What is Missio Dei?

The following is a training piece written by our director, Dr. Tim Meier, and used for missiological training for both Envision interns and other various missions events. 

Mission begins and ends with God.

Mission (or missions) is not just a good Christian activity - it is the demonstration of a loving, relational God reconciling all things to Himself. Mission is about God making the world right again. This means drawing people into relationship, right standing, justice, and favor.
 
The mission of God started all the way back in the Garden. After Adam and Eve sinned and brokenness entered the world, God promises that He will send Someone to crush the serpent.

It was the beginning of brokenness, but also the beginning of redemption - and mission has been happening ever since.

Over and over again, God redeems Israel, despite their own self-sabotage and effectiveness at destroying relationships, their environments, and direct rebellion against Him. But, God’s rescue mission does not depend on people - not on their obedience or their rebellion. In spite of both of those realities, God invites participation. But He doesn't need help - this is His redemption plan, and He's good at it! 
 
This mission, this ministry of reconciliation, is always happening, always birthing new stories - and because God is everywhere, it’s showing up in every place all over the world.

This unstoppable, everywhere, God-initiated mission is what we call Missio Dei.

There is a unique reality happening right in the midst of Missio Dei, another theological term we call incarnation. In John 1, the author describes the ministry of Jesus. Jesus came and “made his dwelling among us” (1:14) which is literally “tented” among us. He set up a temporary dwelling for a certain period of time, for a certain purpose, to certain people. This is what incarnation is all about. Missio Dei didn’t start when Jesus showed up, but it did manifest in more concrete, more obvious ways. In other words, God is always and has always been at work, but the dots were connected in redemption at the cross.
 
Jesus dies and rises again - He’s alive now! So, is the Missio Dei complete? Is incarnation over? Not at all. Now, all the provisions for redemption have been made available through Jesus, and we are empowered by the Spirit to incarnate Him all over the world as He sends us out to be his “evidence” (Acts 1:8).
 
This is where you and I come in. As members of this reconciliation family, we are both invited to experience the Missio Dei and to extend incarnation.

Here's a practical example: Because of Missio Dei, we know that the coffee shop we frequent is all filled up with the presence of God. He’s already there and he’s at work in peoples’ lives whether you show up or not. But, he specifically ministers through you when you begin a conversation with the barista. When you do that, you acknowledge that God is at work and you choose to incarnate as well. Now you’re joining God for a specific purpose to a person for a time. You’ve joined the mission of God.

The problem is: this whole incarnation business is exhausting. Stepping into the lives of others to join God in bringing justice, love, truth, and reconciliation in and of itself is wonderful, but incredibly taxing. This is where the doctrine of the Trinity can really help us. 

The Trinity, that mysterious relationship between Father, Son, and Spirit is always drawing close to one another. We can see that they love each other. But, they’re not just drawing close, they’re constantly sending. The Father sends the Son, the Son sends the Spirit (John 14-16), and the Spirit sends us.

The motivation for mission is intimate relationship with God.

But, the outcome of that relationship is service. These are two sides of the same coin. Always drawing close for greater depth and always sending out for more mission.
 
This mission doesn’t stop and start with us; we are not the initiators, nor are we necessary, but we are a big part of this story. As we incarnate and lean into discerning where the mission of God is active, we get the privilege of participation in what the Spirit is doing, by drawing us close to Jesus and sending us into the world to live and be with Him in the spaces that He is changing and renewing.