We often use the phrase for people becoming Christians as “coming to know the Lord”. I am not entirely convinced that as Christians we know the Lord at all. We speak of God as if the divine nature begins and ends with Jesus. I use his human name advisedly. He is not even Jesus Christ–Jesus the Messiah–he is just Jesus. This leads to our faith becoming an issue of me and Jesus. Not even as it should be Jesus and me. Our faith is in God–Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In short our faith, is in the triune God or as the Church has understood it, God in Trinity.
An individualistic understanding of our God has led to an individualistic understanding of the mission of the Church. The God we know from the New Testament is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The so-called Great Commission commands that disciples are baptised into the Truine name. God is, therefore, a community.
This is the massive insight of, what became know as, the Cappadocian Fathers and later in the 8th Century John of Damascus referred to the interpenetration of the persons of the Trinity, recognizing that not only in being, but also in purpose and love, the Trinity is a community. It is in this image that human beings were created given the task of increasing, multiplying and filling the earth (Genesis 1:26-28). The very being of God makes sense of the being and task of humanity.
So what does this mean for mission, and especially that that mission should be integral? Well, simply that mission is the task of a community to form community and to be a community. Given that we live in a fractured and lonely world, mission cannot be simply saving individual souls from the raging sea of history to populate Jesus’ own personal Olympus, neither can it be relieving poverty, opposing injustice or preserving creation. I am not saying that evangelism, service to the poor, advocacy for people and the earth are not part of mission or are not valid expressions of God’s love but I am saying that the formation of community is the point from which all these take off.
We call the community have described…the church.