Missio dei and Baptist churches
What difference will Missio Dei make to Baptist churches? That was the question explored by Dr Kang-San Tan in the first Bible study of this year’s Baptist Assembly
Kang-San, General Director of BMS World Mission, said that ‘missio dei’ is a concept developed over the last 50 years.
It starts with a simple but profound understanding – that mission begins with God. This idea is there right at the start of the Bible and creation (Gen1: 2-3). The earth was formless and empty – and the spirit of God was hovering over the waters. God’s first act is therefore both one of creation, and redemption: the Spirit is preparing a new world.
Kang-San explained that God’s missional intention is this: God our saviour wants all men and women to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. (Timothy 2)
In the Old Testament there are stories of people moving towards God. In the New Testament, there is an outward, witnessing movement. Kang-San said that God’s missional intentional has not changed since then and encompasses both these movements – welcoming and witnessing.
He said missio dei had shifted the church’s mission from the external command of Jesus to make disciples of all nations, to the 'internal reality of the church’s participation in the mission of the triune God'.
So what difference does missio dei make to Baptist churches? There is a movement from church centred-mission, to ‘mission-centred communities’, which can transform our understanding of mission. Mission is not a duty, but a participation is in God’s work.
Because we can understand God’s character throughout the Bible, we can now understand that mission involves evangelism, social action, and dialogue. For instance, Jesus is ‘the showcase of what it means to be a welcoming community’ in his interaction with the Samarian woman at the well. We are too called to welcome people who are different to us, such as Muslims – and we can be transformed by our genuine encounters with them.
In our practice of reading the Bible, Kang-San said, we need to look at every passage in light of God’s missional intention and ask:
What is God doing in this passage?
How do others join in God’s action?
How do those actions contribute to God’s overall mission of redemption?
In what similar ways is God at work in my context today?
How can Baptist churches join in God’s mission in the world around me?
Mission is ‘God’s job description’, Kang-San concluded – it describes what God does. Our church’s mission is ‘participating in the healing and rebirth of the entire creation.’