Whenever a new word enters the market, there are many who wish to grab it and use it to express or verbalize concepts that occur to them. However, it is important to avoid sporadic use of expressions without understanding them in their original usage. It can lead to confusion of language. Two terms that are becoming more popularly used, in addition to “mission”, are “missions” and “missional”, and they require proper definition. Let’s look at some popular definitions of these terms:
Christopher J.H. Wright, The Mission of God’s People
–Mission is all that God is doing in his great purpose for the whole of creation and all that he calls us to do in cooperation with that purpose. (Analogy: Science)
–Missions is the multitude of activities that God’s people can engage in, by means of which they participate in God’s mission. (Analogy: Sciences)
–Missional is to have (Analogy: Scientific)
Ed Stetzer, Missions vs. Missional?
–Mission is the reason the church exists and the church joins Jesus on mission. And, this mission is from everywhere to everywhere.
–Missions refers to an international pursuit to preach the gospel to all the corners of the earth.
–Being missional conveys the idea of living on a purposeful, Biblical mission.
David Wesley, The Church as Missionary, Missio Dei
–Mission is the very nature of the church, seeking first God and his kingdom. It flows directly from God. A living relationship with the God of mission distinguishes the church as a living organism, as opposed to a mechanistic (and secular) organization. Because of this relationship, we truly can say that the church does not support a program of missions; rather, the church is the missionary.
–The missional church begins with the idea that mission is God’s nature and God’s activity (the missio dei) and, furthermore, that the church is the missionary. By definition, the church is the sent church. The “business” of the church, then, is to train missionaries to go and to live out the gospel in their spheres of influence. The missional church, therefore, does not shape programs around consumerist Christian desires. The missional church designs ministries that equip people to show the gospel to the nonbeliever.
The term “mission” is not found in the Bible. The Bible only talks of covenants, of commandments, and of calling and setting apart for some ministry. In fact, the very work of Gospel proclamation is called as the ministry of reconciliation (2Cor.5:18). The word “mission” comes from the Latin word mittere and missio meaning “to send”. The New Testament Great Commission of Christ in the Gospels that commissions the disciples to “Go and preach the Gospel” to the uttermost parts of the earth played an important role in the development of the theology of mission. The plural “missions” began to be used for the varied works of mission that people engaged in. For some people, it includes works of charity, social justice, and assistance. However, it is very important for us to distinguish between the Great Commandment (to love our neighbor as ourselves) and the Great Commission (to preach the Gospel to all nations). The commission to “Go” is at the heart of mission. Thus, it includes both evangelization (to turn them from darkness to light), in whatever way possible, and discipleship (to walk in the fellowship of the Light).