GLO Director, Rev. Dr. James Tino


The Reason, part 2



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(Note: This post is a continuation of “The Reason, Part 1”. “The Reason” is an excerpt from the author’s book, Meeting Ananias. pp. 21 – 25. You can order the book from the publisher, Tri-Pillar Publishing, or purchase the e-book here.)

God’s heart beats, and the pulse both draws and sends. As Christ was sent to a world that “did not receive him” (John 1:11), the Church sends her own into a world that does not receive them. Yet it may happen that the body of Christ in a place would cease to draw or to send. When that happens, circulation ceases; the lifeblood pools and stagnates, and the body sickens and even dies. But it is not God who has died, it is the church in that place. For the church to be Church, She must pulse with the heartbeat of God – both drawing the nations and sending Her sons and daughters into all the world.

As the Church celebrates the presence of God-among-us in corporate worship, She participates in God’s centripetal mission activity of drawing the peoples unto Himself. Quickened and nourished by the life-giving and life-sustaining Word and Sacraments, and empowered by the Spirit, within Her breast beats the heart of God – the missio Dei.

Filled and strengthened, we are sent into the world: “As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” (John 20:21, NASV) The life of the Sent One shapes the attitudes, words, and conduct of those who are sent. In His incarnation, Christ became one of us and walked among us. In the same way, those who are sent will want to become one with the people to whom they are sent. In doing so, they come to know more fully what it means to “die to self,” as the missionary learns to step outside of the comfortable boundaries of culture which have defined him or her, and step into the unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable lifeways of a new culture.

In His ministry, Jesus brought the full counsel of God to people in ways that were meaningful and comprehensible. Those who are sent will also seek to present the Word of God to the people in meaningful and comprehensible ways.

In His life, Christ did not look to be served, but to serve (cf. Mark 10:45). In the same way, those who are sent do not seek to establish themselves as lord and master, but rather to serve others.

In His death, Christ did not hesitate to sacrifice, giving even His own life for the sake of those to whom He was sent. Those who are sent know that they will be called upon to sacrifice – yes, even to the point of giving up one’s own life – for the sake of those to whom they are sent.

After His resurrection, Christ gathered the believers and empowered them by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In the same way, the participants in God’s mission are empowered by the Holy Spirit, who “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth.”[1] The goal of mission is not merely individual conversion, but includes their incorporation into the ecclesiastical community. God’s mission is carried out through the church, and leads back to the church.

Where does mission begin? It begins in the heart of God. Its center is Jesus Christ – His death and resurrection. Its end is triumphal gathering of the saints around the throne, “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, …crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” (Revelation 7:9-10, ESV)


[1] Luther’s Small Catechism, from the explanation to the Third Article of the Apostle’s Creed.


The Reason, part 1



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Where does mission begin? Does it begin on the day of Pentecost? Or does it begin on a mountain in Galilee, where Jesus commissioned the Eleven? Or perhaps much earlier, even as God called out to fallen Man in the Garden, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)

For me, the beginning of mission is not found in time, but in a place – the heart of God. Mission begins with the beating of God’s heart, because it is who God is. Even as God is Love, and Mercy, and Justice, and Compassion, and Faithfulness, and Truth – just so, God is also Mission. God’s desire is for “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4, NASV). Mission is a part of God’s being – He cannot do other than to desire the salvation of all, because His nature is to save. Mission begins with the beginning of God.

In His mercy and wisdom, God has called His children to participate in His mission. The mission is never ours – it belongs to God alone, for “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”(Revelation 7:10) The power is not ours. The result is not ours. What is ours is the treasure of the Gospel – the Good News that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15) What is ours is the promise of God – “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) What is ours is the mystery of God – the water of Baptism which “now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21) and the bread and wine of Holy Communion, “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

What is also ours is the cross of Christ, which stands at the center of God’s mission. God’s desire to gather all unto Him leads to His own death and resurrection. Through death, God brings life. As God draws us into His mission, He invites us to die. We die to our desires, so that God’s desire can be fulfilled. We die to sin, so that we may live to God. We die to ourselves, so that Christ may be manifested through us to others.

In Christ, we who were dead are raised with Him to new life! Raised from death to life through the waters of Baptism (cf. Romans 6:4), we are brought into God’s family. We “once were not a people, but now (we) are the people of God” (1 Peter 2:10, NASV) – the Church. God has chosen the Church to be His dwelling place among the nations. Like Israel of old, we have passed through the waters of Baptism and have emerged with the identity of God’s own possession. We belong to God.

