Chapter 6 of Tim Chester and Steve Timmis’ book, Total church talks about the church’s need to engage in world mission. Mission, they say, is an activity of God – it is right at the very centre of his actions, from his decision to choose a people for himself who would be a light to all nations, to the Great Commission given by Jesus at the end of Matthew’s gospel.
“The term mission, [Karl Barth] pointed out, was originally used of the sending of the Son by the Father and the sending of the Spirit by the Father and the Son. To this was added the sending of the Church by the Trinity. The Triune God is a missionary God. The church, then has a mission because God has a mission. The role of the church is to participate in the mission of God. The value of this perspective is the way it roots mission in the doctrine of God rather than relegating is to allied theology”
Mission should be part of a church’s DNA. In Romans 15:19, Paul says that “from Jerusalem all the way round to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ”. In what sense is that true? Paul preached extensively, and set up new churches, but by no means had the whole area been won for Christ! What Timmis and Chester suggest is that Paul has fully proclaimed Jesus to them. This is at the centre of mission. The rest of the work of growth, encouragement, preaching and planting was the responsibility of the local churches he left behind. Jesus was at the centre of their formation and consequently mission is part of their DNA. By no means should it be left to large mission organisations, as this simply distances the local church from the action of mission – which is part of their fundamental being. He cites the example of China – in 1945 all the mision agencies were expelled from the country, essentially leaving the task of mission to the local house-churches with no outside influence. Christianity boomed through their efforts, and because it is God’s mission.
Locally, the church engages in mission by being the community of grace and embodying the gospel of grace in the local society. On a more global scale, Chester and Timmis give examples of many local churches partnering with others around the world, or sending mission partners to various places to plant churches. All done in straight-forward ways by very ordinary people.