Monthly Archives: March 2020

The Unfinished Task and the Missio Dei

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Today is the commemoration of John Donne, an English poet and Anglican vicar. In his memory I sang hymn 684, Creating God, Your Fingers Trace, in ELW in my morning devotions, the final stanza of which is written:

Indwelling God, your gospel claims one family with a billion names; let every life be touched by grace until we praise you face to face.

Jeffery Rowthorn

The prayer in this hymn relates to the unfinished task, a term which put simply refers to the great commission. In the hymn written by Jeffery Rowthorn, captures the evangelical hope of the Church, namely that through the Gospel every life, every soul will experience adoption into God’s family, and wake up to the reality that “in him we live and move and have our being.” The expression of this as a hope takes the form of a sung prayer and implicates the unfinished nature of the Gospel’s work in that “who hopes for what he already has but we hope for what we do not yet have.”

In attempting to relate the unfinished task to the overall context of the missio Dei, I wrote this in the opening paragraph to my senior synthesis:

Though not to neglect the larger and broader thrust of the missio Dei in its overarching bend towards the establishment and advance of the Kingdom of God as expressed both in his sovereign, just, and loving reign and shalom, at the heart of the missionary task lays the Great Commission including both the proclamation of the Gospel and the discipling of the nations. According to the words of Jesus this task shall not yield or forbear till history has reached its consummation (Matt. 24:14). Therefore the reality that there are places of resistance or absence in this task remains as yet a crucial dilemma in the Church’s praxis. Because the preaching of the Good News of the Kingdom and the act of teaching lay central to the missionary task, communication and being able to be communicative within the cultural context one finds themselves in is of import. Furthermore, the incarnational pattern of Jesus lays the foundation for philosophy and heart that drives contextual communication. In other words, as Jesus as the divine Logos entered from the “culture” of heaven into human culture and into the worldview of humanity so the disciples of Jesus replicate him as they move from one culture to another and seek to enter into the worldviews of those whom they are called to bear witness. Thus the missiological context of the unfinished task sets up both the problem and suggests the way forward, that “as we go” we go at least a time in the shoes of another, seeking to understand in humility the way they see the world.

Identity and Worldview of Emerging Japanese Adults, Spencer Wentland

In terms of my larger missionary community in ELCA Global Mission, this “as we go”ness of mission relates largely to the missiology of accompaniment. It relates to the how we do what we do. In many ways, what we do will in turn by shaped by the how we go about doing things because the relational priority that accompaniment brings, a priority rooted in incarnational way of Christ, the direction fo where we are going and the what we do in terms of the immediacy fo mission will shift in ways that often dynamic and complex.

Accompaniment is defined as walking together in a solidarity that practices interdependence and mutuality. 

What I argue in relating the unfinished task to the missio Dei, I also now argue for in its relationship to accompaniment. Although accompaniment subjectivizes mission this subjectivity is always subset in our subjectivity to the Lord Christ. Just as the Word of God is the source for the Church, it is also the source for her mission within this relationship we have an objective Gospel and an objective commission to disciple the nations that informs and shapes the how (accompaniment) and the what (evangelical mission) of what we do.

Although what the Church does as it participates in God’s mission may be varied and diverse, the priority of the unfinished task should not be neglected. To completely shift from an apostolic character, advancing the Gospel in unreached places, to a catholic character, relating mission only through channels of ecclesial partnerships because of the relatively ubiquitous nature of the Church in our time, ignores the fact that much of the world remains out of touch with any expression of the Church in any form. In order to be consistent with the purpose of the ELCA as stated in paragraph 4.02 B, we must renew this commitment to an apostolic character and nature of global mission. Accompaniment, in as much as it is rooted in the Way of Christ, continues to shape how mission is carried out whether it originates in Christ’s Great Commission (apostolic orientation) or the external call of companion churches (catholic orientation).

Carry out Christ’s Great Commission by reaching out to all
people to bring them to faith in Christ and by doing all ministry
with a global awareness consistent with the understanding of
God as Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier of all.

CONSTITUTIONS, BYLAWS, AND CONTINUING RESOLUTIONS of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Statement of Purpose, 4.02 B

In my next blog I want to relate the idea of task to God as I wrestle through some ongoing metanoia in my understanding of the missio Dei.

“The way he carries me.”

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     The sacristy is what we called the prayer room at the Copenhagen Christian Culture Center. I lived at the center with seventeen others from five different countries and three different continents. We had come to spend a year of our lives focused on Jesus. Some had returned to learn about leadership and bring a level of it for the first year participants.  This was 2007 and 2008 and it was my “gap year,” before attending normal university but it was a season of prayer, close fellowship, theological study, and hands on ministry experience at the church and in the red light district of Copenhagen. 

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