Friday, January 05, 2007

An Upside-Down World

"The question is not, 'Where does God fit into the story of my life?' but, 'Where does my life fit into the story of God's mission?'"

Those words by Christopher J.H. Wright have helped me better understand "mission"/"missions". The article caused me to see afresh the biblical reality that missions is not so much what we do for God and His Kingdom, but what God is up to in the world and how he brings us alongside of his redemptive purposes for his creation. Every Christian and church should ask "What is God's mission?" and "Am I on God's mission?" As a pastor, I am struck with the question "What's the difference between a church with a mission's program and a missional church?" Chris Wright points me to God's mission as the starting point. This article has confirmed in my mind that we serve a God with a mission and that it is in the "DNA" of every Christian to be on mission with God. Anything less is sub-Christian.

Here are some snippets from his article called "An Upside-Down World" that just appeard in Christianity Today, January 2007. (If they post it online, I'll add the link later.)

"The map of global Christianity that our grandparents knew has been turned upside down. At the start of the 20th century, only ten percent of the world's Christians lived in the continents of the south and east. Ninety percent lived in North America and Europe, along with Australia and New Zealand. But at the start of the 21st century, at least 70 percent of the world's Christians live in the non-Western world--more appropriately called the majority world."

"More Christians worship in Anglican churches in Nigeria each week than in all the Episcopal and Anglican churches of Britain, Europe, and North America combined."

"Christianity has never had a territorial center. Our center is the person of Christ, and wherever he is known, there is another potential center of faith and witness."

"Already, 50 percent of all protestant missionaries in the world come from non-Western countries, and the proportion is increasing annually."

"So another piece of unlearning we must do is breaking the habit of using the term mission field to refer to everywhere else in the world excpet our home country in the West."

"The real mission boundary is not between 'Christian countries' and 'the mission field', but between faith and unbelief, and that is a boundary that runs through every land and, indeed, through every local street."

"The whole Bible presents a God of missional activity, from his purposeful, goal-oriented act of Creation to the compeltion of his cosmic mission in the redemption of the whole of Creation--a new heaven and a new earth."

"All mission or missions that we initiate, or into which we invest our vocation, gifts, and energies, flow from the prior mission of God. God is on mission, and we, in that wonderful phrase of Paul, are 'co-workers with God.' This God-centered refocusing of mission turns inside-out our obsession with mission plans, agendas, goals, strategies, and grand schemes. We ask, 'Where does God fit into the story of my life?' when the real question is, 'Where does my life fit into the story of God's mission?'"

For an in depth study on the biblical theology of mission check out Christopher Wright's most recent book The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative

And if that book floats your boat, you'll want to get Andreas Kostenberger and Peter T. O'Brien's Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A biblical theology of mission.

And by all means don't forget John Piper's Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions.


Jonathan Dodson said...

Thanks for the snippets. Indeed, Wright is tapping into the Missio Dei, the Mission of God, which cross-cultural missionaries and missiologist have been expounding on for some time (see Bosch, Transforming Mission). It is a beautiful, compelling, God-centered vision isnt it? Missions isn't tacking cross-cultural spiritual handouts onto our Christian disciplines, but an expression of participation in the pre-existent, ongoing mission of God himself. The Missio Dei is the ground of missions--it makes our activity purposeful, communal and everlasting.

Josh said...

What I don't get is why the centrality of Missio Dei gets lost or pushed to the background?! Wright doesn't say much that is new, rather he wonderfully explains the heart-beat of missions, of the Bible, of God: the glory of God displayed in the redemption of his Creation.

Over the past year, we've been thinking through some of the ramifications of Missio Dei with our missions team. Oddly enough, we haven't used the term?! I plan on sharing this article with our mission team.

Have you read Wright's recent book?

Jonathan Dodson said...

Man, sounds like some great meetings with your elders!

Which Wright book? Simply Christian, yes, the one on Authority of Scripture, no.

Jonathan Dodson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Josh said...

No baby yet!? My son knows when he's got a good thing going. The plan is to induce next Wed if he doesn't arrive sooner. We're both prayer for sooner.