God’s Mission: The Occasion for Persecution and Suffering
Because God has a mission to the world and this mission is presently resisted by hostile spiritual forces and rebellious humans, there is the reality of having to suffer for Christ as we participate in God’s mission. It is important that we know why we go out in mission because we may face situations that will test our resolve and commitment, and a superficial commitment will not do. We need a deep theological understanding of the mission of God to remain to remain steady in our calling. There are some, perhaps even within the Christian community, who would question that we have global mission in today’s world. They see this mission as intrusive and confrontational by nature. We are called to be witness of who Christ is and what he has done on behalf of humanity, so it is both intrusive and confrontational to a certain degree in every culture, the level of intensity depending on the context. In order to respond to those who view missions in this manner and also to reinforce our own commitment, we need a fairly comprehensive and clear understanding of God’s global mission. It is important to start by addressing God’s global mission. An understanding of his mission will help us if the prospect of having to sacrifice, suffer, or pay a severe cost in order to fulfill our global calling becomes a reality. We have responded with our whole heart and now it is necessary to respond with our minds as well.
Towards a Theology of the Mission of God
The mission of God is clearly revealed and taught in his Word, both in the Old and New Testaments. It unfolds in a magnificent manner from the call of Abraham to the gathering of the nations before the Great White Throne. The occasion that made this mission of redemption necessary is the fall of humanity into sin and rebellion and now all creation groans for the day when everything will be put right. We are promised and believe by faith that it will put right at the time of Christ’s return. In the meantime, the church has a mandate and calling to participate in the mission of God to the world, primarily and most importantly preaching of the gospel since human destinies are at stake. The ultimate goal and desire is to see the nations come to Christ and the righteousness of God to prevail on earth.
God’s mission is not a socio-political agenda but it is sometimes interpreted that way so
Christians suffer because what they teach and advocate is perceived as a serious threat to the prevailing political or religious power systems of countries. The Early Church clearly understood its mission and Apostles Paul and Peter led the way, Peter primarily to the Jews and Paul to the Gentiles, thus making the church truly global, multi-ethnic, and multi-national. The late Princeton missiologist Alan Neely writes:
“The most formidable task facing the church in the coming century…will be discerning where God is at work, inculcating in Christian believers a theology of mission adequate for the times, preparing them to live in an increasingly secular and pluralistic world, and motivating them to engage their culture with commitment, courage and expectancy.”
Neely’s statement about constructing a theology of mission adequate for our times is the motivation behind this book.