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Decompartmentalizing the Mission of God

Posted by on Nov 21, 2011 in missional | 2 comments

Decompartmentalizing the Mission of God

Theologians love to compartmentalize. We specialize in Old Testament or New Testament, theology or ethics. In fact, we specialize in different aspects of each of those compartments: the Pentateuch (Old Testament), the Prophets (also Old Testament), the Hagiographa (still Old Testament), Wisdom Literature (yep, Old Testament), Old Testament Theology (you guessed it: Old Testament). These are just a few of the sub-specialties with the sub-specialty of Old Testament Studies with the specialty of Biblical Studies, which could in term be a sub-specialty of several other specialties. Of course, the same could be said of New Testament or Systematic Theology or Biblical Theology or Church History or Ethics, etc.

This type of compartmentalization is not limited to theologians; other academic disciplines practice the same kind of compartmentalization. Businesses are compartmentalized. Churches are compartmentalized. In fact, I think the compartmentalization of theology, academia, businesses, churches, and other institutions arise from the fact that people tend to compartmentalize their lives.

Compartmentalization affects our understanding of the mission of God. (Of course, theologians have several sub-specialties related to the study of the Missio Dei also… and a Latin theological term as well.) Over the last several weeks, I’ve seen books, articles, blog posts, etc. discussing what is or what is not included in the concept of the mission of God. (Of course, this is not a new phenomenon.) From what I can tell, most of the discussion suffer from the same problem: compartmentalization.

So, what is included in the mission of God? Proclaiming the gospel? Edifying believers? Serving the least? One? Two of the three? All three? Something more or something less or something different?

What is included in the mission of God? In many cases, I think the way that I’ve seen people answer that question reveals the affect of compartmentalization. What would happen if we decompartmentalized the mission of God?

Over the next few days, I’m going to examine various passages of Scripture related to the mission of God and, hopefully, work toward decompartmentalization. I hope to primarily examine the lives of the two greatest missionaries in the New Testament: Jesus and Paul.

Is there additional evidence in Scripture besides the passages that I’m going to examine. Yes. Certainly. I’m only presenting this series as a starting point in (what I hope will be) a broader discussion on decompartmentalizing the mission of God.

I hope you decide to join me on this journey. Perhaps you’d like to begin by offering a quick answer to this question: What is included in the mission of God?


Decompartmentalizing the Mission of God Series:

  1. Introduction
  2. Proclaiming the Gospel
  3. Strengthening Believers
  4. Caring for the Least
  5. Putting it all Together
  6. Emphasizing without Neglecting
  7. Extreme Emphases
  8. What to do and when


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 11-22-2011

    Here I am at the AAR/SBL, where compartmentalization is king! I firmly believe that God calls us to live integrated lives, with everything we do giving glory to Him. Society and culture stand against that, but that simply allows our lives to be a greater witness when we allow him to integrate them.


  2. 11-22-2011


    As an “insider” who sees the compartmentalization of theology, can I ask you an off topic question? Do you think there are any dangers in this compartmentalization to either the individual theologian or to the church?