I know, it's a well-worn question, but one worth wrestling with - and its the question I tried to cover at my local church electives last night ... but I ran out of time to cover what I wanted to.
So, this post is partly to try and get my group up to speed, but also to get my unfinished talk out of my head!
To be able to answer this question, a good starting place is for us to be:
FACING UP TO OUR JARGON
It's probably no surprise that when asked to give a word association for the words mission, missions, and missional, people give a variety of responses. The one response that stands out to me is that the word missional is commonly considered to be a buzz-word that no-one really understands.
One of the reasons for this is because we tend to carry a couple of misunderstandings about the mission of God with us into this conversation.
1. WE MISUNDERSTAND WHERE MISSION COMES FROM
Not just the command in Matthew 28, but also the model of Luke 4.
While the Great Commission is pivotal for our mission activity, if it comes at the expense of the way in which Jesus did mission, then our activity is incomplete.
Not just disciples OF all nations (Mt 28), but the blessing TO all nations (Gen 12).
While the making of disciples is central to the content of our mission activity, if it comes at the expense of expressing the heart of God (being a blessing), then our activity is incomplete.
Not just the blessing of Abraham, but the blessing of Adam (Gen 1:26-28).
God dispensed His blessing before AND after the fall.
God's blessing (and therefore His mission) is as much about Him expressing His heart and character to His creation, as it is about restoring humanity and creation to it's intended wholeness.
Mission doesn't begin with OUR activity, or preaching, or good works - it begins with God.
God's mission begins with God's heart to express all of who He is through His creation and particularly through humanity. He invites us to participate in HIS mission.
2. WE MISUNDERSTAND WHERE MISSION GOES
Not just ends of the earth, but Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria (Acts 1:8).
We need to recognise that somehow we tend to limit mission to far away places at the expense of exploring what mission looks like next door.
Not just ends of the earth, but all of creation (Eph 1:10)
We need to come to understand that God is doing a work that goes beyond individuals, communities, people groups, and nations. He is at work to once again bring all things under His rule, that He might express all of who He is.
And so, in order to help release us into the activity of the mission of God (to be missional), it's helpful for us to be:
"Any activity in word or deed that reveals the heart of God to people."
That means that my small words of encouragement, or my small acts of service are just as much a part of God's mission as my leading someone to a first-time faith decision.
That means that a person who works in state records, a youth pastor, a young mum, a grandma, an office manager, a media advisor, a medical researcher, a person looking for employment, a CFS volunteer, a youth worker, a nurse, and a student teacher can all be involved in God's mission in some small way today.