(NOTE: “The Reason” is an excerpt from the author’s book, Meeting Ananias. pp. 21 – 25. You can order the book from the publisher, Tri-Pillar Publishing, or purchase the e-book here.)


What is mission?



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What is mission? It’s a deceptive question, really – seemingly so simple to answer, but one that is confoundingly complex. David Bosch, whose book Transforming Mission is arguably one of the most significant contributions to the study of missions during the last 100 years, despairs of a definition: “Ultimately, mission remains undefinable”.[1]

Perhaps due to the North American emphasis on developing a “mission statement” to provide direction to a congregation or ministry, ‘mission’ is (unhappily) defined by many as “anything that Christians do”. In his book What is Mission?, respected missiologist J. Andrew Kirk answers his title question by saying, “Mission is quite simply, though profoundly, what the Christian community is sent to do, beginning right where it is located”.[2] For Kirk, everything is mission. Christopher Wright seems to agree: “It would seem… biblical to say, ‘If everything is mission… everything is mission.’ Clearly, not everything is cross-cultural evangelistic mission, but everything a Christian and a Christian church is, says and does should be missional…”[3]

Some of the confusion surrounding this topic is due to the dual nature of mission. In its primary theological sense, “mission” is the salvific character, nature, and activity of God. “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Ex. 34:6-7, NIV). “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Lk. 19:10, NIV). Often, the latin term Missio Dei is used in reference to this dimension of mission – God’s salvific character and activity on behalf of fallen Man.

The second dimension of mission – and the one which generates the confusion – is our participation in the Missio Dei. Gailyn Van Rheenen attempts to differentiate between these two dimensions of mission by using the terms “mission” and “missions”, respectively. “‘Mission’, therefore is the work of God reconciling sinful humankind to himself…. Missions is the plans of committed believers to accomplish the mission of God.”[4] However well-intentioned, Van Rheenen’s attempt to standardize the vocabulary has not been successful. For better or worse, we use the terms “mission” and “missions” interchangeably.

Contemporary Lutherans of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod appear to be confused about what mission is, and what it is not. Significantly, in his recent work “A Theological Statement for Mission in the 21st Century”, LCMS president Matthew Harrison does not attempt a definition of ‘mission’.[5] By default, LCMS Lutherans seem to have adopted de facto a modified version of Van Rheenen’s definition of ‘missions’ – something like, “The Church’s participation in the Missio Dei.” Recently, I have heard LCMS mission leaders explain that mission is “preaching the Word and administering the Sacraments”. If that were the case, then every pastor who preaches the Word and administers the Sacraments would be a missionary – and in fact, some are advocating this very position! Additionally, the current confusion between ecclesiology and missiology limits the participation of the non-ordained Christians (the priesthood of all believers) in the missionary task. Rather than helping the church, this understanding of mission diminishes our participation in the Missio Dei by diluting the specific focus of mission: the intentional concern and effort to reach the lost in other nations, cultures, and languages.

Lutheran missiologist James Scherer provides some helpful guidance for avoiding a confusion of missiology and ecclesiology.

(M)ission consists in activities which are not identical with church work in general, least of all with the maintenance of institutional ministries, however valuable or necessary. Mission as applies to the work of the church means the specific intention of bearing witness to the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ at the borderline between faith and unbelief. Mission occurs when the church reaches out beyond its inner life and bears witness to the gospel in the world… the heart of mission is always making the Gospel known where it would not be known without a special and costly act of boundary-crossing witness.[6]

By emphasizing the intentional nature of bearing witness to the Gospel along with the idea of crossing boundaries, Scherer helps us to avoid the “everything is mission” mentality. Mission must be something other than what the local church does in and among her local community. Otherwise, Christians will become content with the comfortable ministry to people just like themselves (Jerusalem), or geographically near to themselves though perhaps different in some ways (Judea), and ignore the masses in other nations who have no living witness to the Gospel (Samaria and the utmost parts of the world).

Lutheran missiologist K. Detlev Schulz attempts to straddle the fence between “everything is mission” and the specificity of mission: “Although mission can include spontaneous outreach and works of love and mercy arising from all Christians, it also represents the intentional targeting of people in the state of unbelief to who the Church sends individuals. …The Church’s task is also to set apart and commission individuals to ensure that the mission of the Church continues intentionally next to the sporadic witness of all Christians.”[7]

I think we need to point out that we already have a good English word to describe the activity of sharing the Gospel. That word is Evangelism! We also have a word which describes the regular activity of Christians in the world which glorifies God and points to Christ, and that word is Witness. It seems to me that as we talk about defining mission in the second sense (our participation in the Missio Dei), we are confusing “mission”, “evangelism”, and “witness”.

