A Few Words about the Old Testament and mission
The Old Testament has a lot to say about God’s mission, as we have already noted. There are those who have thought that the Old Testament had very little say about missions so have tended to disregard it as a source for a theology of mission. We have already seen the importance of the role of the Old Testament in the section on the holiness of God and also on God and the nations. Missional or missiological themes and methods of mission are introduced and begin to emerge in all sections of the Old Testament. Aspects of a theology of mission are found in the great narratives, poetry, and even in the law of the Old Testament.
The securing of solid biblical and theological foundations for mission has not always been important for some according to Johannes Blauw in his book, The Missionary Nature of the Church. In the early part of the twentieth century numerous purposes, motives, and foundations of mission were put forth. “The biblical motive for missions was only one among many, and sometimes not even the most important one,” he writes. Writing in 1961, he observed that in the thirty years prior to his writing, things had changed. A deep desire for a clarification and a purification of the motive for mission and for limiting the purpose of mission to its biblical foundation became more and more evident.
This call for the re-establishment of missions upon a biblical foundation has caused the church generally to be more theologically responsible, seeking a broader and deeper theological orientation. To be theologically responsible is to take the themes and teachings of the Bible and apply them to the various aspects of life. In this case, it is being sure that we are doing what God wishes us to do and in the way he wants it done.
As the church began to look more seriously at the assumptions that have guided its missionary effort in the modern missionary era, it became evident that it was not adequately grounded in the Word of God. It is appropriate and necessary for the church to periodically re-evaluate its assumptions, methods, and of mission on a regular basis to make sure that its core principles and foundations are adequate and faithful to the will and intent of God. This re-evaluation involves theologizing. As Ken R. Gnanakan sees it, “This is…theologising with missiological intentions.” Gnanakan believes that a theology of mission is based on the record of what God has done in the past in relation to the nations of the world and this record is found in the Bible. It is “the actual historicity of the past events plus the authority of its revealed character that gives us the basis of our theological consideration for mission today.”