconciliation. Therefore, we must join in reconciling actions as people of mission:
1) We must reconcile people to God.This is more than “making” Christians, or converting people. This is introducing God for who he is. This is knowing the Lord and presenting him as the loving Father whose character is made known through Jesus. Our original mission is about teaching and leading the church to embody the way of Jesus: to love God and love neighbor, to love God by loving neighbor. (Matthew 22:36-40)
2) We must reconcile people to people. At the Fall, humankind in community with one another (Adam and Eve) turned against each other (Genesis 3:12). Their children were the source of the first recorded murder in Scripture (Genesis 4:8). This has become a stark contrast to the communal intent of original Creation in the garden. Our original mission is one that brings people back together. To do this, we imitate Jesus by the practice of community living (Acts 2:42-47), acceptance of outsiders, and promotion of nonviolent practices. (Matthew 5:38-41)
3) We must reconcile people to Creation. Humankind’s original mission was caring for God’s Creation (Genesis 2:15). In our practice of reconciliation, we cannot forget the rest of the abundant Creation of God. Our original mission includes the care and protection of the environment and creatures of the world. We must also join into prophetic practices of connecting with the calling of the Holy Spirit beyond selfish desires that we blindly embrace in comfort.
In these acts of reconciliation, we see God re-establishing the intended Creation. Jesus’ mission is showing the way in which things were meant to be. The way when God is King and we join into the full picture. So much so that Jesus reconciles death to life with his resurrection! This is the good news, and this is our original mission.
Like what you see here? Join us on Sunday mornings at 10:30 at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington for the conversation and our Q&A.