Throughout Church history, there have been many conversations about the mission of God (formally known as missio dei). Evangelicals have taken a hard stance on the mission of God, while not applying a robust or holistic approach to God’s mission. Ultimately, conservatives have notoriously been known for having a missional focus of “saving souls”, while neglecting to partake in social issues. On the other end, “Liberal” Christians were known for being proactive in social issues, but not being focused on saving souls.  The argument will be made that both are a limited perspective of Missio Dei. Throughout American Church history, different groups have been talking past one another, because they both value different aspects of Missio Dei.

In the forthcoming paragraphs, a holistic approach will be offered for Missio Dei. This was written with the longing for people to move from the theoretical to the practical, and help people find rest in what scripture says about God’s mission. Anytime that people sway too far on this missional pendulum, someone will have a limited perspective of the mission of God.

The Holistic Perspective of Missio Dei

God’s plan throughout scripture is to unite to himself a people for His glory. This is all a part of God’s plan of redemption (Eph. 1:7-10). Christians have been commissioned to be a part of this mission by Jesus to make disciples while teaching people about the redemption that is found in him (Matt. 28:18-20). Another aspect of mission is seen by the way that the church should engage widows and orphans based on James 1:27, and how this is connected to the earlier chapters of Isaiah and God’s rebuke to Israel and their unfaithfulness to the oppressed (Isaiah 1:17). When all of these passages are used as a skeleton for God’s perspective of mission, a holistic perspective is presented.

The order of importance must be considered in this conversation. God’s desire to save and reconcile people to himself is God’s primary concern in reaching people. The outflow of God’s desire to restore and redeem all things is seen in the way that he rebukes Israel for not meeting the needs of the oppressed. The purpose behind reaching the needs of the people was to make God’s glory known to the world and that has not changed in today’s society. So the priority must be placed on God’s plan to reconcile people to himself, for his glory, which directly affects the way we love our neighbors. This is why our love for God affects the way we love our neighbors (Matt. 22:36-40). When someone reverses this order, they will then be quick to affirm a social gospel.

Limited Perspective

It’s really easy for us to want to swing back and forth on this pendulum, but we shouldn’t think about the mission of God as being on one side or the other. Evangelicals have struggled with engaging in a robust perspective of Misso Dei through the years. The lack of engagement in the civil rights movement is a prime example of how Christians sat on the sidelines as people suffered around them.

The Evangelical Church has done a good job of being an advocate against abortion, and that is the implementation of the full perspective of God’s mission. Our hope should be that we have that type of frontline mentality on all issues of oppression within our society. Sadly, Evangelicals have been the last ones to the conversation.

The only way this will change is if the Church is active instead of reactive. When someone is active, they are looking out for the needs of the people around them, and not waiting to respond when the situation is at its boiling point. Evangelicals should seek to implement the Wilberforce movement to all avenues of the Christian life. The Gospel was the first priority for him, and because it was, he sought to care for the people he tried to reach with the Gospel.

The opposite side of the spectrum is when someone cares about reaching the needs of the people, but never cares eternally about their soul. So this person gives and serves to try to meet the momentary needs of people or relieve hardship during different situations. We can attempt to fix every systemic issue in the world, but at the same time miss preaching the Gospel to the people.

A holistic perspective of Missio Dei is needed from the Evangelical Church. The only way that believers won’t suffer from mission drift is if we are coming together to keep the Gospel at the center of our mission. This will lead to tough conversations between brothers and sisters. All of these conversations need to be grace filled, and not demeaning. Let’s join together to be a people on mission for God. My prayer is that we keep our priorities straight, while engaging people with the Gospel and simultaneously reaching the needs of the people around us.