Some would claim that trying to convert anyone to a religion is “arrogant, bigoted, or intolerant”1, others reject any single universal truth claim, still for others, missions is viewed as a form of imperialism, or that missions destroys cultures. Some look to the Crusades and claim that it is because of missions that so much blood has been shed. Others see any form of fundamentalism (including Biblical Christianity) as extremist and dangerous. Finally, some may even claim that there are already too many Christians in the world, why in the earth would we need more.
Criticisms and challenges abound against the idea of Christian Missions. I might even add to the pile from within the Christian community as Missions being hard, or dangerous, or that there is already enough to worry about in my life, who has time to worry about missions.
Craig Ott in his book Εncountering a Theology of Missions confronts these claims head on. He claims that the idea of mission(s) is rooted far more deeply than just a particular culture, religion or people. He asserts that Mission arises from the very nature of God. He says that, “Mission must start with the very person, plan, and character of God himself as revealed in the scriptures.” (This, of course, assumes that the God revealed in the Scriptures, is the real and true God.)
Ott says that mission is fundamental to who God is, because God is the creator of everything and therefore is a universal God. There is nothing that is outside of his control or authority. If we are to believe in God, this undoubtedly would be the sort of God we’d have to believe in, or else He isn’t much of a God. Therefore, God is not just the God of a particular people or religion, if He is God, He is the God of everyone and everything.
The God of the universe then, is also an intentional God, and has a particular plan for His creation. Because His authority and control extend over everything, so to then does his plan, and thus it is a universal plan. What is His plan? That His creation, climaxing in the creation of humanity, would be His people, and He would be their God. The only problem is, humanity has rejected both God’s authority and control.
Therefore God’s response, isn’t to blot out humanity from the face of the earth, which He has every right to do if he is in fact Creator, but rather His plan is to pursue humanity and go to great lengths to demonstrate His love for them by becoming a man Himself, identifying with all our struggles, resisting temptation, joyfully obeying God in every moment of His life, and then taking upon Himself on the cross the banishment and punishment that we all deserved by turning from Him.
Through this single act of Judgment and Mercy He opens a way for us to be reconciled to Him. He sends His own spirit into our very beings to change us at the most fundamental level so that we too could joyfully respond to and obey God, the creator. This is only made possible when our eyes are opened to see the truth for what it is, we have turned away from the only source of life and chosen death. We are sinners in need of a savior and that savior is Jesus.
Although Christianity has been called the most exclusive religion, it is simultaneously the most inclusive religion. For through Christ, the way is open to every ethnicity, nation, color, language and people on the face of the earth. God’s open hand extends to the end of the earth.
Why did He do it? Love.
“Mission has its origin in the heart of God. God is a fountain of sending love. This is the deepest source of mission. It is impossible to penetrate deeper still; there is mission because God loves people” – David J. Bosch.
God is bringing about His original intent that humanity would be His people, and that He would be their God. God by His very nature is a sending God. God, the Father, sends the Son. God, the Father, and God the Son, send the Spirit. And God, the Father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit, send the church.
Once you grasp the universal scope of God’s mission, you cannot be unchanged. God has a purpose and it is issuing from His deep heart of Love. Ott gives us five practical implications of a proper understanding of God’s mission:
- Assurance That Mission Is God’s Prerogative and Undertaking
- We Can Confidently Proclaim the Gospel to All People
- The Person of Jesus Christ Must Remain Central to Both the Method and the Message of Mission
- Mission Must Be Undertaken in Dependency on the Power of the Holy Spirit
- We Can Be Encouraged and Inspired to Renew Our Commitment to Mission
*Credit for this content is mostly due to Craig Ott in his book, Encountering a Theology of Mission, Chapter 3, “The Justification of the Mission”. This was reading done for Steve Childers’ Missions class.