the missio dei

What is one of my blind spots? Missiology.

Dr. Timothy Tennent’s book, Invitation to World Missions, has helped me to become a little less blind.  His textbook invited me to think critically about “missions” vs. “mission.” As a believer in Jesus, I need right thinking about these words. My understanding about the Church, missions, and the mission of God is now very different. I confess that before this class and the reading of this book, my role in missions was narrow-minded, mostly defined as a “go”-er or a sender, not as a participator in the missio dei.

Tennent calls for a “missions Selah.” He grounds this missiological rebirth in a theology of missio dei and paints a beautiful image of the Trinitarian work throughout history, in creation, and via his people. The Church is a global Church. The self-proclaimed task of Tennent’s textbook is “to envision what this new and exciting chapter of missionary training, preparation, and collaboration might look like.” (Page 51)

In Part One of the book, Tennent discusses the megatrends that are shaping missions in the twenty-first century. Recognizing that the Western world is no longer characterized as a Christian society, realizing that missions is about people not places, and experiencing and appreciating this new reality from a global perspective are new ways of thinking.

In Section B of Part One, Tennent begins by defining – and distinguishing – common terms within the church.  Mission is defined for us. It is “God’s redemptive, historical initiative on behalf of His creation.” (Page 54) According to Tennent, mission has little to do with us and far more about God and who He is. The Church’s role in the missio dei should never be seen apart from the Source. “The church has been ordained by God to reflect the Trinity through redemptive actions in the world.” (Page 56) The plural term missions involves “all the specific and varied ways in which the church crosses cultural boundaries to reflect the life of the triune God in the world and, through that identity, participates in His mission.” (Page 59). Tennent points to the title of his book, emphasizing that missions is at God’s invitation, and admonishes his readers to participate with God in his redemptive work in the world.

Missions flow out of mission.

To imagine missions apart from the missio dei would be heretical. For “all theology is fundamentally missional because biblical theology reveals God as a missionary God.” (Page 60) So what is the framework of the missio dei? The Father is the initiator and sender; the Son is the transmission and embodiment; the Holy Spirit is the assimilation and empowerment.

(from a paper in January 2011. The class? WM601 with Dr. Peter Kuzmic.)

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