Theology Network have just put up a paper of mine on mission and evangelism.
I basically argue that we need a strictly focussed understanding of mission - i.e. gospel proclamation to the ends of the earth. In a follow-up paper I talk about having a broader vision for evangelism - all the church in all of life proclaiming the gospel as we go.
We tend to think the other way around. We ordinarily believe that mission is... lots of stuff... anything you can find a verse for. But evangelism - yikes, that's the scary stuff that's best left to the professionals. But no - we need a narrow mission and broad evangelism.
I'll address the evangelism point later. For now let's think about narrow mission. How do you react to that idea? Have a read and let's talk about that.
But here's a little excerpt where I discuss three reasons we need a focussed understanding of mission. We believe in...
A Gospel God
Think again of Christ’s words in John 20:
“As the Father has sent me, so am I sending you.” (v.21)
Our mission is grounded in the missio (the sending) of the Son, i.e. it is grounded in the very life of God. So we ask, What was Christ’s mission statement? Why did the Father send His Son? Undeniably it was a mission of salvation. Our God is a Gospel God.
In fact from all eternity the purposes of the Father have been focussed on His Son (e.g. Isaiah 42:1-4). He has created in and through and for Christ (e.g. Col 1:15f) and has redeemed in and through and for Christ (e.g. Ps 110:4). It is the Father’s and the Spirit’s deepest passion to exalt the Son. To inherit our mission from this Gospel God can only mean carrying on a Gospel mission.
A Gospel World
Creation has never been a free-floating entity with means and ends of its own. The Lord does not have desires for creation over here, and desires for salvation over there. Creation and salvation are all a part of the one gospel project fulfilled in Christ.
The world exists both by and for the spreading goodness of the sending God (1 Cor. 8:6). In that outgoing gospel passion it was the same Word who made the world who then entered and reconciled it (Col. 1:20). It is under the headship of this same Word that creation is renewed and perfected (e.g. Eph. 1:10). And, crucially, all things are to be drawn under His feet by the Spirit. This means by the word as Jesus continually emphasizes in, for instance, the upper room discourse (e.g. John 14:10-26).
The mission we have joined is not disjointed, with creational needs on the one hand and redemptive needs on the other. All creation is to be brought under the rule of its true Lord. And this is to be done, not in works of the flesh but by the Spirit – that is, by the word.
A Finished Work
The church has not received its mission from a needy Christ, looking for us to finish the job. He really has saved the world through His death and resurrection. For this reason, the risen Christ constitutes us as ‘witnesses’ (Acts 1:8). We are not the do-ers – we are signposts to His ultimate and all-encompassing Doing. We are a witnessing community not a reforming task-force. We do not bring redemption to the world, we bring Christ to the world as One who has already accomplished our redemption.
None of this is to deny that the gospel has an incredible transformative effect on lives and communities in the here and now. Under the Headship of the true Lord, under the authority of the divine word, in the power of the Holy Spirit, there is a power to transform social structures and bring healing to every aspect of life – even in advance of Christ’s return. Yet that is the context for such change. To attempt to bring this healing into a sphere which explicitly rejects this Head, this word and this Spirit, is to trust to the flesh and to deny that the gospel is the power to transform. It is, therefore to betray the evangel – it is to be anti-evangelistic.