Mission (re)Defined – Part One

Featured, Mission, Theory

The word “mission” doesn’t appear in the Bible.

St Ignatius

St. Ignatius of Loyola

“Mission” is an English word derived from the Latin “missio” which refers to “a task assigned” and until the 16th century it only applied to God sending Jesus and the Spirit. The work of monks in the Americas around that time necessitated some new language to explain the activity of “evangelism abroad”. The study of such activity only really started to develop in the 19th century. The word “missio” is also closely related to the idea of “mittere” in Latin which means “to send”. From this we get our common understanding of mission, which could be described as “being sent for a purpose”. But is that something that occurs in the Scriptures?

Adam and Eve were “sent” out of the garden, but that was a consequence of disobedience rather than divine purpose. Noah was given a purpose but it was the flood that carried him away from his homeland so he wasn’t technically “sent”. The earliest occurrence of someone being specifically sent for a purpose is found in Genesis 12 where God calls Abram to “leave” and “go”, leave his family and go to the place eventually revealed by God. The primary reason for Abram’s leaving was so that God might BLESS HIM, and through him all the nations of the earth (which had not long been formed by the Babel confusion).

The father of our faith, Abraham is our primary example of mission intent in the Old Testament. There are plenty of examples of people being uprooted from their homeland and placed amongst foreigners to become God’s ambassadors there, but more often than not they didn’t choose to do so. Think of Joseph, Samson, Jonah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and Esther.

What the Old Testament does reveal is that God moves people for His purposes. In that sense God is undertaking His mission or purpose. Theologians call this “Missio Dei” which is Latin for “The Mission of God”. It is the real-life story of God at work in the world from the beginning of time to our own time and beyond. Our story only makes sense in the context of God’s story and God’s story is unfolding according to a very clear purpose: repairing Adam and Eve’s Eden incident.

The Prophets reveal the Missio Dei unfolding. They foresee a day coming when all things will be made right – the wicked punished and the God-fearing rewarded. That ‘day’ will see a dramatic shift in power on the earth, back to its rightful owner: God. Satan will be dealt with and Sin will be no more. All things will be made new. This came to be known as the coming “Kingdom of God”, the sphere of His unbridled influence. God’s mission is to reclaim the earth, one human heart at a time.

Next posting we’ll jump into the New Testament and see how these purposes of God, revealed under the old covenant, emerge as the primary point of the new…

Follower of Jesus, get ready for revelation! 👊🏽