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Mission Blog #3 - Who in the World Does Mission?

I argued in the last blog that the where of mission is comprehensive—all of creation, all of human life, all of human culture, etc., fall within the scope of God’s mission. Nothing is swept under the rug or overlooked. Mission is also comprehensive for the who of mission. In this post, I want to continue broadening the horizons of mission for how we understand revitalization, church and our lives within community. So, who in the world does mission?

Fundamentally, God does mission. Mission begins and ends with God. It begins in the very life of God as Trinity and it ends in the New Creation, when all creation is reconciled to God. In John’s Gospel, we see the Father sending the Son, Father and Son sending the Spirit, and God sending the Church. The church, as the sent people of God, participates in his mission of reconciliation and redemption. This is the keystone for making sense of mission.

That perspective on mission carries implications regarding revitalization here. For FUMC, I think revitalization means a renewed sense of mission. A renewed sense of mission is inseparable from a renewed vision of God. Mission, we’ve noted, “is all that God is doing in his great purpose for the whole of creation and all that he calls us to do in cooperation with that purpose.” That definition highlights the primary Who of mission. The whole drama of Scripture points us to the faithful character of God as loving Creator. God himself, as Father, Son, and Spirit, is the One who does and defines mission in and for and with his creation.

Where does that leave us? If God does mission, what do we do? For the rest of this essay, I want to look at the relationship between mission and the image of God. It’s easy to think that mission is simply better efforts on our part. It’s not. Mission is participating with and living from the life of God through the Spirit. When we begin to think about how we ourselves relate to the broad horizons of God’s mission, the restoration of the image of God in us is one of the most generative and life-giving places to begin. For me personally, the relationship between the mission of God and the image of God has renewed my own sense of mission and vocation.

The mission of God aims at the restoration and renewal, the liberation and endless flourishing, of all his good creation. The Father, Son, and Spirit desire for all of creation to thrive abundantly in rightly ordered relationships of mutual love, joy, care, and creativity; relationships which reflect and embody God’s own character. The renewal of our humanity is at the core of God’s redemptive mission for his creation. The restoration of God’s human image, we learn in Romans 8, is essential to how God is reordering and reconciling his creation, a creation longing for the freedom of God’s children (Romans 8:21).

Rarely do we try to make sense of salvation and mission in terms of the restoration of God’s image in us. Participating in God’s mission means allowing the Holy Spirit to restore in us (revitalize in us?) his image. The Spirit re-humanizes us in relationship with Christ, re-creating us in his image, the image of true humanness. The crucified and resurrected Christ faithfully displays God’s character. We learn how to be human from him. Living as God’s images in the world is the vocation God has given us and we are re-created in Jesus to live that vocation.

God, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is a joyful, living and super-abundant relationship. The image of God is best understood in terms of relationship and character. To image God faithfully centres primarily on our God-given capacity for relationship. Reconciliation with our Creator, with ourselves and our neighbours, and creation itself. What it means to be human is located first and foremost in the relationship of God with his images, and the human vocation to bear that image and not another. It is what makes us truly human.

Thinking about what it means to be human opens the door for us to imagine what revitalization as a renewed sense of mission looks like here among us. This is my main point: the who of God’s mission are those who live out the character of our God. The church faithfully participates in God’s mission as we faithfully embody the character of God. The life of the church then is a way of life lived, of living truly human lives patterned on the person and character of Jesus. Human beings united to Jesus Christ through the Spirit are those images of God through whom he brings healing justice, displays of joyful kindness, and sacrificial love for neighbours and enemies.

Mission, then, is not so much something we do in and of ourselves, under our own power and initiative (who can love their enemies apart from the Spirit?). Rather, ission happens through us as we participate in the life of God, right here in our own community. Mission is something that God does through us as we clothe ourselves in Christ and take on his character, displaying his image through the empowering life of the Spirit. The church participates in God’s mission by living out the human vocation in which we embody the image of the relational God who cares for the flourishing of his creation. The nature, character and mission of God shape the kind of people who are on mission with God. Church is not something we do, but rather something we are. The where of mission is maybe less of an issue than the who of mission, in that the character we are to put on would be the same in any where. Mission is more about a who¬ than a what.

Mission is not someone else’s responsibility. We were all made to live as God’s images within his creation. That looks different in lots of ways for each of us, in the different spheres of life we inhabit. But it also looks pretty much the same across the board. We are all to love our neighbours as ourselves. We are all to care for the homeless, the poor, the widow, the orphan. And not just care for them, but know them and be known by them. We are all called to work for justice and liberation. We are all to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. With anyone and everyone, Christian or not. With kids from the drop-in, neighbours at the community dinners, bank-tellers, baristas, nurses, plumbers, even—God help us—ICBC agents.

We live into and practice this kind of life-giving character because it is the character of God, and we see it in the life of Jesus, the centre of our faith. Mission is participating with and living from the life of God through the Spirit. Are we becoming a more faithful interpretation of the Gospel in and through our life together?

When we come together at the AGM, we will imagine some of what renewing our sense of mission might look like, how we participate with and live from the life of God shared with us in his Son.