Saturday, January 12, 2008

What's In a Name

Disclaimer: This is my own interpretation of things, not the church's exclaimed position. If I am wrong, feel free to correct me!

Our new church is called Missio Dei Community Church. It just changed names from Grace Christian Fellowship, and had previously been called Grace Baptist. When people ask the name of our church, and we reply, "Missio Dei," we get a myriad of responses. Young people like it right away. People around my age ask what it means, and then they generally like or are apathetic toward it. People much older than we are have an overall negative response. Why is this, what does the name mean, and why would a church have a name many people hear as "Missy O'Day?" (No, Mom, it's not just you!)

I work with young people. That is a fact of life, and one i am daily thankful for. Young people keep fresh perspective. Young people enjoy change, particularly if it means change from "old" or "old-fashion" ways of doing things. Young people, especially of this current generation, like to be different.

However, I love "old" people.

I am always in awe of people who have walked this earth, and particularly walked with Jesus, for many years. They bring wisdom and patience and calmness into my life. In Arrowhead, most of my dearest church family friends were significantly older than I was. I love that.

And yet, I have learned, older people have a harder time with change. I postulate that this is a result of many more years of formed habits. If I could form a habit, the longer I did it the harder it would be to break. However, I do not have the ability to form habits (ask my husband, it's true to a ridiculous level), so I do not understand first hand why anyone would be opposed to change. However, there is comfort, stability, and often sound reasoning in many habits, and I can see why there would be a hesitancy to break tradition without truly understanding why.

And now we are back at the name of my church--that was a slight detour. Young people love it because it's different, new, unusual, even confusing. Older people are unsure because it's different, new, unusual and even confusing. Amazingly, by the grace of God, the "older" people in this church understand the meaning, the purpose, and the excitement of the name Missio Dei, and have embraced it even as their own generational culture tells them it is weird. I love them for that.

Our pastor, Sean, explained the name to us a few weeks ago. I wasn't sure I understood. In fact, I hesitated a little whenever anyone asked me what the name of our new church was, because I couldn't say it without repeating myself, and because I just could not explain it at a level that would satisfy me.

So, I did what any person my age would do. I googled it. :o)

This is the gist of what I learned.

Missio Dei is a Latin theological term that can be translated as the "sending of God." Mission is understood as being derived from the very nature of God. The missionary initiative comes from God alone.

In 1934, Karl Hartenstein, a German missiologist, coined the phrase in response to Karl Barth and his emphasis on actio Dei (Latin for “the action of God”).

When kept in the context of the Scriptures, missio Dei correctly emphasizes that God is the initiator of His mission to redeem through the Church a special people for Himself from all of the peoples of the world. He sent His Son for this purpose and He sends the Church into the world with the message of the gospel for the same purpose.

Mission is not primarily an activity of the church, but an attribute of God. God is a missionary God. "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." There is church because there is mission, not vice versa. The Church must not think its role is identical to the missio Dei; the Church is participating in the mission of God. The church's mission is a subset of a larger whole mission. That is, it is part of God's mission to the world and not the entirety of God's work in the world.

That is something I can get excited about. That is what my life is about: to be a part of the mission, or purpose, of God; to go into the world sent by Him on His mission, not boasting in my role or trying to put my own emphasis on what I think the church should be doing, but rather being a part of something--no, the thing--that is the heartbeat of God, which will, in the end, bring glory to my Lord.

When the mission of God--missio Dei--becomes the reason for the church, people are changed from the inside out. When missio Dei is the focus, the purpose, for all we do, sinners are saved and the redeemed are sanctified (they grow deeper in the Lord, becoming Christ-like disciples).

So why would a church pick this name? Why wouldn't they? This is the church of God, not the church of any person, place or thing, but God's church, where He is the mission setter, He is the purpose giver.

Now, let's get to it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Carlee for a well thought out explaination for this old lady who does struggle with change. I now feel that I can give a reasonalby coherent reply when asked the name of your new church. I just have to stop seeing Missy O'Day in my mind's eye. Something to work on. Love, Mom