We do not want to miss the scriptural theme of sent-ness because it defines so much of who God is, what he is doing, and who we are. For example:
A. The Father sent the Son. In John 20:21 the Father sent the Son. “As the Father has sent me, so send I you.”
B. The Father sent the Spirit (in Jesus’ name).The Father sends the Spirit in Jesus’ name. In John 14:26, Jesus says, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit –the Father will send Him in My name –will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.” So the Father sent the Son, and the Father sends the Spirit in Jesus’ name.
C. Jesus is sent to establish his kingdom–the movement of being sent continues. The Son comes and establishes his kingdom. In Mark 1:15 Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe in the good news!” Jesus is not speaking chronologically, describing the time in space when the kingdom will be ultimately established. Jesus is speaking geographically, describing the location of the kingdom. It is as if Jesus is saying, “Here it is!” The kingdom has come because the Son has come. The sending of the Trinity gives birth to a movement among his people.
D. The church is sent in the kingdom’s wake (the sent-ness of the bride) continuing the trajectory of the recurring theme of this sent-ness.The church is birthed out of a movement (kingdom) of people empowered by the Spirit.
1. The Son builds the church by placing people in his kingdom. Jesus is building his church. He said he would build his church in Matthew 16, but in Colossians he tells us how. In Colossians 1:13 the Spirit testifies, “He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.” God is rescuing us, his people. Why? Because God is sending the church as agents of God’s kingdom in the world.
2. The Spirit empowers the church. The Spirit empowers the church to imitate God’s sent-ness. As the Son builds the church by placing people in the kingdom, the Spirit empowers the church to live as the sent agents of the kingdom of God. 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, ‘Be reconciled to God.'” The church is a network of ambassadors for Christ.
In Ephesians 6:20 Paul says, “For this I am an ambassador in chains.” Paul says, in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ certain that God is appealing through us we plead on Christ’s behalf be reconciled to God.”
The church is an outpost of light in the darkness. In the military, an outpost is a group of soldiers stationed away from the main force. The outpost isn’t the main force, but it represents the main force. As an outpost, the church isn’t the main force, but it represents the main force. The church is in the world like an embassy is in the country in which its ambassador is stationed. The church is an initial point of contact for the kingdom of God, as God’s people are interspersed amidst humanity.
We do not plead with others from long distance; we plead with them up close and personal. We are sent people, meeting others in their home countries. We must build relationships with them, both inside and outside the embassy. We are not sent in power. We are sent to serve and build relationships with others to share the truths of the gospel with them. This is the nature of God’s kingdom. As Jesus forms a community of the kingdom with the good news of the kingdom, the people he has purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28, Tit. 2:14) unify to accomplish God’s purposes.
I grew up on Long Island outside of New York City. We knew ambassadors. They were the people with the cool cars that had flags and didn’t pay parking tickets. But in Paul’s day, “ambassadors” had a different social status than what I encountered in New York.
Ambassadors are high-ranking diplomatic officials. They are an indication that one political power sought a good working relationship with a second one. Ambassadors are sent for the purpose of establishing friendship, good will, and relationships for working together.
Yet, in the days of the New Testament, Rome did not send out ambassadors. They did not have to. Rome sent out conquering armies with governors who ruled over the conquered nation. That’s how Rome established its authority with neighboring nations.
They would receive them from as far away as India, and the Roman emperor bragged that ambassadors would come to Rome and entreat the emperor to have mercy. They’d say, “Please don’t conquer us. Don’t send one of those conquering armies and a ruling governor, but instead let us be an ally, a vassal state on the border, on the edge of the empire. Let us live.”
Rather than sending out ambassadors, the Roman Empire sent out armies and then governors to rule the conquered. So, nations near the edges of the empire would send ambassadors to negotiate for peace or perhaps for status as a vassal state. The strong did not send out ambassadors. The weak did.
The all-powerful Roman Empire wouldn’t send out ambassadors to those that didn’t matter; but the all-powerful, loving, good, sovereign, perfect, and merciful God says that we’re ambassadors for Christ, the king of a far greater kingdom. So this glorious, all-powerful God sends ambassadors on his behalf. It is a glorious scandal that confounds the wisdom of this world.
Francis DuBose was the first person to write a book using the term missional the way many use it today. In his book God Who Sends, DuBose simply walks through the Scriptures, identifying places where God demonstrates his sent-ness. As you begin to examine the Scriptures, understanding the heart and the mission of God, you begin to see with fresh eyes that we are a people that are made new in Christ to live as agents of his mission. This shapes us. This causes us to live sent. That’s what missional is. If you’re a missionary to the Pokot in Africa, you’re sent. And, if you’re living as a Christian in Pittsburgh, you’re sent. We’re all sent. The question is, where and among whom?
Michael Oh expressed it well when he described the mission as from everywhere to everywhere. The reality is that all of God’s people are redeemed by the power of Christ, made new in relationship with him, and are now called to live sent. All of the talk about God’s greatness, if we fail to understand that his greatness is intended to compel us toward mission, is descriptive but morally vacuous. “As the Father has sent me,” Jesus said, “so send I you.”
For some of you this terminology will be new. Don’t spend too much time worrying about using trendy words. As I wrote in MissionSHIFT, “The making of definitions is in the nature of thinking. The describing of effective actions is in the nature of doing.” The reality is that when all is said and done, too much will have been said and not enough will have been done. So, don’t trip over the terms. Rather, spend time living intentionally. Marvel that you’ve encountered a good, perfect, holy, loving and merciful God, and are in turn accountable to Jesus’ command, “As the Father has sent me so send I you.”
You’re not all that God has called you to be, as a follower of Jesus, if you’re missions-minded but not engaged in God’s mission here and now. One of the temptations might be that you leave this information on your desk and say, “What we need to do is to give more and to go more.” I know a lot of churches that are very missions-minded but are not particularly missional. In other words, they want to pay somebody else and outsource the mission of God. You should give and go more. We all should. But we also need to live as those who are sent here and now. At the end of the day, every believer has to listen to the words of Jesus, “As the Father has sent me, so send I you.” The only rightful, appropriate response is “Here I am, Lord; send me.”