God’s mission: A phrase that gets thrown around a lot in the contemporary church. It gets tagged to church campaigns for fundraisers. It gets slapped on promotional items for a missionary support service. It gets thrown out in conversations on evangelism, discipleship, worship, and social justice. God’s mission is identified with so many things that it seems meaningless to most youth workers. All of this begs the question, What is God’s mission?
Before we answer that question, let’s lay out what God’s mission is not.
God’s mission is not...
● A missionary in a foreign country.
● A Super Bowl party outreach event.
● A small group ministry.
● A homeless shelter.
● The Great Commission.
What is God’s Mission?
First, God’s mission begins with God. The Triune God was, is, and will be a sending God. The confession that the Father sent the Son and the Father and Son sent the Spirit is the confession that God is a sending God.
The church is reawakening to the realization that we serve a sending God. The church is learning that the missionary orientation of the church does not have its origin in the church (i.e., Great Commission). No, the church is a missionary church because it serves a missionary God who has commissioned the church to go.
Second, God’s mission is revealed to humanity in God’s participation in the world. The ultimate revelation of this participation is in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God’s Messiah. God’s mission in Jesus to proclaim freedom to the prisoner, recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, and to preach good news to the poor reveals the way of God in the world. The ends that Jesus went to to accomplish the will of God reveal that the scope of God’s reconciling and redemptive work is to restore the world to its intended purpose or wholeness.
When we get to this point in our training, some people ask, “So what?” Well, the revelation and foundation of God’s story and our theological reflection implicate us in God’s mission. We are called to become participants in God’s mission through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God’s Messiah. The implication is that we are identified as Christ followers, or Christians. The implication is also that the church is to be a missionary church. The youth are to be missionary youth. The youth ministry is to be focused on a missionary God.
Transformational youth ministry is oriented toward guiding youth into participation in God’s mission. That guiding could include practices like serving at a homeless shelter, evangelism, small group participation, or hosting a Super Bowl party for friends. As students practice these means of grace, they begin to lean into God’s mission and are transformed as they encounter the Triune God, who is working to restore the world to its intended wholeness.
By Paul Sheneman