It is impossible to develop ministry practice and strategy apart from one’s theological foundation. The two will be necessarily intertwined.
Our own theological convictions sit within what may be described as a ReformedEvangelical foundation. While the author is an ordained Anglican minister, it is important to realise that the predominant theological culture of Sydney Anglicans is Reformed Evangelical, richly grounded in the Reformation and the origins of Anglican church at this time.
1. God’s purpose is to save people
God’s purpose has always been to bless those who are considered the children of Abraham (Gen 12:1-3), both those from Israel and those who have been grafted in from all the peoples or nations of the world (Gal 3:6-9). As much of a blessing as the Old Testament promised land was, it falls short of the ultimate biblical fulfilment. Sin was still a reality, and the nation of Israel has not yet been a blessing to other nations in the sense of the Abrahamic covenant. It is only with the coming of Jesus that God’s purpose of providing forgiveness of sins is more clearly revealed. The clarity of God’s mission as expressed in the New Testament is completely consistent with God’s mission in the Old Testament, envisioned as early as the Abrahamic covenant (if not in creation), and frequently reiterated through the Scriptures. The Bible is covered with God’s purpose of blessing for all the nations.
God’s mission is to save people, who rightly deserve judgment, to be in an active covenant relationship with him by having their sins dealt with. Whilst this can be, and is expressed, in several alternative ways, the central elements of this core are: that people stand in righteous judgment because of their sins (Heb 9:27, Acts 17:31); that God sent Jesus to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45, Heb 2:17); that God raised Jesus from the dead to provide resurrection hope (1 Cor 15:13-14); and that all people now have the opportunity to trust in all that Christ has accomplished in order to be saved and have him as Lord and Savior (John 3:36). God desires that as many as possible be saved in this way.
2. Jesus died and rose again to enable forgiveness of sins
The sovereign God of the Bible has sent his One and Only Son into the world to enable the forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ death and resurrection, first for the Jew and then for the Gentile. In this way, God has acted decisively to enable all nations to see his glory, and has enabled all mankind to come and worship him (Isa 66:18-24). Jesus self-consciously came into the world to preach good news, and to give his life as a ransom for many (c.f. Mark 10:45). Sending is inherent in the character of the Triune God, as we observe that the Father sent Jesus into the world (John 3:16 cf John 16:5), and in turn Jesus sent the Spirit (John 15:26-27).
Of prime importance to us is the biblical doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement, which teaches that Jesus Christ alone died and rose again for the forgiveness of sins. There is now, accordingly, a current and eternal priority of seeing the salvation of forgiveness of people through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. This will be decisive on the day of the Lord’s return (c.f. Rev 20:11-12). Köstenberger and O’Brien put it well:
The Lord of the Scriptures is a missionary God who not only reaches out and gathers the lost but also sends his servants, and particularly his beloved Son, to achieve his gracious saving purposes. As many have rightly observed, the most important mission in the Scriptures is the missio Dei. Jesus Christ is the ‘missionary’ par excellence: the basic and foundational mission is his. He has been sent by the Father to effect forgiveness and salvation, especially through his death and resurrection (cf. Luke 4:18-19; 24:46-47), and then to announce it to Jews and Gentiles alike. In fulfilment of the servant’s role his task is to bring (or perhaps, be) God’s salvation to the ends of the earth. (Köstenberger and O’Brien, Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission. Leicester, England : Downers Grove, Ill: Apollos / Inter-Varsity Press, 2001. p269)
Our conviction is that God himself is a missional God, not wanting anyone to perish but as many as possible to be saved. Those who follow Jesus in this world should do likewise. As they have been saved through the forgiveness that he offers, so too we join in his mission.
3. God’s people today are his agents in this world
It is God’s people, his treasured possession, who were chosen to be God’s agents in the world. In the Old Testament, the focus of this role was being a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. From this foundation, this mission became more overtly evangelistic with the coming of Jesus, when the time came for blessings to come to the Gentiles on a world wide scale. In this sense, Jesus’ mission becomes the mission for all believers. Following the example of the Apostle Paul, God’s people should not just be involved in, but prioritize God’s mission. Beginning with the Apostles, God’s people were sent to proclaim the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus, for this is the message by which God was and continues to gather his elect from the ends of the earth. In other words, the sending God continued his mission through his people, the church. Whilst God cannot be restricted and could use any means and methods, he has chosen to use his people. It is a great privilege!
The full 200barrier.com doctoral paper has a detailed and far more extensive section on our theological foundation. The focus of the blog will be to assist Christians and churches enact this mission as it pertains to ministry strategy and church growth, and particularly in Western contexts.