Participating in the Missio Dei

This article is part of a MennoNerds Synchro-Blog on Missional Spirituality for the month of February. MennoNerds is exploring through this event Spirituality through an Anabaptist lens and what it means concerning participation in the mission of God.

One of the primary characteristics that authentic Anabaptism is known for is their nonresistance or if you must pacifism. However just because they were quiet in this area it does not mean they were passive in all areas of service to God.  Instead, “Anabaptism was noted for its active, even aggressive character, especially with respect to its missionary outreach.”[1] Their aggressiveness manifested itself in forms that many at present would not even fathom engaging in or even thinking about doing. One of the co-founders of Anabaptism Georg Blaurock among others “disturbed services in established churches in order to preach the Anabaptist doctrine to the assembled meeting.”[2]

While this type of behavior is extreme and not worthwhile, pursuing in today’s world it is a prime example of the first generation of Anabaptist’s tenacity and zeal when it came to evangelism and missions. This attitude resulted in such things as in 1525 “Conrad Grebel baptized a whole procession of men at St. Gall . . . . [t]he Hutterities continued for decades to commission itinerant preachers and missionaries.”[3] Before the initial generation’s course was completed, thousands had become Anabaptists.

The now is what was made these servants of God so zealous to the degree that they engaged in bold actions, which resulted in thousands of new citizens in the Kingdom of God?

The answer is they were prepared prior to even baptism and they knew the genuine meaning of the rebirth. They felt that they were God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” and that they should “walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).[4] They also allowed the Spirit of God to empower them to carry out the directive of their Lord (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts of the Apostles 1:8).

They also recognized that what they did was not their program of engagement but one that originates with God and there is participation with God on the part of the Ekklesia.  The members of the Gemeinde lives out the meaning of Romans 8:28. It tells us “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whohave been called according to his purpose.” This passage is commonly improperly translated and misunderstood with the exception of a footnote in the NIV. In the B-portion of the footnote regarding Romans 8:28 we have  “that in all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good—with those who”. Looking at the passage with the alternate translation inserted in the text we read “And we know [that in all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good—with those who] love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

In place of the passage relating to the hard or soft providence of God as many, interpret it, the text communicates the notion that believers work in company with God to bring about what is “good”, that “good” being that culmination of the God’s mission which is to bless humankind. This is identified as the missio Dei. The missio Dei, a Latin theological term meaning “mission of God”, it is a “comprehensive term encompassing everything God does in relation to the kingdom and everything the church is sent to do on earth”.[5]

Concerning the Gemeinde’s role in God’s mission to bless humanity Christopher J. H. Wright declares from that the mission “inescapably involves us in planning and action, is not primarily a matter of our activity or our initiative. Mission from the point of view of our human endeavor, means the committed participation of God’s people in the purposes of God for the redemption of the whole creation. The mission is God’s.”[6]  He concludes by simply articulating the “marvel is that God invites us to join in.”[7] The above understanding of Romans 8:28 harmonizes beautifully with the Apostle Paul’s words found at 1 Corinthians 3:9 which affirms that Christians are indeed “God’s coworkers”.[8]

All that is required to participate in the missio Dei is just the desire to “Go” which should be no problem whatsoever if the individual were trained properly and have a sincere love for God and neighbor (Matthew 28:19-20; Isaiah 6:6-12).


[1] Ernst Crous, ed., “Anabaptism, Pietism, Rationalism and German Mennonites,” in The Recovery of the Anabaptist Vision: a Sixtieth Anniversary Tribute to Harold S. Bender (Dissent and Nonconformity), ed. Guy F. Hershberger (Paris, Ark: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1957), 237.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] All scripture quotations are taken from The New American Standard Bible Update – 1995 found at http://www.biblegateway.com/ unless otherwise indicated.

[5] A Scott Moreau, Gary Corwin and Gary B. McGee, Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2004), 73.

[6] Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2008), 67.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Holman Christian Standard Bible

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