God on a Mission – Overcoming the Status Quo

April 11th, 2012 / 51 Comments

One of the more positive developments in contemporary theology is the renewed focus on mission. Missional theology comes in many forms, but I want to offer a form I think captures consistently the implications of saying God is on a mission.

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says the following: “Today, salvation has come to this household. For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (19:9-10).

Jesus says these words to the rich man, Zacchaeus. But we find the message repeatedly in the Bible: God seeks and saves. The missional adventure these words inspire prompts me to wonder:

       “What would it mean to believe Jesus’ loving pursuit of the lost – which seems to include you, me, everyone, and everything – tells us something essential about who God is?”

This question may seem boring. But upon closer examination, I think we’ll find it’s revolutionary!

In fact, the missional theology emerging from believing God lovingly pursues creation radically alters the status quo.[1] The God who seeks and saves is a God on a mission!

Overcoming the Status Quo

“Of course, God wants to save us all,” someone might say. “Who would argue otherwise?”

Unfortunately, a host of theological voices in the past and present argue this way. The theology supporting these voices is sometimes hidden or unconscious. But sometimes the not-really-wanting-to-save-all God is explicitly preached.

Let’s start with the easy pickings.

Those who believe God’s sovereignty and election means God predestines some to hell say God doesn’t want to save everyone. At least they would say God’s effective will doesn’t offer salvation to all. They argue for predestination, despite St. Peter’s claim that God is not willing that any should perish but all should come to repentance (2 Pt. 3:9).

Their peculiar interpretation of this verse, in my opinion, undermines their own doctrine of divine sovereignty. I wonder, why isn’t a sovereign God supposedly capable of anything also able to save all?

Those in the Wesleyan tradition walk in step with theologians who reject this view of predestination. Wesleyans, instead, affirm genuine creaturely freedom. In philosophical terms, Wesleyans affirm “libertarian” freedom. [2] The God on a mission is not interested in predestinarian status quo.

John Wesley stressed the Apostle Paul’s admonition to “work out your own salvation, with fear and trembling, for God is at work in you both to will and to work for God’s good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12). Wesley believes passages such as this one argue God’s loving action (“prevenient grace”) precedes and makes possible free creaturely responses. He advocates a theology of freedom, not predestination. This freedom has limits, of course. But it is genuine freedom nonetheless.

The God who wants to save all, however, may not actually save all out of respect for creaturely freedom. Wesleyans can affirm a missional theology that says God’s intent is universal salvation. Yet they can also say universal salvation may not occur. After all, free creatures may choose to reject God’s loving invitation. And God respects such decisions, despite their devastating consequences.

Conclusion

An important step toward a consistent missional theology, then, is to argue that the God on a mission does not predestine some to hell. God’s intention is for all to find salvation. And free creatures play some role in the fulfillment of God’s intentions.

Other steps must also be taken if missional theology is to be robust. I intend to take those steps in future essays. I intend to flesh out an answer to my previous question: “What would it mean to believe Jesus’ loving pursuit of the lost – which seems to include you, me, everyone, and everything – tells us something essential about who God is?”

 


[1] For a short and accessible introduction to the gospel of love, see the evangelistic book I co-wrote with Robert Luhn, The Best News You Will Ever Hear (Boise, ID: Russell Media, 2011).

[2] The distinction about forms of freedom is necessary, because some predestinarians say they affirm creaturely freedom but also the idea God alone decides the chosen few who will be saved. They are, to use the philosophical language, “compatiblists,” at least when it comes to issues of salvation.

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Comments

Brandon W

I love the idea of God on a mission, Jesus seeking the lost. God overs salvation to everyone. Predestination is a sham. But, I would also add that God overs salvation for life now, not just eternal salvation.

Jesus’ pursuit for the lost was in part to save them from their suffering and sins now. I want a God who is acting now. A God that lives and cares how I am now.

Salvation needs to include the here and now. The God on a mission is more concerned about how we live now and is in pursuit of everyone to be free from their sins and free from their suffering. Jesus commissioned us to love God and love others when we live now. I think God is more concerned about earthly salvation then eternal salvation.


