Trinitarian Missiology


‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ Just as the church is called to love
in ways that mirror the eternal relationships of love that Father, Son and Spirit have
shared from all eternity, so the missionary nature of the church derives ultimately
from the missionary nature of God’s own life. . . .


As I have indicated more than once in the foregoing argument, the fundamental
difference between asserting that God has a mission and asserting that God is
missionary is that in the former case the mission may be incidental, disconnected
from who God is; in the latter case, mission is one of the perfections as God, as
adequate a description of who he is as love, omnipotence or eternity. To return to
the slogans this article was written to explore, a missionary church might worship
a God who has a mission, but it is conceivable that such a God could be worshipped
by a non-missionary church; if God is properly described as ‘missionary’, however,
he can only be worshipped by a missionary church. A church that refuses the call to
mission is failing to be the church God calls it to be just as fundamentally as a church
that refuses the call to be loving. Just as purposeful, cruciform, self-sacrificial
sending is intrinsic to God’s own life, being sent in a cruciform, purposeful and self-sacrificial way must be intrinsic to the church being the church.

This might be expressed in credal language. Baptist accounts of what it means
for the church to be ‘apostolic’ have sometimes suggested that continuity in the
apostolic mission is a part of this, alongside (or instead of ) more Catholic accounts
of continuity in the apostolic institution and more Reformed accounts of continuity
in the apostolic doctrine. Exegeting what the Fathers of Nicea and Constantinople
meant in their declarations of faith is a specialist art in which I am not schooled, but
credal interpretation tends, in any case, to proceed through theological argument of
what should be meant, rather than historical argument as to what was meant. An
argument that mission was a mark of the church, without which it is not being what
by grace the triune God has made it, could easily be made, therefore.

--From Stephen R. Holmes, Trinitarian Missiology: Towards a Theology of God as Missionary