By Cailey Morgan
In my previous article, I explained how Brad Brisco, Director of Bivocational Church Planting for the North American Mission Board, suggests that until we truly understand the why of our life as God’s people, we won’t have eyes to see how God is trying to shape our what and how. Brisco gives several paradigm shifts in our why thinking, the first being the missionary nature of God and therefore of the church.
God is a Missionary and God is Missionary
When someone says the word missionary, what image comes to mind? Often, the picture is of an individual passionate about bringing the restorative work of God to a group of people far away. They’re so passionate, in fact, that they are willing to move into a new and uncomfortable context, learn a new language, incarnate into the daily life of those people, and in many cases (Jim Elliot and his colleagues come to mind), missionaries are even willing to be killed by the very people to whom they have come bringing hope. When described in that sense, I’m comfortable considering God as a missionary, especially as seen in the life of Christ.
However, when we say He is a missionary God, we are not only saying that He is a missionary, but that He is missionary: mission-focused, mission-like. His person is one of mission. Being missionary is one of His attributes.
From Genesis’ creation narrative to the promise of Christ’s recreative work in Revelation, the grand story of Scripture is about God and His mission. He is at work in the world. His nature is missionary.
God’s Called and Sent Ones
What does God’s missionary nature mean for us, then? As His people, following in His footsteps, we are to be a called and sent people. This paradigm shift helps us see the church not primarily as a mechanism for sending missionaries. Indeed, as Brisco says, “the church is missionary! We are individually and collectively the sent people of God.”
The language in Scripture is almost overwhelming on this point. The prophetic books are stories and words of people sent by God to participate in His redeeming mission and redemptive deeds. Jesus refers to Himself as the sent One over 3 dozen times in the book of John.
God’s people are called to Him and then sent as part of His mission. And this cycle of calling and sending is to be reflected in the rhythm of God’s people as it was in the book of Acts. We are to be a gathered and scattered people, called and sent, as it were, daily, weekly, yearly.
A Gather-Scatter People
Becoming missional does not mean abandoning everything about our present structures. Take, for example, a typical weekly church routine. Rather than a Sunday service being the main missional activity of our week—the program we bring our friends to so they hear about Jesus—what if this service was the calling, the gathering of a people who have been sent into their streets and schools and workplaces to share the gospel in every moment? The service becomes a celebration of God’s transformative work in the lives of us and our friends, and a time of equipping in order to again be scattered into spheres of influence for the sake of God’s Kingdom.
In this upward spiral of gathered and scattered, weeknight home groups become evenings of intercession and of vision: how do we support each other as we search for God’s action in our neighbourhoods and step out in faith to follow Him there? Bible studies become more vital than ever as we hide God’s Word so richly in our hearts that it not only changes us but begins to spill over into our daily interactions, bringing hope to those who don’t yet know Christ.
Let the Holy Spirit guide your imagination. Are there other elements of your congregational life that need to be steeped in the missionary nature of God? Is Jesus inviting your family into a new way of following His footsteps? Or a renewed understanding of your call and your sentness?
Next time, we’ll look deeper into God’s calling for us, and how it could be that His exhortation “Go!” in fact means “Stay!”
This is the second article in a series. Read the other posts here:
- Why, Oh Why?
- Incarnational Presence
- Space to be Truly Present
- Missional Margin
- Missional Mindset in Everyday Spaces