One of the biggest current trends in ministry is that of being “missional.” This often means being present, or incarnational, within a church’s outside-of-the-walls community. For this reason, it is often based on a Christo-centric model. In other words, the life of Jesus Incarnate is used as a model for local churches. Often, missional churches base their understanding on Ephesians 4:1-16 where Paul wrote that maturity in Christ means growth in the gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor/shepherd, and teacher. While these gifts hold untapped wisdom, direction, and life for churches, we might be missing something by narrowing mission to these verses.
Are we investing in mission for Christ and Christ alone? If we are completely Christocentric, it seems we may be leaving out two very important, biblical, and orthodox characteristics of Christianity: the authority of the Father and the unifying empowerment of the Spirit.
When any member of the Trinity is left out of the picture, cooperation is diminished.
It’s just not possible to have full cooperation of three members if two are not included. The issues that being only Christo-centric bring up have vast implications. The Trinity exists in perfect love and unity. If the church pulls the Trinity apart and bases its actions on the Second Person only, the Church may lose love and unity. I am not sure who believes only in Christ, but it certainly isn’t Christians.
Christ may be the one person of the Trinity through whom we are saved (solus Christus), but the mission of God is driven by the full Godhead.
Perhaps, in this type of Christ-centered theology of mission, the Spirit is given lip service through empowering some of the gifts. However, the Father is nowhere to be found because order, or authority, is not included in the model. In the mission of God, when Christ’s particular attributes are the only ones focused on, empowerment and order are often absent. Because of this, the church can lose its ability to live in giftedness and healthy structure or discipline. Basing the mission of a local church only on Christ and a few gifts mentioned in a small portion of scripture seems to water the Trinity down to singularity. When this happens, the church can lose its depth because it has no authority or order from the Father. It can also lose its ability because it is not empowered and unified by the Spirit.
The Church may be the Body of Christ, but we serve the Trinity – Father, Son, and Spirit. Have we forgotten that we are children of the kind Father, empowered by the Holy Spirit, as well as saved by Emmanuel? It is easy to let go of all authority and claim the brotherhood of Jesus as equalizer. Once this is done, however, no one can claim any authority and the voice of God himself can be drowned out in a weak harmony.
Additionally, while order or authority can be abused, they can also be healthy and helpful. From the beginning, Jesus worked through the will of his Father. He chose leaders and led followers. Ignoring authority in churches can give way to un-orthodox beliefs. Not only that, but it also allows leaders to leave unchecked their inherent power. Leaders often hold invisible power because they have been gifted with leadership, hold a certain status or education, are well known, are of a certain race or gender, etc. If we ignore these power dynamics, there is no way to keep them in check. Rather than diffusing power by acknowledging it, power is left to run rampant without accountability. Without an investment in order by claiming the authority of the Father, churches are left without direction.
We ought to wisely learn from our past and from the Trinity, engaging in the mission of God.
Restoring the gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4 is an important step in regaining the movement of the Church, this cannot be denied. However, mission needs to be widened to include the unity and empowerment of the Spirit and the ordering will of the Father in addition to the incarnational love of the Son.