|Theology / Church
My poor spellchecker. Evidently Bill Gates does not know the word missiology. Type in missiology and up comes a helpful set of alternatives headed by musicology! But then again, what is the relationship between missiology and musicology or for that matter, mission and business, the creative arts, journalism and a hundred other things that ‘normal’ people do for a living?
In Interserve we bring these things together under the term ‘wholistic mission’.
There was a time when Interserve was unusual amongst mission communities in promoting an wholistic vision of mission. Not so today. In fact, all strands of mission are using the buzz words of transformation, integral ministry and wholistic ministry. But what do we mean?
Well, as the song says, ‘Let’s start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start.’
Mission is God’s BIG IDEA! The Bible is all about God’s mission. Mission is God’s initiative from start to finish: the promise to Abraham that through one nation God intends to bless all nations; the Old Testament preparation of a people and culture that would be receptive to God’s work; the fulfillment of that work in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus; the ministry of the Holy Spirit, orchestrating all mission that flows from the Christ event and empowering his disciples as God’s mission carriers. God is the real missionary from start to finish. If we want to understand God’s mission we need to understand the whole story of mission presented in the Bible. Instead of a reductionist view of mission that draws on a number of key texts we need to develop a view of mission that draws on the whole message of Scripture.
Our understanding of wholistic mission must begin in the garden and end in the city. “Too often our theology and missiology begins with Genesis 3 and ends with Revelation 20”2 In other words, a missiology that is framed by mankind’s fall and God’s final judgment, with personal salvation filling the sandwich, is a defective missiology. Wholistic missiology must include at least the following:
The beginning: Genesis 1&2 The biblical story begins with a God who is distinct from his creation (transcendent) yet intimately involved (immanent). Creation is not a temporary staging post or a ‘platform’ for the real world to come but the sphere of God’s activity. There is no dichotomy between ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’. Creation is good! Mankind is mandated to care for this world, a mission command that is never rescinded. Indeed, the creation account makes it clear that the ‘image of God’ in which mankind is made relates closely to his vice-regent role as creation’s warden. The revelation of God as creator profoundly shapes our own understanding of work, rest, creativity and ecology. The doctrine of creation shapes a biblical understanding of wholistic mission.
The goal of history: Revelation 21&22 Christians know that there is a goal to history. The end (telos) is not the end of the story but the completion of His story. God is still the creator God, creating a new heaven and new earth. A new Jerusalem descends from heaven. The redeemed do not go up ‘to heaven’ to live but inhabit the new earth where God once more dwells with man. As John’s vision draws to a close the One seated on the throne speaks for the first time in the revelation, saying, “I am making all things new” (Rev 21:5). Here is the fulfillment of the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in the heavens.” Yes, the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ! (Rev 11:15) Eschatology shapes a biblical understanding of wholistic mission.
The all-pervasive impact of sin: Genesis 3 At the heart of the gospel message is a call to recognise personal sin and its effect in rupturing our relationship with God. Yet, sin distorts and damages all relationships: interpersonal, with God and with the created order. Because of sin the man and woman are excluded from the garden, that place of harmony and wholeness in all relationships. A whole view of the fall and the multi-level impact of sin shapes a biblical understanding of wholistic mission.
The all-inclusive scope of the cross and resurrection: God’s solution for sin is as far reaching as the tentacles of sin itself. Not only is God out to restore his relationship with humankind, he is out to restore all things.
The cross and resurrection provide the solution for all of creation: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood shed on the cross” Col 1:19-20
God is in the business of reconciling to himself individuals, society and indeed the whole of creation3. God loved ‘the world’ (cosmos) so much that he gave his one and only son’. Wholistic mission refuses to reduce God’s cosmic act of reconciliation to a single dimension, individual human beings, however central that dimension may be in his mission plan. A cosmic view of salvation shapes a biblical understanding of wholistic mission.
Wholistic mission derives from God’s mission, Missio Dei. God is the good creator who is in the business of making new his good but broken creation. God has purposed to bring reconciliation and transformation to the whole created order. In wholistic mission we are called to join God in his purpose. This is where mission and music, business, journalism, art and drama and everything else fits in. These are not simply platforms for proclamation. They are places to be reclaimed for Christ, filled with his presence and presented to him for his glory. As we do that we call others to join us in our acts of worship. Mission becomes proclamation to the world in the call to repentance and reconciliation, the heavenlies in the declaration of the victory of Christ and to God himself in our song of praise.
Since the beginning of time God has been going about his mission and one day he will complete it. Wholistic mission requires that we never lose sight of the end, not settle for a reduced view of what God has in store for his creation. We live in communities filled with sadness, injustice, corruption, violence and greed. God is not simply bent on rescuing a few, destroying the rest and starting again. By faith we affirm that the One who sits on the throne is making all things new.
Jesus models the reality of a new world order, God’s kingdom come. He demonstrates the kingdom of God by offering the love and goodness of the Father unconditionally. This offer of life can only be made through incarnation and vulnerability. It cost Jesus his life.
We, his disciples, are called to bear witness to the suffering and victory of God in Christ. We now bring the Kingdom in the same way that Jesus did: unconditionally, incarnationally and vulnerably. Through our speaking, doing and being, we invite people to become part of that new world order. As they are discipled and put into practice all that Jesus commanded, so they and their communities are transformed. One day that process will be complete, for we shall see him and be like him. God invites us to join him in mission, wholistic mission.