Theology, Thoughts & Coffee
Reading and Class Schedule:
John Franke, Missional Theology
- January 10: Chapter 1, Missional God, pp. 1-30
- January 17: Chapter 2, Missional Church, pp. 31-60
- January 24: Chapter 3, Missional Theology, pp. 61-96
- January 31: Chapter 4, Missional Multiplicity, pp. 97-138
- February 7: Chapter 5, Missional Solidarity, pp. 139-166
- February 14: Epilogue, pp. 167-176
For Zoom information, please contact Dr. John Franke.
Chapter 1: Missional God
The starting point for missional theology is the notion of a missional God. This means simply that God is, by God’s very nature, a missionary God.
From this perspective, according to South African missiologist David Bosch, “mission is not primarily an activity of the church, but an attribute of God.”
One of the most significant and influential developments in the ecumenical movement in the twentieth century was the broad consensus, shared by virtually all theological and ecclesial traditions that participate in ecumenical discourse, that the mission of the church finds its rationale in the missio Dei (mission of God).
Two additional points: first, God, by God’s very nature, is a missionary God; second, the church of this missionary God must therefore be a missionary church.
The term “mission” comes from the Latin words “to send” (mitto) and “sending” (missio).
One of the consequences of affirming that mission is an attribute of God and part of the divine nature is that the mission of God does not have an end, it continues into eternity as an essential aspect of the divine nature.
The Eternal Mission of God
While the mission of God is complex and multifaceted, its central character and that from which all other aspects flow is love. In the words of the famous South African theologian David Bosch: “God is the fountain of sending love. This is the deepest source of mission. It is impossible to penetrate deeper still.”
Perhaps the single most significant development in twentieth century trinitarian theology has been the broad consensus concerning the significance of relationality as the most fruitful model for understanding the doctrine of the Trinity.
At the heart of the contemporary consensus of the divine relationality is the apostolic witness that God is love (1 John 4:8). Developing the doctrine of the Trinity in accordance with the category of relationality provides a profound conception of this biblical assertion.
Love expressed, received, and shared by the trinitarian persons among themselves provides a description of the inner life of God throughout eternity. The statement “God is love” refers primarily to the eternal, relational intratrinitarian fellowship.
This notion that God is a loving missionary from all eternity points to the particular concerns of God in engagement with the world.
The love that characterizes the mission of God from all eternity is the compelling basis for the extension of the divine mission to the world.
The Mission of God in the World
Creation is a reflection of the expansive love of God, whereby the triune God brings into being another reality and establishes a relationship of love, grace and blessing with the intention of drawing that reality into participation in the divine fellowship of love.
However, human beings, created in the image of God, have rebelled against the love of God. Instead of seeking the well-being of their fellow humans, they have sought their own good at the expense of others and established oppressive societies that colonize citizens, particularly the powerless and vulnerable.
Out of love for the world the Father sends Jesus the Son into the world (John 3:16-17) to redeem it through a cruciform life of humility, service, obedience, and death for the sake of others.
Jesus calls the world to follow his way of life and participate in the kingdom of God—a community where everyone has enough and no one needs to be afraid.
God sends the Spirit into the world to call, guide, and empower a new community from every tribe and nation, centered on Jesus Christ, to be witness and provisional demonstration of God’s will for all creation.
The extension of this mission into the created order occurs not only through the sending of the Son and the Spirit, but also in the sending of the church.
The mission of God in relation to the world is love and salvation leading to peace or shalom. This mission in the self-giving, self-sacrificing love of God expressed in the trinitarian fellowship. This divine mission forms the context for the mission of the church.
Chapter 2: Missional Church
God is love: God lives from all eternity in an interactive relationship characterized by the giving, receiving, and sharing of love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Together these three are one God by virtue of their interdependent relationality.
God is a missionary God: Mission is a part of God’s very nature and is expressed in the being and actions of God throughout eternity and made known by the sending of the Son into the world. The church of this God must be missionary because it worships a missionary God.
Difference and otherness are part of the divine life: While Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together are one God, their unity is not an outgrowth of sameness. Rather, they are one in the very midst of their difference.
The love of God is not an assimilating love: The love of God does not seek to make that which is different the same, but rather God lives in harmonious fellowship with the other through the active relations of self-sacrificing, self-giving love.
Creation is a manifestation of the expansive love of God: God seeks to extend the love shared and expressed in the divine life by bringing into being another reality, that which is not God, with the intention of drawing the created order to participate in the divine fellowship of love.
Human beings, created in the image of God, have rebelled against the love of God: Instead of seeking the well-being of their fellow humans, they have sought their own good at the expense of others and established oppressive societies that colonize and marginalize its citizens, particularly the powerless and vulnerable.
Jesus is sent into the world to bring about salvation: Jesus was not sent to condemn the world but to redeem it through a life of humility, service, obedience, death, and resurrection for the sake of others. By his teaching and example, he called the world to follow his way of life and participate in the Kingdom of God, a community where everyone has enough and no one needs to be afraid. By his death and resurrection he conquered the powers of sin and death, reconciling the world with God.
In seeking to understand the mission of the church in relation to the mission of God, we begin our exploration with the words of Jesus in John 20:21-23: “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’”
This sending is at the very core of the church’s reason and purpose for being and must shape all that the church is and does. Mission must not be viewed as merely one of the many programs of the church or something done by a few specially called people who proclaim the gospel in faraway lands. In the words of the authors of Missional Church, mission “defines the church as God’s sent people. Either we are defined by mission, or we reduce the scope of the gospel and the mandate of the church. Thus our challenge today is to move from church with mission to missional church.”
NT scholar Michael Gorman: “already in the first century the apostle Paul wanted the communities he addressed not merely to believe the gospel but to become the gospel, and in so doing to participate in the very life and mission of God.”
The Church as Community
Two traditions: individualist and communitarian
Elements of Community: 1) a community consists of a group of people who are conscious that they share a similar frame of reference; 2) a sense of group focus is present in communities; and 3) the group orientation of a community leads members to draw a sense of personal identity from the community.
The Church as the Image of God and Sign of the Kingdom
The Church as the Body of Christ and Instrument of the Kingdom
The Church as the Dwelling Place of the Spirt and Foretaste of the Kingdom
Mission After Christendom
Beginning in the Roman Empire, Christendom is a system of church-state partnership and cultural hegemony in which the Christian religion maintains a unique, privileged, and protected place in society, and the Christian church is its legally and socially established institutional form.
This model of the church, and the outlooks and intuitions that attend to it, are so deeply pervasive that even when the formal and legal structures of Christendom are removed, as in the case of North America, its legacy is perpetuated in the traditions, structures, and attitudes that are its entailments. This known as functional Christendom.
Richard Twiss: Christian mission among the tribes of North America has not been very good news. What worldview influences allowed the Creator’s story of creation and redemption to morph into a hegemonic colonial myth justifying the genocide and exploitation of America’s First Nations people?
In light of its history and complicity with the forces of colonization, the mission and witness of the church must be reimagined in keeping with the principles and values of the Kingdom proclaimed by Jesus. Missional theology seeks to reimagine Christian witness so that it more faithfully reflects the mission of God and the participation of the church in that mission.