When we talk about the idea of being "missional" we have to include the entire story of God. That means the narrative from Genesis to Revelation. The story obviously begins at creation and it ends at the new creation. In the middle God chooses to use a people. The headwaters of that story are found in Abraham. The Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1–3) The charge to Abram was to be a blessing. In Christopher Wright's book The Mission of God's People he writes,
“The last phrase of Genesis 12:2 is actually an imperative in Hebrew – ‘Be a blessing!’, though it is most often translated simply as a consequential statement from the preceding phrases, ‘so that you will be a blessing.’ My own exegetical understanding of the structure of Genesis 12:1–3 sees it as two fundamental commands, each followed by three subordinate or explanatory clauses, climaxing in the last line of verse 3. The skeleton message of Genesis 12:1–3 is this:
‘Go...and be a blessing...and all nations will be blessed through you.’
Is that not a ‘great commission?’ Is it not, in fact the foundation on which the whole thrust of God's mission, including what is usually referred to as ‘The Great Commission’ in Matthew 28, is based? And if so, this has serious consequences for our understanding of the church as well as of mission.”
He goes on by saying, “When God set about his great project of world redemption in the wake of Genesis 12, he chose to do so not by whisking individuals off up to heaven, but by calling into existence a community of blessing. In other words, the missional thrust of Genesis 12 is also ecclesiological. The origins of the church go back, not just to Pentecost, but to Abraham.”
This is quite stirring for me to think about. God has always been a sender and that project didn’t begin at the New Testament.
Many questions arise…like:
- What does it mean to be a blessing today?
- What did it mean for Abraham?
- How do we justify a “soterian” Gospel (NT Wright or see Scot McKnight's book The King Jesus Gospel)?
- How does a “whole story” assessment of mission affect our “pop” understanding of “missional?”
- How about the question of how community (or the church) interescts with mission?
- Why was "a people" so important in God's plan?
"...and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you!"
Let me hear your thoughts by writing in the comments below.