Back in 2009, shortly after taking a new job and moving our family from St. Louis to Denver, I started to wonder whether or not we should have moved to China to help run an orphanage that we had become familiar with in 2006, around the time that we had adopted our daughter Ellie, also from China. These two locations, where Ellie was from and where this orphanage was located, were unrelated, but it certainly seemed to be interesting timing.
We met some new friends in Denver and explained a little bit of this story and they told us that we should really consider taking the Perspectives course to help us begin to consider what God may want to do in our lives. That started a journey, driving back and forth from Denver to Colorado Springs each Sunday evening, to ultimately bring us here to Catania where we live and work now.
The Perspectives class starts with a Biblical background, taking 5 weeks to establish a Biblical perspective for God on a mission and why, Biblically speaking, we should, as Christians, be part of this mission that God has been working to unfold since the beginning of time. Here is an outline of the Biblical section from the Perspectives course site:
#1. The Living God is a Missionary God
God’s purpose is three-fold: against evil—kingdom victory; for the nations—redemption and blessing; and for God—global glory in worship. God’s purpose revealed in promise to Abraham. Exploring God’s purpose for the nations: Blessing to the nations described.
#2. The Story of His Glory
Exploring God’s purpose for Himself: How God has been steadily unfolding a plan throughout all nations and generations to bring about His greater glory, ultimately drawing to Himself the worship of all the peoples. Passion and prayer for God’s glory.
#3. Your Kingdom Come
Exploring God’s purpose regarding evil: How God has accomplished a defeat of evil powers in order to open a season of history in which the nations can freely follow Christ. The kingdom of God as the destiny of all history. Christ’s mission seeks a hindering of evil to bring about a sign of the coming peace of the kingdom of God. Our prayers contend with evil in order to bring about the transformation of society with Christ’s kingdom in view.
#4. Mandate for the Nations
Jesus shows great strategic interest in Gentiles; wise strategic focus by initiating a global mission on a few disciples among the Hebrew people. The Great Commission and the ways of God’s sending in relational power. Dealing with the ideas of pluralism (all religions the same) and universalism (all persons saved).
#5. Unleashing the Gospelhttps://perspectives.org/About#/HTML/lesson_summaries.htm
The first followers of Jesus: obedient in costly, foundational ways. The climactic act of the book of Acts is the freeing of the gospel to be followed by Gentiles without Jewish traditions as a requirement. A foundational act of God which speaks to the situations where the gospel is hindered today. Strategic suffering and apostolic passion.
Biblical Vision for God’s Mission in Italy
As a team, Search Party partners with local partners to see movements catalyzed amongst unreached people groups. We have developed training materials and even a full, field-based training course for missional workers who desire to work among the unreached here in Italy, but in talking together, we realized that we should consider going further in the development of training materials specifically for Italians who could, just as easily as us, reach out to the unreached who have come from the 10/40 window to live in Italy.
Also, aside from the fact that the nations are here, and despite the fact that Italy could generally considered to be one of the more “reached” countries in the world given its Catholic history, there is as much if not more need than ever for missional thinking and work here in Italy by the Italians. The nations are on their doorstep who could be reached by Italian believers. Their fellow countrymen need the Gospel as well as the country continues to decline into pure secularism. And beyond all of this, it is important that the Italians participate in reaching the “ends of the earth” by sending workers, something that many have admitted to me that they have not participated in.
Going back to Genesis
So this leads me to the question… what to do? I’m sure that there could, and should, be a much larger answer to this question, but for now, we happen to be at the doorstep of multiple new connections with Italians here in Catania that we are working to mobilize in new ways. To do this, we’ve wondered what we should do, and discussing it with one of my teammates last night, it seemed that going to the mission of God is probably the right first step.
The mission of God starts directly in the first chapter of Genesis. God creates Adam and Eve and gives them a command. Here is that part of the story:
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground. ”
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food. ” And it was so.Genesis 1:26-30
So where do we see the mission of God in this passage? There are at least a couple of important things for us to point out here:
First, we see that God creates mankind in his own image. What does that mean? An image is a representation of the actual object. For example, if I take a picture of the piano that I am sitting next to now, I have created a representation of the piano. It isn’t the piano itself, but that photo represents the piano, allowing me to easily show the piano in a picture to other people.
In a similar way, God makes man and woman in his image. We are made as a representation of God. We are not God, but we are made to represent him as his own image, here on the earth. We can see that God gives his image to both the man and the woman. They are both made in the image of God, made to represent him.
There is a nice video from the Bible Project which explains this concept further:
The second thing that we can see here is that God commands Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth. In other words, make babies! A lot of them! 🙂
God wants his image to propagate across the face of the earth. His image should be everywhere. Those that bear the image of God should fill the earth, and even represent God by subduing the earth, ruling over everything in the sea, in the air, and on the land. Of course, there is a responsibility for the earth that is implied here, but the more important point is that God wants his image to be spread everywhere.
So we can see God’s mission spelled out from the very beginning. He wants his image to fill the earth. He wants men and women, those who carry his image and his name to go throughout the earth. This is the mission, and it is the same mission that is repeated over and over throughout the scriptures. We’ll later see this with Noah, with Abraham, with the people of Israel, and even with Jesus.
The Great Commission is essentially announced right here, immediately in the very first chapter of the book of Genesis. What did Jesus say as he sent his disciples on the Great Commission?
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”Matthew 28:18-20
God tells his disciples that they are to make more disciples, who will in turn also be obedient to the commands of Jesus and make disciples themselves. They are supposed to make more people who would bear the image of Jesus, doing the things that he commanded them to do.
Jesus returns back to the original plan, to the original mission that God gave to Adam and Eve, announcing it again for his disciples. This is the same plan and mission that he expects all followers of Jesus to continue and carry with us today.