Or do we send those few nut-jobs out on the street so that we can get on with the the kumbaya’s, the marshmallows, and “building the kingdom” (insert meaning here).
Well let’s see if Trinitarian theology can help. Worth a shot eh?
The Ultimate community-on-mission is God who is a multi-Personal union moving outwards. Two things are important here. First, mission is not just one of the things God does. His ek-centric (outgoing) life is His very way of being. Second, the Three do not take on identical roles but Each depends on the Others in order to corporately perform the work.
So now, we are swept up into mission as the Spirit unites us to the One Sent from the Father. “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21) We will also share these two characteristics.
First, mission is not just one of the things the church does. We are sent ones commissioned by the Sent One. We are created by mission and for mission.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. (1 Pet 2:9)
It’s not that church, from time to time, decides to act in a missionary way. It is missionary, that is its nature. So when we became Christians we joined an evangelistic organisation. If we’re in the body we need to know that the body is heading somewhere. It’s always going to the nations to disciple them. You cannot ‘buy into’ Christ without ‘buying into’ evangelism. The Christian’s life and being is now oriented towards this mission. There is not ‘love’ or ‘unity’ as well as ‘mission.’ But rather there is love and unity in mission.
You can put this truth two ways – and they both need emphasis: The church is missionary when it’s being itself. And the church is being itself when it’s being missionary. There are acts to be embarked upon, that’s true. But first we need to understand our being. Being comes first.
But as we contemplate our missionary being we need to consider the importance of roles.
Later in Peter’s letter he speaks about two broad categories of gifting – speakers and servers (1 Pet 4:10ff). And he implores them to get on with their particular giftings.
And that’s great. It’s so unfortunate when people think of ‘evangelism’ simply in terms of the guy in the picture! And it’s tragic when giftings aren’t recognized and encouraged. We want diversity and we certainly don’t want to cram people into the same moulds. So Peter speaks of different giftings – ‘speakers’ and ‘servers’. But let’s not imagine that he has thereby set forth completely different spheres of operation! That wouldn’t be a very good model of the Trinity.
No, think of the diakonos kind of serving spoken of here (which most basically means table-serving, ie hospitality gifts). And think of combining this with the speaking gifts? What if the differently gifted church members collaborated in the missionary task – good food and hospitality and those good with words are liberally sprinkled around the place – what a powerful gospel work!
At such evangelistic dinner parties it is very true that some are performing quite different functions to others. But they are all being thoroughly missionary. It’s a unified diversity and it’s going somewhere – to the nations!
If we get our trinitarian styled mission communities wrong…
The Tritheist church will have the speakers heading off by themselves and the servers serving a quite different agenda. Some churches will be missionary, others not. Some parachurch organisations will do evangelism for the church, some will do social outreach for the church, etc, etc, but there’ll be no unity on mission.
The Arian church will laud the noble few who do the real missionary work (i.e. street preaching etc…) Everyone will feel inferior to the gifted few. (But perhaps also grateful that it’s not them).
The Modalist church will forget giftings altogether and fit everyone into the same mould. Mostly, servers will feel inferior to speakers and bring them up to speed will involve making everyone stand on a soap-box.
How do you get a healthily Athanasian church? I dunno. Keep teaching 1 Peter? But what will happen when we speak and believe the gospel is that the properly trinitarian church will allow particular giftings to flourish in the service of our one missionary being.