By Kevin Schutte
The church is sent to proclaim the Gospel in a world that has sinned against God and is deserving of judgment, but the church is also sent to a world in which all of humanity, indeed all of creation, suffer from the consequences of sin. These consequences include all which stands against shalom, such as poverty, sickness, systematic oppression, injustices, and racism. The church is sent to engage those who sin and those who are sinned against. The Gospel that the church presents and preaches can not be separate from this understanding and complete context. This is why the verbal proclamation of the gospel is accompanied by the incarnation of the one who is preaching and presenting the Gospel with both words and a life lived out.
I enjoy Eugene Peterson’s translation in the message of the incarnation of Jesus when he says “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14). Christ did not simply proclaim his message from heaven; he became the Word, he served the least of these and demonstrated service, he died and became Deed. The church becomes the incarnation by proclaiming the whole Gospel, the heart and the scope of it and gives evidence with its deed. The proclamation is evidenced by the action and the action is given an explanation by the proclamation; the proclaimer of the Gospel is incarnated in the “neighborhood.”
The church is sent with purposes both narrow — preaching the scriptures, administering the sacraments, and exercising church discipline/discipleship — and wide — bringing about limitless restoration to all that is broken and confused; reclaiming all that is abandoned and discarded in life. We pray “Thy Kingdom come” for the here and now and pray “Thy Kingdom come” for the day when Christ returns and there is a new heaven and a new earth, when there are no more tears, no more crying, no more death (Revelation 21:4), and when we begin to experience things the way they were supposed to be.
It is the mission of God, the Missio Dei, to redeem what He created, and to restore all aspects of His creation from the stains of sin. What is the Missional understanding of the church? The language of the Missional church recognizes that as the Father sent the Son into the world to carry out redemption, the Father and the Son also sent the Spirit to create the church and continue with the Missio Dei of bringing redemption to every corner of creation. Before we ask what the church does or what programs a church implements, we first must recognize that the church is continuing God’s mission to bring redemption to every part of creation. Our missiology informs and provides contours for our ecclesiology. The church is called to bring about shalom, to live as ambassadors sent on behalf of the King, bringing the whole Gospel — heart and scope, word and deed, reflecting inward and outward — without any division or attempt to balance. The church embraces both the narrow and the wide. Missional is not just the latest fad or buzzword. Missional brings us to a greater understanding and greater integration of what the church is called to be.