By Daniel Im, Director of Church Multiplication for Lifeway Leadership and NewChurches.com.
Mission is not something that your church does. Nor is it something that your church can opt out of. And it’s not a strategy, preference, or style of ministry either.
Mission needs to be core to the identity of any and every local church. After all, a church without a clear understanding of its mission is a church without power. As scholar Martin Kähler said a century ago, “Mission is the mother of theology.”
What It Means to Be Missional
I’m not talking about having a mission statement. I’m talking about the great and grand mission that God has invited us all into: the mission of God, the missio Dei. The concept of missio Dei is recognition that God is a sending God and that the church is sent.
“Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” (John 20:21 CSB)
In describing the mission of the church, Tim Keller notes: “God does not merely send the church in mission. God already is in mission, and the church must join him. This also means, then, that the church does not simply have a missions department; it should wholly exist to be a mission.”1
The church has been sent to join the most important mission in the Scriptures.2 Jesus Christ embodied that mission; the Holy Spirit empowers for that mission; the church is the instrument of that mission; and the culture is the context in which that mission occurs.3
As missiologist Wilbert Shenk points out: “The Great Commission institutionalizes mission as the raison d’être, the controlling norm, of the church. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ and a member of his body is to live a missionary experience in the world. There is no doubt that this was how the earliest Christians understood their calling.”
And this is how we need to understand the word mission or its adjective, missional, today. A missional church is a church that’s adopting the posture of a missionary, joining God on His mission, and learning and adapting to the culture around them while remaining biblically sound. Think of it this way: missional means living and acting like a missionary, even if you never leaving your city.
A Missional Translation
In addition to preaching out of the CSB as a Teaching Pastor at The Fellowship, a multisite church in Nashville, TN, I’m also reading through it, cover to cover, for my personal devotions.
What I love about the translation is the readability of it. It just flows. The sentences are written in a way that makes sense and are easy to memorize. It’s like I’m reading a modern day play, rather than a play written by Shakespeare or Chaucer.
However, at the same time, after examining the translation methodology of the CSB, I can trust that what I’m reading is what the original manuscripts said. I’ve found the CSB to be both readable and trustworthy.
In order to lead the members of your church to live and act like missionaries, you need to equip them with the one thing that matters above all else—the Scriptures. Ephesians 6:17 equates the Scriptures to the sword that every soldier needs in order to walk onto the battlefield.
“…the sword of the Spirit— which is the word of God.” (Eph 6:17b CSB)
We’re in a battlefield—a spiritual one.
And that means we need to give our congregations a sword that they can actually lift and that is strong and reliable. We need to give them a translation they can understand and one that adheres closely to the original meaning.
If you want to equip your church members to live and act like missionaries, they need to be so familiar with their swords that they can easily wield them against the lies and temptations of the evil one.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. 13 For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, 15 and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. 16 In every situation take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit — which is the word of God. (Eph 6:12-17)
1 Tim Keller, Center Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 251.
2 Köstenberger and O’Brien, Salvation to the Ends of the Earth, 269.
3 Wilbert R. Shenk, “Mission Theology,” in Phillips and Coote, Toward the Twenty-First Century in Christian Mission, 221–23.
4 Wilbert R. Shenk, Write the Vision: The Church Renewed (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2000), 90.