Posted by: Jim Black | December 6, 2010

Missio Dei: Pursuing the Mission of God

     Over the next few weeks I want to talk about MISSION… the church’s mission, but more importantly, the MISSION OF GOD in our world.  What’s he up to? What is he doing and what does he want to do? 

             I’ve borrowed the term ‘Missio Dei’ to describe this series of lessons because it makes me sound a whole lot smarter than I really am!  Actually, it is a Latin term meaning “the Mission of God” and It comes from a German theologian named Karl Hartenstein who, in 1934, coined it to describe the context and motivation for mission in the church.

“When kept in the context of the Scriptures, Missio Dei correctly emphasizes that God is the initiator of His mission to redeem through the Church a special people for Himself from all of the peoples of the world.  He sent His Son for this purpose and He sends the church into the world with the message of the gospel for the same purpose.”  (Hartenstein)

            The mission of the church… is rooted deeply in the mission of God.  We don’t often think about it that way, but I think it really is the correct way to view it.  That is to say:  The church doesn’t have a mission… God has a mission!  And he has invited the church, those called out from the world to be His, to be a part of that ongoing mission to the world!

            It has been pretty standard operating procedure these days for companies, organizations and even most churches to come up with a “Mission Statement.”  Mission statements help define purpose.  They help organizations focus on what is really important to that org.  It helps them be able to set goals & objectives… and then provides them a way to make decisions that will help them reach those goals.  Its also a way to communicate to others (customers, clients, even employees, etc.) what is really important to that organization.

  • Some examples of famous mission statements…

 McDonald’s vision is to be the world’s best quick service restaurant experience.  Being the best means providing outstanding quality, service, cleanliness and value, so that we make every customer in every restaurant smile.

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

The Walt Disney Company’s objective is to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information, using its portfolio of brands to differentiate its content, services and consumer products.  The company’s primary financial goals are to maximize earnings and cash flow, and to allocate capital profitability toward growth inititatives that will drive long-term shareholder value.

Interesting, huh?

            Washington Street even took a stab at it a few years back.  Do you remember what our mission statement is?  After much thought, reflection and prayer, our Elders and deacons at that time settled on the phrase “Seeking, Serving & Sharing Christ” to describe what we are about here at Washington Street.  That means that everything we do, every ministry we’re involved with, every decision we make ought to have some function in either Seeking God… Serving Others… or Sharing Christ in our community.  How are we doing at that?

            Ever wonder… what would God’s mission statement be?  How do you think he would define his mission in the world if he had to put it into words?  I realize “mission statements” are a fairly new thing… He probably wasn’t that interested when he was inspiring Scripture in coming up with a catchy slogan or a slick marketing strategy, but… Here in the text we read a moment ago, Colossians, Paul does a pretty good job summarizing the mission of God.  Let’s back up just a bit to get the context… 

           To the church in Colossae, Paul was writing to encourage them… and he makes the statement in vs. 6 “…all over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood it!”  Doesn’t that sound good?  Wouldn’t you like to know how this was happening?  So that it might happen again?  Notice Paul’s prayer for the Colossian church.

10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

            Paul’s aim, his wish, his desire, his prayer is for the Colossian Christians to be successful… to continue to grow & bear fruit… to be strengthened and to grow in every way!  And so it is interesting that in doing this… he reminds them of God’s mission.

13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The Mission of God is essentially a RESCUE OPERATION!

            God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness… and set us safely in Kingdom of Christ.  I think about those Chilean miners rescued last month on t.v.  After an explosion rocked the mine where they were working, 33 miners were trapped thousands of feet underground for 69 days until rescue workers finally pulled them out (Oct. 13, 2010).  The whole world was glued to their television sets watching it unfold live!  I don’t usually get claustrophobic, but the few times I have… it has been in caves.  The thought of thousands of square feet of nothing but rock overhead and below… darkness… I can’t imagine how these miners must have felt!  But through determination and ingenuity and working together, rescue workers got every single one of them out alive!  The mission of God is like that.  He is all about RESCUING us from out of the darkness!

            We live in a fallen world… a dark world.  As we reflect back on the Biblical narrative… we remember that things started off pretty good!  Genesis 1 & 2 are bright & cheery!  God creates the heavens & the earth… every living thing… and everything is “good.”  In fact he says about humanity that it is “very good.”  And chapter 2 comes along… and Adam gets a wife… which makes him happy… and everything seems even better!  What could go wrong?  But then comes ch. 3… and the serpent… and the lie… the temptation… and the SIN!  And the story is forever changed!  Nothing is ever the same again!  With sin came death, disease, decay, the curse of the ground, the fracture in human relationships, alienation & separation from God.  Mankind is cast out of the Garden of Eden… and into a world of death… characterized and dominated by Sin… and ruled by the Tempter himself!  And this is the world WE still live in today!  Where else but in a fallen world will people celebrate the birth of the Messiah by getting up at 3am, driving to the mall and fighting one another over parking spaces and door-buster deals?!  What sense does that make?  Our world is fallen, there is no doubt.

We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 1 John 5:19 NIV

BUT… God chooses to act to rescue us from that darkness!

8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8NIV

Jesus is at the Center of that Rescue Operation… from the very beginning!

Col 1:15 He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

            Now, God had begun to put the plan into motion way back with Abraham and the promise made to him… then he used Moses to rescue his people… to forge the ‘children of Abraham’ into a great nation (Israel) that would be a light to the rest of the world and bless the nations… and he gave them the Law to lead them to the Christ.  Then the Bible says… when the “time had fully come… God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”  -Gal 4:3-5 NIV 

            The plan was Christ the Messiah… from the very beginning!  Some have misunderstood God’s intention… thinking that the OT was God’s “Plan A” at rescuing the people and when that didn’t work he put into motion “Plan B”… and sent Jesus.    No, Jesus was there in the very beginning… and notice the goal.

