Mission: what are we Missing?

Gerard Kelly
Jan 12, 2018 · 4 min read

It has become popular in recent years to explore Christian mission as the “Missio Dei” — the mission of God. And rightly so. Our problem though, is that when it comes to motivating God’s people for mission we so easily forget that it is his. We say that mission belongs to God, but we interpret our partnership in it not as joyful union but as responsibility and task. What we tend to mean by “joining God on his mission” is one of the following:

There are elements of truth on each of these assertions. They have been used, with varying degrees of success, to motivate generations of Christians to join the global missions movement — but they share a fatal flaw. You can do the right thing for the wrong reason, bit it’s better to do the right thing for the right reason, and in a time of change, it might be important to know the difference.

As it turns out it is very important, just at this moment in history, to rediscover the right reasons for engaging in God’s mission. The Western church has suffered as great a loss of adherents in the past half century as any social collective in history. If ever there was a time for knowing what to do and why, this is it.

So, back to our 5 statements on mission. What’s wrong with them? The answer is that they name God as the source of mission but leave him out of its delivery. We acknowledge God as the origin of his will, but not as the force presently committed to it’s fulfilment. To will is his privilege, to perform is ours. Where this tendency takes over, our practice of mission becomes a form of deism, even if our theology claims to be theistic. We criticise the clockwork universe of the secularists, but we assume a similar construct for God’s kingdom. He has told us what to do, now we must do it — and if we don’t, the whole plan will fail. Worse, its failure will be our fault. In the most extreme expressions of this view, people — including people we love — will suffer some kind of hideous, tortured forever simply because we didn’t do enough.

God has done his part, now we must do ours — or else.

It is hardly surprising, in this context, that the traditional view of mission has become so unattractive to young adults. Being a missionary — if this is our starting point — sounds a lot like Sisyphus pushing a boulder up a hill. No matter how much you do to help God get his job done, the sheer weight of your failure will sooner or later roll back down to crush you.

The only answer to this dilemma is to discover what “Missio dei” really means — that the mission actually is God’s. Here are five key ways we can let God be God and give him back his mission:

god’s invitation for us to partner in his mission is just that — an invitation to partnership. it is a dance in which he leads us: his hand at our back; his energy driving every step. We are at the same time participants in the dance and recipients of it. Like some hapless overweight celebrity surrendering to the leading of a professional ballroom dancer, we find that we can do more than we ever imagined because we are in such good hands. “Trust me,” the Spirit whispers in our ear, “follow my lead”. We let the swell of the music of God’s goodness enter our very bodies; we place our feet where he directs them; we follow the minutest urging — and all at once we are dancing.

Mission is trust, not task. We surrender to the whisper of the Spirit and he, God, takes care of the ultimate outcome.

Mission is not what God is asking you to do for him. It is what he has done, is doing and will do for you. He doesn’t demand that you perform for him, he invites you to partnership. Trust him. He will make a dancer of you yet.

The Seven Stories

Faith and mission in a changing world

Gerard Kelly

Written by

I am a writer living in Normandy, France. I co-direct The Bless Network at www.blessnet.eu. I pray @twitturgies. Books at http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B001HD1JC2

The Seven Stories

Faith and mission in a changing world