When Theology Gets Missional

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After writing about cultivating, remembering, and evolving a missional community vision, I can’t help but think of 3 conceptual ideas that will help our minds pursue the vision God has for us. The next 3 blogs are going to be on Missional Margin, Missional Theology, and Missional Longevity. We started with the Missional Margin of the Good Samaritan and now we’ll look at the need for our theology to become missional.

We are not lacking in theology, but our theology is lacking in mission.

Everyone is a theologian though they may not realize it. We all have beliefs about God, the world we live in, and how we are to live. This makes us a theologian and if you are a follower of Christ, your beliefs invite you to know God and follow Him with your life.

Unfortunately, Christian theology has often stopped short of mission. Bible colleges, seminaries, and systematic theology have allowed us to know God in deeper ways and learn much about His character and His desires for the church. Yet, even as we have become collectively more intelligent about God, it hasn’t resulted in being like Jesus in the way we engage the world around us.

There is a gap between what we know and what we live. No doubt, there will always be, but the question is, how much is the gap the result of the theology we teach and the theology we write? Is our theology stopping short of what God intended it for? Even the best theologians who have had great theology whiffed on their ethical implications because their beliefs never flowed into expression on mission.

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We Don’t Need Missional Theology, We Need Our Theology to get Missional

As the emphasis on mission has increased, new books and ideas are being produced to articulate missional theology. By missional theology I mean writing about God’s heart for mission by providing specialized resources and books that just expound on the mission of God throughout the scriptures.

These are good and much needed, but adding missional theology to our systematic theology continues to compartmentalize our understanding of God. We don’t need to do away with missional theology, but we do need to have our systematic theology expanded for mission.

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When Theology Gets Missional

For example, the doctrine of the Trinity. God is one, yet is 3 distinct persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s a mystery and that often frightens us from engaging or dialoguing about it, for fear of becoming a heretic really quickly. But God has revealed Himself this way and invites us to engage the mystery and discover deep truths about Him, His character, and how He relates to the world.

The implications of the Trinity on the daily practice of a Christian are significant, but even when people expound on the Trinity, mission is often missed. In our effort to understand the complexity, we can miss how the Trinity has invited us into their mission.

We can miss that they were the first missionaries to creatively display the glory of God, they were the first and best missional community that pursued the broken world faithfully, and they went to great cost to bring the world into relationship with God again. The missional understanding of the Trinity has massive implications and incredible beauty, but we often lose it in the mechanics of explaining their divine mystery.

Another example is our ecclesiology, a soft ball for missional theology, yet once again has stopped in the mechanics of church governance instead of seeing church governance, structures, care, and even discipline as ultimately for the mission of God. In debating elder-led, congregational, or other ecclesiological models, have the implications of power and authority been the primary aim or the love and relationship with Christ for others been our aims? The health of church leadership influences the health of our mission, but the missional nature of ecclesiology is reserved for a missional theology book.

Even with the doctrine of the Word of God, the Bible, we have emphasized the evidence of its validity and stopped short in seeing how its validity, clarity, and inerrancy is sufficient for us in engaging the cultural issues and heart questions of those we love and work with.

In considering ecclesiology, the Trinity, God’s Word, our theology must move beyond explanation to implications for the world we live in and the people we interact with. These are just 3 of the many systematic theology topics we could expound on to see their implications for mission.

If Theology Would Get Missional

If all of our theology would get missional, it wouldn’t completely solve our lack of love for those who don’t follow Christ or fix our lack of evangelism. Our hearts must become like Christ just as our minds do as well. But, if our theology would get missional, I think it would change 3 major things about us.

It would engage our minds and hearts so that we fulfill the greatest commandment to love the Lord our God with our entire mind, heart, soul, and strength.

It would help us explain our God and His heart to those we love because everything we do is that the world would see God, know His love, and be invited into a relationship with Him by faith. The questions of ethical implications would be resolved by a robust theological vision.

It would help us enjoy God in the everyday, seeing how His truth invades every area of our lives – our workplaces, our homes, commutes, and hobbies.

When theology gets missional our lives will follow.

May God increase your knowledge of Him, love for His ways, and love for your neighbors.

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