19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 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.

But, wait!  The Goal of the Operation isn’t just to rescue US… but to rescue… “all things!”

            God was interested in our souls, to be sure!  But that’s just a part of a larger rescue mission!   God intends to redeem, to restore, to rescue all of creation!  “All things… on earth & in heaven” thru the blood of his Son!  That’s what he’s about!  He doesn’t just want to pull us out of the world… he wants to re-make the world!  Ever notice how the Bible begins AND ends with creation.  In Gen. 1 its creation… “God created the heavens & the earth”… but in Revelation 21 its “New Creation.”  “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…” John writes.

            This tells us that God has an “END” in mind for the entire creation… a goal that he is working towards… and that he is moving all history towards.  He speaks of it again in

Romans 8:19-24
19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.  22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? NIV

            THAT is our hope!  Not just in going to heaven when we die… but in the redemption of God’s creation!  In its liberation from its bondage to decay & death!!!  In this final reconciliation of all things back unto God!  Back to Colossians…

Col. 1:21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation- 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. NIV

Its interesting to me that this is also how Paul thinks of his own mission… in terms of reconciliation… in terms of what God did.

2 Corinthians 5:16-19
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. NIV

            Paul very much saw his ministry, his mission… in light of God’s mission!  This is what I mean when I say, the church doesn’t have a mission… God has a mission, and the church is called to participate with God in that mission of reconciling the world unto Him!

And God is relentless about this pursuit of His Mission!

            He is determined… he is set on it… nothing in all of creation is going to stop him from making it happen!  I told you last week about losing Michael at host.  Well, while I was looking for him I didn’t stop to talk to anyone.  I felt bad and went back to apologize to a few friends later… folks I dissed and didn’t talk to.  See, I was a man on a mission!  And I was single-minded… determined.  I wasn’t going to stop until I found him!  You see, God is a God on a mission… and he’s not stopping until “all things” are reconciled unto Him!

            If that doesn’t get you fired up… I don’t know what will!  But what do we DO with it?

But what does all of this tell us?  What does it mean?  How does it change what we do or how we think?

Implications for us…

It ought to give us a new respect for God.
God has not quit or gone anywhere!  He is still living and active and working in his creation to bring about his intended goal… the restoration of all things.  Some have the mind that God created and then left the world to wind on its own… but I don’t get that sense from Scripture.  On the contrary, it tells us that there is an END, a goal… a purpose towards which God is moving us, and thus a purpose for us!

It ought to give us a new sense of Purpose.
It tells us that we have a mission… and it is not ours, its God’s!  We are partners (in a sense) with God; Paul calls himself a “coworker” with God.  Like the Blues Brothers… we really are “On a Mission from God!”  There is no loftier purpose than that!  There is nothing better that you can give your life to!

It ought to change the way we think about ourselves as the church.
‘Missions’ is not just one of our many programs… MISSION is who we are, because it is Who God is!  In other words, it is not just another ‘activity’ of the church… it becomes our ‘identity’ as the church.  We are a people on a mission! 

It ought to broaden the scope of how we think about Mission.
I used to think about missions as something we supported ‘missionaries’ to go off to foreign lands and do.  Now I realize that its something we are all called to be involved in wherever we are and wherever we go.  I used to think that mission work was primarily as preaching & teaching; door-knocking & studying.  Those things are certainly included in mission… but the mission of God is even larger.  Wouldn’t it also encompass… ministry to the poor, the sick, the weak, and to the brokenness of our world.

What implications do you see?  How does thinking about our mission in the context of the larger mission of God affect how you think or what you do?  How should it?



  1. The brethren of The Messiah are but “aliens and pilgrims while on the earth” because their “citizenship is in Heaven” and so it is that they have taken heed unto the exhortation too:

    “Love Not The World”

    ”For the WHOLE(not just a portion) world is under the control of the evil one”…….(I John 5:19)

    “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world will pass away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of The Only True GOD will abide for ever.”(IJohn2:15-17)

    “If you were of the world, the world would love it’s own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said unto you, the servant is not greater than his Master. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also.” (John15:19-20)

    “Where do wars and fighting among you come from? Do they not come of your lusts that war in your members? You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war yet you have not, because you ask not. You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts. You adulterers and adulteresses, don’t you know that friendship with the world is to be at enmity with The Only True GOD? Therefore whoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of The Only True GOD.” (James 4:1-4)

    “The world cannot hate you; but the world hates Me, because I testify that the works of this world are evil.” (John 7:7)” and “The Messiah gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of The Only True God, Our Father.”(Gal 1:4)

    The Messiah testified: “If the world hates you know that it hated Me before it hated you.”(John 5:18) Truly, Truly, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone: but if it die it brings forth much fruit. He that loves his life in this world shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall have it unto life eternal.” (John 12:24-25)

    John testified: “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hates you.” (I John 3:13) “ James testified, “Whoever would be a friend of this world is the enemy of GOD”(James4:4)

    “Come Out of her, MY people”!

    Global warming, polluted air, land and waters, toxic wastes, sexual perversion, evil inventions of destruction, greed, hate, carnal warfare, dis-ease(no-peace),,etc,, are all destructive processes that have their root in “the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life” all of which fuel the fires of mankind’s “imag”ination ;-(

    “Come out from among them and be separate”!

    Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(no-peace) that is of this world and it’s systems of religion, for “the WHOLE(not just a portion) world is under the control of the evil one” indeed and Truth……

    Truth IS, a lie never was and is not…….

    Abide in Truth……. francis

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