Defining Missional

August 3, 2012, 1 Comment

One of the little known but immensely important books in the missional conversation is God Who Sends by Francis DuBose. It offers an overview of the missional church, bringing people into an understanding for their need for personal repentance and to place their faith in Christ for salvation. God Who Sends is constructed to offer a biblical overview in which DuBose carefully, though concisely, moves through the Scriptures progressively. It is a difficult book to find but if you can put your hands on one, get it!

In the preface, DuBose states,

This work is a comprehensive and systematic study of the biblical concept of the sending aimed at a better understanding of biblical mission. The title God Who Sends was chosen because God as Sender is the basis of all the Bible has to say on the subject. The subtitle, “A Fresh Quest for Biblical Mission,” reflects both my desire for a more satisfying theological understanding and my realization that this can only be a quest, not a final word on the subject. (7)

He wished to relate the missional impulse directly from the Bible. The book serves as a biblical theology with “God as sender” as the dominant theme. As he discussed the very meaning of the word “mission,” DuBose quoted Bosch’s statement, “We have reached the stage at which almost anybody using the concept mission has to explain how it is understood, if serious confusion is to be avoided.” [“Theological Education in Missionary Perspective,” Missiology: An International Review 10, no. 1 (Jan. 1982): 13] To answer this difficult circumstance, DuBose wrote his book and began to use the word “missional” as a substitute for mission in order to be clear in what he meant in describing the work of the church.

In his own review and study of related literature, DuBose chose to begin his book and implement a theme throughout it that highlighted a simple definition behind the word “mission.” He wrote, “One legitimate and significant approach is to begin with a rather universal consensus: mission means sending. This is one point on which most everyone seems to agree.” (24) As he moves through the book, it does not appear that DuBose focused on giving the term “missional” as an alternative for the church to use. Rather, he consistently focused on the meaning of the word “mission,” highlighting its linguistic tie to the idea of being sent, and periodically transforming the word into its adjectival form. He stated, “The explicit language of the sending, therefore, establishes such a clear picture of mission in the Bible that its unique missional character is seen unmistakably even in events and ideas where the language as such is not explicit.” (55)

DuBose even pushed so far as to include the impact of the word “go” in the commands of God as indicative of the sent nature of the faithful. “The extensive vocabulary of ‘go,’ in both Old and New Testaments, is the imperative mood of the missional idea. It expresses through mandate form what the sending expresses in description and idea through the indicative mood.” (55) DuBose is convinced that the mission of the church is to be sent by God to proclaim His reconciling message. In this discussion, he used examples such as Abraham (Genesis 12), Amos (Amos 7), and Jesus sending out the seventy (Luke 10).

Nearing the end of the book, DuBose takes up the two issues of theology and mission. As these are two subjects discussed, debated, and dissected throughout the church and academic circles, this quote can give a well-rounded summation of DuBose’s position and insight to his use of the term “missional.”

In recent years there has been much reflection on the theology of mission. However, the growing feeling is that we need to return to the more primal relation of mission and theology in the sense of their meaning in Scripture and in the early church. What is needed is not so much a theology of mission but a missional theology. In other words, mission does not so much need to be justified theologically as theology needs to be understood missiologically. (149)

With such statements, Francis DuBose fully encapsulates his intentions with the term “missional” as meaning that God by nature is a sender, and the church by its charge is sent to carry the Gospel into the world.

In the Epilogue, DuBose concludes, “Finally, it [missional] focuses on the praxis of mission; for we are sent into the world to bear a life-witness to God’s redemptive concern for all people everywhere in the face of issues which affect their daily lives.” (159-160)


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1 Comment

  • Reply The Mission and the Church | November 3, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    […] a previous post on Defining Missional, I talked about the importance of Francis DuBose and his book, God Who Sends. One of the little […]

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