So, let’s bring some clarity to the situation. I would define “evangelism” as sharing the Good News of Salvation in Jesus Christ with unbelievers in a winsome way.  It is “presenting God’s  plan of salvation”, or “bringing people to faith”, or “introducing people to Jesus” – however you want to say it.  Evangelism is a gift of God that some (not all!) Christians are given.

Mission is NOT evangelism. Mission is this (Here it is! My definition, at last): Witnessing the Gospel in word and deed by those who are sent by the Church to cross boundaries in service to Christ. Of course, the primary boundary is that which Scherer described as “the borderline between faith and unbelief”. Additionally, and significantly, missionaries also cross one or more of the boundaries which separate people, namely, the boundaries of Geography, Language, and Culture. What missionaries do, and how they understand their task and central focus, is where we will find denominational differences and where Lutheran missiology can make a significant contribution. But before we wade into those waters, we need to be clear about what mission is.

Some missionaries are also evangelists, but some are not. Some missionaries are ordained, and some are not. Some preach the Word and administer the Sacraments, and some do not. However, all missionaries – just like all Christians – are WITNESSES of Jesus Christ.  A witness does nothing other than tell what he/she has seen. Picture a witness in a court. The witness tells what they saw and heard.  As Christians, we are witnesses to what we have seen God doing in our lives, and sometimes to what we have seen Him doing in the lives of others.

To recap:

1)  Evangelism: sharing the Good News of the Gospel in a winsome way.  God gifts some to be evangelists.

2)  Witness: telling what we have seen and heard.  All Christians are witnesses.

3)  Mission: Witnessing the Gospel in word and deed by those who are sent by the Church to cross boundaries in service to Christ.

We have three good words. Let’s use them!


[1] Bosch, David. Transforming Mission. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1994, p. 9.

[2] Kirk, J. Andrew. What is Mission?. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000, p. 24.

[3] Wright, Christopher J.H. The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission, in “Biblical Theology for Life”, Jonathan Lunde, ed. Grand Rapid: Zondervan, 2010, p. 26.

[4] Van Rheenen, Gailyn. Missions. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, p. 20

[5] Harrison, Matthew. “A Theological Statement for Mission in the 21st Century”, Journal of Lutheran Mission, vol. 1, No. 1, March 2014, pp. 60 – 69.

[6] Scherer, James A. Gospel, Church, and Kingdom: Comparative Studies in World Mission Theology, Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1987, p. 37.

[7] Schulz, Klaus Detlev. Mission from the Cross: The Lutheran Theology of Mission.St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2009, p. 27.


Does mission matter?



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Does mission matter? “Of course it matters!”, some will say right away. That’s the “right” answer, but many others are saying something quite different. It is spoken in whispers, in hushed tones, one Christian to another, out of the earshot of the missionary and sometimes even of the pastor. People wonder: “With so many needs right here close to home, why should we be sending money and expending so much effort to help spread the Gospel in far-away places? We need it here!” They vote with their check books, and the verdict is in: mission does not matter nearly so much as it used to. The church today is pictured as something like an island in its own community, rowing out into nearby waters.

The picture that we get from Scripture, though, is quite different. God wants His Church to be a sending Church. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21), and also, “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). While our own communities have great needs, other communities around the world also have great needs. If Christian workers were distributed around the world on the basis of need, there would be far fewer in the United States and other historically Christian nations, and far more in places like the Middle East, Asia, and North Africa.

Most compelling to me, though, is the urgent need for Gospel proclamation in the light of our ever-increasing global population. As the number of people on earth increases, so also does the number of those who will die without ever hearing the Good News of forgiveness and salvation in Jesus Christ. Over the past 100 years, the proportion of Christians in the world has actually declined slightly, from about 35% in 1910 to about 32% in 2010.[1] With a current world population of something over seven billion, this means that there are nearly five billion people alive today who do not believe in Jesus.[2]

Nearly 5 billion people with no hope of heaven. Yes, mission matters!


[1] Pew Research Center, March 22, 2013, “Number of Christians Rises, But Their Share of World Population Stays Stable,”, accessed January 1, 2014.

[2] The estimate depends on various assumptions. For example, the Pew Study puts the percentage of Christians in Latin America at about 90%. Evangelical Christian groups estimate that only 10% of Latin Americans are Christians. The difference is due to the whether or not one includes all nominal Roman Catholics as “Christians.”