Christopher J. H. Wright states explicitly the belief of biblical scholars who see in the Word of God that God’s mission is truly his work and now ours. He writes: “Mission is not ours; mission is God’s. Certainly, the mission of God is the prior reality out of which flows any mission we get involved in…it is not so much the case that God has a mission for the church in the world but that God has a church for his mission in the world. Mission was not made for the church; the church was made for mission–God’s mission.” So, he explains, “fundamentally, our mission (if it is biblically informed and validated) means our committed participation as God’s people, at God’s invitation and command, in God’s own mission within the history of God’s world for the redemption of God’s creation.”
The term missio Dei—the mission of God—is a phrase coined by the German missiologist Karl Hartenstein to try to articulate the teaching of Swiss theologian Karl Barth. It has two very important implications: one, that mission is ‘grounded’ in God and that he is the initiator of mission; second, it also connected missions with a theology of the Trinity. “Mission,” Wright says, “flows from the wider dynamic movement of God in personal relationship.” “Mission flows from the reality of this God–the biblical God.”
Walter Elwell widens this idea of the missio Dei to include not only God himself but also His revelation about Himself: He writes: “From a missiological point of view, the concept of the divine initiative most directly relates to God’s self-disclosures with a view to bringing fallen humans into a redemptive relationship with himself. God has called his people to share this good news of redemption with every living soul.“ Elwell reaffirms that God not only initiated mission but he did not leave it in the hands of the church and walk away. We can be sure that he continues on in his world with us.
Christopher Wright sees mission as participation with God. “Mission in biblical terms, while it inescapably involves us in planning and action, is not primarily a matter of our activity or our initiative. Mission, from the point of view of our human endeavor, means the committed participation of God’s people in the purposes of God for the redemption of the whole creation. The mission is God’s. The marvel is that God invites us to join him.” The scope of our mission must be the same as the scope of God’s mission. Wright’s view of the mission of God is more comprehensive than just defining ‘missions’ as ‘sending’ because, he believes, the Bible has a much wider view of what is involved in God’s mission to the world. It is true that God’s mission is much wider than sending or evangelism but in our discussions we want to focus primarily on the sending and evangelistic activities of the church because of the nature of the work is to share the gospel which has the effect being life-transforming and of changing the destiny of persons and nations. It is also the occasion for persecution since it will be the point of confrontation with the core values and beliefs of the world.
The attempt to fulfill God’s mission to the world will bring about conflict with the prevailing worldview of every particular culture at some point. Whether it will come to full-blown persecution remains to be seen in some parts of the world. In other parts, being willing to suffer for Christ is a part of one’s ongoing commitment to Christ. Like any endeavor in ministry, it should be founded upon and fortified by a substantial theology based on God’s Word. Solid theological thinking corroborates and affirms the foundational biblical theology of mission and affirms our participation with God in global evangelism.