Friday, June 5, 2009

The Object of Mission (Part 1)

The Mission is God's. He is the One on Mission through His churches. The primary purpose of the Mission is to see God glorified as He ought to be, by everyone. These were covered in two previous posts. I don't think that those are hard for Independent Fundamental Baptists to accept. However, this one may be different for some.

Think of this sentence: God is seeking whom? 'God' is the subject. 'Is reaching' is the verbal part of the sentence. 'Whom'? Who is the object? Who is the person or group that God is primarily trying to reach?

Your answer to this question could have a significant impact on Mission strategy. If the object is a maximum number of individuals, there is a certain strategy needed. However, a different strategy altogether may be needed if the objects are people from every group of people. And we could go on.

Our primary concern is what the Bible says about it. So, let's take a (very brief) look. . . .

Is God concerned with a maximum number of individuals being saved or with people groups being discipled? I think you will see in this series that the answer is both. But the way the Scriptures speak of these may change the way we view Mission strategy.

If you search the Scriptures for God's heart for the world of men and how He views us, you may be surprised at how much He speaks of families, nations, tongues, and people in a collective sense as opposed to people in an individual sense.

A key event in Old Testament history is the tower of Babel incident. "The whole earth was of one language, and of one speech" (Gen 11:1). After an exhibition of their pride, God chose to confound their language (11:7) and scatter them "upon the face of all the earth" (11:8). Thus are born (by an act of God) the peoples of the earth with their various languages and ethnicities, and eventually cultures.

The very next major event spoken of in Scripture 'sets the tone' for the Mission of God until its closure in Revelation. After all of these distinct peoples have been formed, God demonstrates His love and pursuit of them by separating Abram from them in order to redeem them all to Himself. "In thee," God tells Abram, "shall all families of the earth be blessed" (12:1). In other places God uses words such as "nations" (18:18) and "kindreds" (Acts 3:25) to describe the objects of His Mission through Abram. In essence, God is telling Abram that it is His desire to bring salvation to all of these distinct groups of people that He just made.

When God puts His Mission in the hands of His church, He again uses the same language. "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations" (Matt 28:19). Then, when describing the end result of His Mission, God uses these same words,
as His people "sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" (Rev 5:9)

and as "a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb" and worshipped God (Rev 7:9).
While I will not go into Hebrew and Greek here, or into a complete explanation of all that is revealed (everyone exhale), thus far it is clear that God does seek the distinct groups of people of the earth in their distinctness. He doesn't just seek a multitude of individuals, He seeks a variety of individuals to worship Him. It seems that God largely views the world in terms of peoples in their variety, not just as one large mass of humanity. Therefore, the objects of His Mission are largely described in terms of diverse peoples, rather than mankind as a unified mass.

As churches on Mission, it is clear that we also view the objects of missions in terms of distinct groups. However, these distinct groups are generally defined in terms of geo-political boundaries (the French, the Pakistanis, the Chinese). There are several problems that have arisen because of this focus. One of these problems is theological and another is strategic. Theologically, God clearly views them in smaller units. Strategically, this geo-political view of people has caused us to ignore some people entirely, giving them no access to the Gospel.

For the purpose of this post, you need to realize that since Babel, God describes the objects of His Mission largely in terms of distinct groups of people who have been separated by Him linguistically, ethnically, and geographically.

So, should we just seek to reach a few people from every group or should we seek the maximum number of people, even though we may not reach every group? How does God's view of the world affect our mission and strategy? What are the dangers of a people group focus in missions? These are all questions that I will try to answer in various posts over the next few weeks.

For now, think of this: do you desire for people of every distinct group of people to worship God? Is this evident in how you arrange the affairs of your life?

See Part 2.

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