Birthing Churches and Missio Dei
In past ten years I have been a part of multiple church plants. In the church planters world, we have a vocabulary for this kind of thing, we don’t just start churches, but “we give birth to new churches.”
This terminology makes sense, because there are a number of similarities between starting new churches and having babies. There is a lot of pain involved in child birth and a lot of pain involved in birthing new churches. So why have kids and why birth churches? Because of the joy and hope that come from both. Birthing churches, like having kids, involves pain, joy and hope.
As I think about the cost and pain that is involved in birthing new churches, it helps me to reflect on the fact that the God we serve is a missional God, a God on a Mission. David Bosch in his book Transforming Mission talks about how before the modern missionary era, the prevailing view was that “mission” in the sense of communicating the gospel to those without Christ was God’s work. Then William Carey in 1793 emphasized the idea of partnering with God to accomplish his work, but in time, the human initiative in missions grew in importance to the point that many Christians no longer thought of God as being active in mission, they only thought about human resources, human strategies and human efforts.
So Karl Barth and some of those influenced by him re-introduced the classic doctrine of missio Dei, which is Latin for “Mission of God”. We find this idea in scripture where you have God the Father sending the Son, and God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit, and then the Father, Son and Spirit sending the church into the world.
In other words, mission is not primarily an activity in the church, but it is derived from the very nature of God. Jurgen Moltmann puts it this way, “It is not the church that has a mission of salvation to fulfill in the world; it is the mission of the Son and the Spirit through the Father that includes the church.”
In fact, Karl Barth said, “A church which is not on mission is either not yet or no longer the church, or only a dead church – itself in need of renewal by evangelization.” (I have edited this quote slightly)
So how does our reflecting on this concept of missio Dei help us endure the pain of birthing new churches?
When we reflect on the cost and the pain that the Son went through for our salvation and the salvation of the world, it gives us motivation to pick up our crosses and follow Him. When I think deeply and specifically about the cost and pain of the incarnation as well as the pain and the shame of the crucifixion, I freshly understand and experience the love of Jesus, because I understand how much torture and agony Jesus went through for our behalf.
So are you a church planter or someone who is considering planting a church? If so, let me know.