Personal Reflection on Mission of God’s People by Christopher Wright

Christopher Wright explores two primary questions in The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission—who are we and what are we here for? Which he answers, “We are the people (1) whom God has redeemed out of bondage and sin (past), and (2) through whom God is working to bring blessing to all nations on earth (future)”.[1] Wright argues for the need of the church to have a more comprehensive knowledge of the Biblical narrative in order to understand and answer these questions, what he phrases as a biblical theology for life. In doing so, Christians and churches will ultimately be the people of God which in turn will allow God’s people to do the things God has called them to do.[2] In essence, Wright is challenging much of the normative assumptions of the meaning of missions, from personal evangelism to the larger institutional initiatives and programs. He is challenging Christians and churches to reexamine their identity and character before embarking on a mission or agenda that has nothing to do with the mission of God.[3]

One of the main methods Wright uses to achieve his goal is a broad study of the mission of God by examining both the Old and New Testaments, the former which would have been the Scriptures Jesus and Paul refer to in framing their perspectives on mission. I was deeply appreciative of this grander view of what encompasses the mission of God’s people. For example, my prior understanding of “being redeemed” was limited to the forgiveness of personal sins. However, God’s narrative initially defined redemption as the deliverance and liberation of Israel in a holistic sense—political, economic, social, and spiritual.[4] The implications of this “exodus-shaped redemption” is that it “demands exodus-shaped mission”.[5]

Another insight I found very helpful is the fair treatment and weight Wright gives to the universal nature of mission, including creation.[6] By having a biblical theology for life, one cannot overemphasize any one aspect of mission. This may prevent an overemphasis on evangelism without character, proclaiming good news yet having no evidence of that goodness in the messenger.[7] It may also prevent the church from overemphasizing spiritual practices without having any relevance in the public square, living dichotomous lives.[8] This false dichotomy exists in the way different local churches view mission and church or evangelism and social impact.[9] The choice of words for the title of the book alone demonstrates how Wright is aware of the audiences he is trying to address and how to hold them in a harmonious tension.

This tension has been a major theme of my journey with God. As I came to know more about God, I came to know God, who has thus challenged much of my prior assumptions and understandings. My prior understanding of the Christian narrative has been that the only thing that matters is Jesus Christ, his life, death, and resurrection through which and whom we are able to find our personal salvation and in turn are commissioned to go and share this good news. While this is still true, I would have to agree with Wright that “… although it is gloriously true that sinners are saved through the cross of Christ, it is not actually the whole gospel or the whole achievement of the cross – not according to the New Testament itself”.[10] I was troubled by the fact that there was such an emphasis on sharing my faith that the Great Commission seemed more like a sales commission, yet I had no idea nor confidence in the “product” I was “selling”. Upon further growth of my relationship with God, another major false assumption was that giving my life to God meant packing my bags, going to an unknown country to proclaim Jesus, and if “God-willing” die for his name sake. Yet when these doors did not open, the “next best alternative” was to become a pastor.

Prior to Regent, it was a great joy to personally test and disprove these false hierarchies and dichotomies to Christian living. I was privileged to explore some of Wright’s themes in regards to my occupation. However, I had to battle once again to uncover much of the incomplete Christian teachings, that my work is not just an occupational mission field, but rather that the actual work I did was in fact worship to God. I have personally learned that “Christians are to be good citizens and good workers, and thereby to be good witnesses … All this is part of the mission of God’s people too”.[11]

Now I am at another juncture of tension, having further discovered that occupation does not always equal vocation.[12] Upon reading Mission of God’s People, one theme I want to focus on is not only knowing the greater story, but remembering it as the days progress and the busyness and chaos of life happens. I believe there is an overemphasis on what we do, rather than focusing on who we are and who we ought to be. This theme has grounded much of my vocation as a husband and now as a recent father, which I am finding to be the hardest “missional field”. This is also another tension between the importance of discipling and leading my family well verse the interest in the globalization of not only secular spheres but Christianity as well. More than anything, as I know God in greater depth and intimacy, I am excited how I can play a small part in the beautiful story God is authoring. Wherever I am, whoever I am with, I hope to be a blessing from, through, and for God (Rom 11:36).

[1] Wright 2010, Loc 2076.

[2] Ibid., Loc 2683.

[3] Loc 206.

[4] Loc 1654.

[5] Loc 1711.

[6] Loc 5161.

[7] Loc 2273.

[8] Loc 4512.

[9] Loc 5292.

[10] Loc 824.

[11] Loc 4476.

[12] As examined by Steve Garber in Visions of Vocation.