10 texts that shape my view of mission

By Joe Sawatzky
Monday, April 8, 2019




Titus Presler, a missionary theologian, has proffered a definition of mission as “ministry in the dimension of difference.” Since mission in the Christian sense pertains to the person of Christ, we might modify this definition of mission as the process of crossing barriers of human difference, whether of race, class, or religion, in witness to Jesus Christ. To these we might add key statements from Mennonite Mission Network, which combine the element of cross-cultural witness with the quality and scope of that witness. As to quality, “Mennonite Mission Network exists to lead, mobilize, and equip the church to participate in holistic witness to Jesus Christ in a broken world.” Missio Dei #22, our most comprehensive statement on mission, defines holistic witness as “hold[ing] together evangelism, witness and personal transformation with peace, justice, and social transformation” (p. 26). Finally, for emphasis to the scope of mission—“in a broken world”—we may add the phrase from our vision statement—“We envision every congregation and all parts of the church being fully engaged in God’s mission—across the street, all through the marketplaces, and around the world.” Yet whether the frontier is local, regional, national, or international, mission implies movement—the sending of disciples to make disciples, and find fellowship, across the dividing lines of human existence.

While these statements have undoubtedly shaped my view of mission, they themselves are rooted in more foundational texts, the scriptures that ground our faith and life in Christ. Here are ten texts to which I return to renew my call to mission.

Ephesians 2:11–22

Christ’s mission was to create in himself “one new humanity in place of the two.” “He came preaching peace” to Jew and Gentile alike; estranged peoples come together through faith in him.

Isaiah 2:2–4/Micah 4:1–4

The nations stream to the abode of Israel’s God to learn God’s ways. The nations abandon violence and become a people of God’s peace.

Genesis 12:1–9

From the ruins of Babel (Gn 11), God begins to gather a community across cultures—not through forced conformity but through the humble obedient faith of a family by which “all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Luke 4:16–30

In line with Israel’s prophets, Jesus declares his ministry as mission—“anointed” and “sent” to “bring good news to the poor”, not of Israel alone, but of the nations.

Revelation 5 & 7

John sees the means and the ends of mission: the Lamb who gave his life for people from “every tribe and language and people and nation” has “made them to be a kingdom and priests”, united in the service and worship of God.

1 Corinthians 11:17–34

Paul implores an ethnically and economically diverse congregation to remember its foundation and unity: Jesus who served others calls disciples who serve one another (“wait for one another”).

Acts 11:19–26

Disciples in Antioch receive a new name, Christians, because Jews from Jerusalem dared to proclaim their Messiah, Jesus, to the nations. This intercultural church, born in mission, breeds mission, sending Barnabas, Saul, and others as witnesses to the good news of Jesus Christ throughout the Roman world (Acts 13ff.).

John 20:19–29

In the same peace and forgiving Spirit that the Father sent Jesus does Jesus send disciples into the world that God so loves.

John 4:1–42

Jesus engages a woman of enemy territory in conversation, relativizes the barriers between cultures, and discloses his identity as the Christ. The Samaritan woman becomes the gospel’s first evangelist, she whose testimony stirred others’ faith in Jesus, just as another woman, Mary Magdalene, became the first person to announce the good news of Jesus’ resurrection (Jn 20:1-18).

Matthew 5:14–17

After exhorting disciples to let their light shine so that others may glorify God, Jesus describes his mission as fulfillment, not abolishment, of culture. While this does not mean that religions, cultures, and societies have not sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23)—otherwise, Jesus would not have needed to come—it does mean that mission in the name of Christ blesses that which speaks of the righteousness of God in every culture.









Joe Sawatzky is a Mennonite Mission Network Church Relations Representative and is available to preach, teach and lead workshops for leaders, congregations, and conferences.




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