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Decompartmentalizing the Mission: What to do and when

Posted by on Dec 2, 2011 in missional | 2 comments

Decompartmentalizing the Mission: What to do and when

In the introduction to this series, I explained how I thought that people today tend to compartmentalize their lives. Because of this, we often compartmentalize what we consider the mission of God as well. In a previous post, I considered proclamation of the gospel as part of the mission of God as demonstrated and taught by Jesus and Paul. Next, I looked at their example of strengthening believers as part of their mission. Then I considered whether or not caring for the least was part of Jesus’ and Paul’s mission.

After looking at those three aspects of the mission of God, I started putting it all together. Then, I began to consider emphasizing certain aspects without neglecting any of them. Finally, I talked about how we tend to emphasize certain extremes when it comes to the mission of God.

So, the mission of God is proclaiming the gospel AND strengthening believers AND caring for the least all integrated together. This integration should be seen within the life of a follower of Jesus Christ, and it should be seen among a community of believers.

However, there may be times when one aspect or another is emphasized (even though the others should never be neglected). How do we know when to emphasize one aspect or another?

There are times when Jesus is among a crowd of people that he speaks to the entire crowd. At other times, he is in a crowd of people but he pulls only a few of his followers aside to talk with them. At still other times when he is among a large crowd, he stops to speak with one person. How did Jesus know when to speak to the crowd, the disciples, or a single individual?

Sometimes, Jesus proclaims the gospel. Other times, he teaching his disciples. At still other times, he heals people. How did Jesus know when to evangelize, when to disciple, and when to heal?

Jesus gives us the answer to this question, but it may not be the cut-and-dry type of answer that we would like: “The Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” (John 5:19 ESV)

So, Jesus was, in fact, joining God the Father in his ongoing mission.

How did Jesus know what to do and when? He did whatever he saw the Father doing. Simple.

But, unlike the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Father, our connection with God is not a perfect connection. Even though we have been indwelled by the Spirit of God, we still do not always know exactly what God is doing.

Paul is a good example of this imperfect type of connection. Like us, Paul is indwelled by the Spirit of God, and, like us, Paul does not have a perfect connection to God. Paul himself tells us that he doesn’t always do the right thing, even when he knows what the right thing is.

Thus, we seek to understand what God is doing through any means necessary: through the indwelling Spirit, through the opportunities that God brings into our lives, through the counsel and passions of our brothers and sisters in Christ, through reading and meditating on Scripture, through reason and wisdom. Then, we trust that God will redirect us if we begin heading in the wrong direction. (Again, Paul is a great example of this, especially in Acts 16:6-10.)

But, while we are seeking to understand how God wants us to join him in his mission, we must begin by understanding what is included in that mission. This brings us back to the purpose of this series: God’s mission is the integration of proclaiming the gospel, strengthening believers, and caring for the least.

We should expect God to be working in all of these areas, and we should expect to join him in all of these aspects of his mission.


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. 12-5-2011

    I really appreciate this series. For me, the most difficult part of the mission is preaching the gospel- serving the least and encouraging the family are easier.
    Perhaps this is restating what you have already said but what helps me to think about this is seeing the example of Jesus in the gospels. I believe that when he looked at the human condition he saw our needs as being integrated. He realized that only addressing only one area of poverty,such as our spiritual deficiency was inadequate.
    Humans are complex beings with spiritual, relational, mental and physical attributes and to some degree, are impaired in all areas.

  2. 12-5-2011


    I agree. I like the way you tied it all together in you comment!