In America (and World): Biblically missional
Having said all this, we could be faithfully Presbyterian and evangelically catholic and still not fulfill what God is calling us to be and to do in our generation. That is why my dream is that as a denomination, we would become biblically missional, joining with God in his mission in America and the world.
Of course, “missional” is one of those du jour words, right up there with “emergent/emerging.” For all the controversy some missional folks have caused, there is something profoundly right and biblical about which our missional/emerging friends are reminding us—namely, that God is on a divine mission to redeem his world for his glory; that God demonstrated in the death of his one and only son the great lengths that he would go in order to do this; and that God has brought us into his kingdom at this moment to witness to rulers, authorities, and powers that God is, always has been, and always will be Lord and calls all people everywhere to bow the knee to King Jesus.
And so our task is to join God in his mission by incarnating the Gospel in a variety of contexts, numerous cultural systems and cultural moments all over the world. Our missional friends are reminding those of us who are tempted to be ecclesiastically sectarian, inward, and survivalist that either we join in God’s mission or we live utterly against the grain of what God is doing in his world—which is another way of saying, in disobedience to the Spirit of God.
I must say, I am all for this missional vision. But I want to make sure that as we dream, we keep the modifier “biblically” in place. Because if we are not careful, we can hear the missional call to redeem our present culture by incarnating God’s word in this cultural moment and we can translate it in such a way that it loses the biblical emphasis.
Because, at the end of the day, God did not send us into this world simply to set up orphanages, rebuild houses, do wonderful art, or purify politics. Instead, God sent us into the world to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Ultimately, redeeming the world happens as God through our witness redeems individuals and families in every nation.
To be sure, that does not mean that “deed ministry” is unimportant. Rather, our deeds of justice and mercy flow from the saving mercy that we have received from God and serve his own merciful purposes in the lives of others. And yet, while Jesus went around doing good—healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, raising the dead—it is important to recognize that his mission, as he defined it, was this: “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43). Any sense of God’s mission that gets away from this biblical imperative of preaching the good news of God’s kingdom ultimately is not God’s mission. My hope and dream for our church is that as we seek to live in the light of God’s mission for the nations, that we would do so through word and deed, preaching and mercy, for God’s glory.