As a budding missiologist, I am being trained to research and analyze the church and culture within a sound biblical framework. Since I’m on staff with Cru, I put my learning into practice as I interact with city leaders and kingdom citizens participating in the Great Commission across the country actively.
We collaborate with all sorts of leaders who seek to steward the gospel well. Many pastor or partner with churches in the urban core. Some serve Millennials by helping them to navigate the precarious path between faith and work. Others encourage actors, artists, filmmakers and authors. One thing these believers have in common, whether Cru staff, educators, civil servants, financial analysts or computer programmers, is passion and a longing to make a difference for God’s kingdom in their field of influence or their neighborhood.
As we dialogue with followers of Jesus, we reflect on the rapidly changing culture and consider how we can effectively express the gospel in word and deed. We ask questions like:
- What does it look like to stand for Christ in the public square?
- How can we wholeheartedly engage in social justice and serve the marginalized in our society?
- How do mass migration and immigration pose new challenges for the mission and missions? (For some of our partners, the heart-wrenching refugee crisis demands quick and innovative solutions to meet unprecedented needs.)
I don’t know about you, but I vacillate between feeling energized by the myriad opportunities and overwhelmed by the weight of our current reality. How can we, the Church, faithfully steward the beautiful gospel of Jesus Christ in the twenty-first century?
As I’ve mulled this over, I’ve become convinced that we must develop a missional framework that is Eschatological, Christocentric, and Trinitarian.
1. We need a missional framework that’s Eschatological.
The global reality screams for hope, and the gospel provides the answer.
The entire storyline of the Bible points toward an eschatological hope: God makes himself known through his creation and new creation. God’s promise of redemption, announced at the Fall and wrapped in hope, echoes across salvation history and promises never to disappoint.
Here’s why this matters: True hope provides peace now, in the face of uncertainty and an ever-changing landscape, and motivation to persevere as we anticipate the kingdom not yet realized.
So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:17–20)
2. We need a missional framework that’s Christological.
We must make every effort to situate Christ at the very center of our missional framework, for he provides the plumb line for hope. Paul, in the book of Colossians, reminds us of Christ’s preeminence: He is the very image of God, the creator and sustainer of all things, and the one through whom all things have been reconciled. Through Christ alone we are free to draw near, with confidence, to the throne of grace because in Christ we are holy and blameless (Col. 1:13–23; Heb. 4:14–16).
Not only that, but Jesus Incarnate also modeled a life of selflessness and service. He proclaimed good news to the poor and the marginalized, dined with the dirty, forgave the dastardly and freed us all from the prison of sin by hanging on the cross. Peter reminds us,
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:21–24)
By adopting a Christocentric missional framework, we’ll focus on the One who was, and is, and is to come, and we’ll hold in tension the reality of life in this moment with the promise of God’s restored kingdom still to come.
3. We need a missional framework that’s Trinitarian.
The Trinitarian nature of mission is remarkable! As noted above, eschatological hope and the story of redemption begins in Genesis, speeds through the canon and ends in triumph in the City of God. All throughout, our Triune God is at work in the nation of Israel, and in the hearts and lives of individuals like Abraham and Sarah, Hannah and Samuel, David and Solomon, and eventually Mary and Elizabeth.
The Trinity is at work in the Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection, and together they inaugurate the new kingdom evidenced by God’s new creation coming to life in the book of Acts. We watch as the wind of the Spirit blows through Middle East and into Europe, calling and empowering individuals like Paul and Peter, James, and John, Priscilla and Aquila, Lydia and Philip to plant and grow new churches.
The ripple effect of growth and expansion continues, today, some two thousand years later, not because of our deep and abiding understanding of the church and culture, but because of the unchanging nature, purpose and faithfulness of the Triune God.
By adopting a Trinitarian missional framework, we recognize that we’re relying on the same faithful God whose hand is so clear in Scripture.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true. (Revelation 21:3–5)
So, how do we faithfully steward the beautiful gospel of Jesus Christ today? We can start by developing an Eschatological-Christocentric-Trinitarian missional framework that regularly reminds us that our sure and steadfast hope, both today and forever, centers on Jesus Christ, and rests on faithfulness of God the Father, Son and Spirit.