The Father, Son, and Spirit Are Missionaries
In recent data presented by the Barna Group, we discover that a good percentage of young American Christians struggle greatly with the concepts of evangelism and missions. This comes as no surprise to anyone that has engaged this age group and listened well.
What is simultaneously fascinating and alarming about this scenario is the fact that the mission enterprise is alive and well and expanding at a rapid rate outside of a Western context–an exciting reality that I will explore in a future article. But here in geographic and demographic areas that are more familiar to the American church, this is not the case.
There is a great deal of discussion regarding the malaise that we are experiencing missiologically in the Western church. Even though it is true that there are a number of bright spots here in our own corner of the kingdom, those shining examples seem to be the exception rather than the rule. In general, the evangelical church in America is not growing as it once did and in the specific context of the Restoration Movement, this is manifestly obvious as well.
I believe that at the heart of this tension lies the need for a clear understanding of God’s passion for humanity itself.
His heart, as seen in the Bible, beats for the redemption of all people from all nations, beginning with the story in the Garden of Eden and extending to the closing breath of Scripture. He is unceasingly redemptive in his plan to reassemble shattered Adam by means of the work of salvation accomplished through Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. What is even more interesting about this is that he is also determined to do this through redeemed “Adam” himself.
This then is mission, God’s mission, accomplished through frail vessels like you and me. It is His plan. He has no other plan. His plan will succeed.
God the Father – The first missionary.
God’s heart for humanity is easily visible with the first humans. Even though they knew Him on a personal level, Adam and Eve make a choice to not have faith in their Creator. This puts into effect some terrible consequences.
Even so, the Father goes and looks for them.
A biblical theology of mission is rooted in the fact that God himself, not Paul, not Jonah, not Abraham, not even Jesus the Son, but God the Father Himself goes into Adam’s world and calls out to His creation that rhetorical question, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). As we know, all divinely initiated interrogatives in Scripture are asked for the benefit of the hearer not the speaker. The Lord God knew full well Adam’s (and Eve’s) location. Even so Scripture records both the question and the necessary tension that it produced.
We have this event in the opening of God’s Word so that Adam, together with Eve and all who came after them, would know without a doubt that the very same God that created them out of nothing has a deep and personal concern for the salvation of man. He did not have to do this. He could have dispatched a cohort of angels to summon Adam to His throne. Yet our Father is not like that. He goes Himself; in fact, it could be argued that He sent Himself.
Jesus – The Son of Man, sent by the Father.
Therefore, it is no surprise when Jesus announces to His disciples a deep insight into His central purpose for taking on flesh and coming to our context. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10, NIV). The redemptive activity initiated by the Father is pursued by the Son. In fact it is at the center of His being sent into the world.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done!”
When our Lord teaches His disciples to pray, Jesus makes it clear that the establishment of the Father’s kingdom is at the heart of a healthy prayer life. The coming of the kingdom happens when those who have been saved follow Jesus into the fields that are white unto harvest. In fact, it is nothing short of astonishing that He completely entrusts this passion for the lost, this ultimate destination of Gods’ heart, to His followers. He makes it clear that the mission now belongs to the church.
The Holy Spirit – Sent by the Son and the Father to the church.
Immediately subsequent to His ascension to heaven and His coronation as the King of Kings, our Lord Jesus immediately “pours forth His Spirit on all flesh,” and the church is born on the Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit then empowers the Apostles to lay the foundation of the redemptive community of God and He fills all Christ-followers everywhere so that they can be about the Father’s business!
With the arrival of the Spirit, the missional heart of the Trinity is finalized as the church, begins the completion of Missio Dei in bringing the nations to the Throne of God. The mission of God is shot full of the unity of the Trinity and it is carried out by subjects of the King.
We serve a God who is missional.
He sends, first himself, followed by his messengers the prophets, then his own Son, and finally He sends the body itself. He does it for one purpose, the redemption of mankind, then, now, and always.
 Ed Stetzer discusses this phenomenon in a helpful manner. The numbers are startling. Barna reports that 47 percent of millennial Christians believe that evangelism is wrong and that disagreement about anything amounts to judgment. I intend to write on this in a future article, because it is a central tension with regard to the future of Western missions. You can read Stetzer’s comment in his March 2019 post on his blog, “The Exchange.”
 For a detailed report on the state of Christianity in America, see the article, “In U.S., the decline of Christianity continues at a rapid pace” on the Pew Research Center’s website, www.pewforum.org. This article was published late in 2019. It also reveals that while mainline denominations are shrinking, more conservative churches are experiencing some small growth.
 My friend Kent Fillinger tracks this sort of data among Restoration Movement churches and provides a helpful perspective in his recent article, “The future of missions, evangelism and the church.” https://christianstandard.com/2020/10/the-future-of-evangelism-missions-and-the-church