Jeff Auw

Tom, this is a good summary of the Wesleyan understanding of salvation.  I love how empowering this is to all individuals perpetuating the love of God for all. 

There are two things that have captured my attention lately concerning this view of God’s salvific work.  First, it seems that we must believe coercion is the opposite of love.  While I have not thought of coercion being in opposition to love in the past, I must believe this if I think God is capable, but unwilling to force people into a saving relationship with Him.  Second, I must understand God as transcending time.  This is important as I wonder why God would create someone who He knew would not choose a saving relationship with Him.  But as I see God as outside of time, I can view Him as pursuing all creation regardless of His foreknowledge.


Paul Mills

I am reminded of Bill Hybel’s video series on evangelism, Becoming a Contagious Christian.  Hybel’s makes the simple, but profound, statement, “Lost people matter to God.”  This doesn’t go far enough.  God just doesn’t care about lost people, but a broken and lost creation.  We read in Romans, that all of creation has been crying out with us for redemption.  Could it be that this cry of humanity, and all of creation, is a God-planted yearning for God?  Could the move of God begin in our desire for wholeness?  But it goes beyond even our desires, and God’s desire.  God is active and moving and drawing. God is “lovingly” pursuing “everyone and everything.”  All of creation is essential to God.


Russell H

I would not say that predestination is a sham, but that what was predestined is misunderstood.  According to Dr. Powers at Nazarene Bible College, the method of salvation, the payment for sin, and restoration to relationship with God is what was predestined before the foundation of the world.  It was predestined who would do the saving, not who would be saved.

God is on mission to restore all who will respond to His pursuit, and the church is to be living out that pursuing mission daily.


pzerphy

I believe it’s critically important for us to recognize that the desires of God’s heart is that none should perish. Universal salvation is God’s desire. We often shy away from this notion because it may be misunderstood as representing universal means of salvation. To know that this is the desire of God helps us to view all humankind as equally adored by the Creator.


Garet H

My reading of this blog post comes just a few minutes after a conversation with a friend about predestination.  The actions of Jesus show us a God that is in pursuit of us for one purpose: love.  We as Wesleyans believe that God’s intention, as you say, is to save all humankind, but it is not always humankind’s intention to save itself.


Ryan Pennington

This blog draws me to current issues today.  In Washington State we are voting for/against a same sex marriage amendment.  Many have written letters to the editor saying hateful things against this while claiming to be Christian.  Statements like, God hates sin and homosexuality is a sin so God hates homosexuals.  This last comment, from a pastor of a local church, speaks to the confusion about the true mission of God.

I do believe that God loves every single person that He created and seeks nothing less than eternal salvation for all of us.  He showed His love and passion for this by sending His Son to die and later His Holy Spirit to live within us. 

Jesus’ pursuit of the lost tells us that God is still seeking us all.


Kenton Lee

Hello,

Great blog post. 

I completely agree that God is a God of freedom and not of predestination.  He is a missional God who seeks and saves the lost.  It does not happen automatically, but God allows humans to respond through the freedom of choice.  We are not predestined to heaven or hell, but we are constantly working out our salvation as we respond to God and His leading.

I really liked what Tom said about the impact of this for missional theology and its consistency.  And I love what this says about a God who does not wish that any perish but that all can be saved.  Not everyone will make that choice, but God seeks to save everyone.

Kenton


Grieta

Looking at the difference between the Calvinists and the Wesleyans it is hard to grasp that they both use the same Scripture. Having experienced both in my lifetime I can say I loved Wesley’s process much more. Instead of hanging around to see if God intends to save me, I only had to respond to the working of the Holy Spirit inside me to find my way to salvation. I cannot save myself, but I can fall to my knees in repentance, confess my sin, and be forgiven. And because I have done this, I have the other thing Nazarenes are famous for: Blessed assurance!


Steve H.

I have never quite understood the logic of the afore mentioned view of predestination. My understanding is more the how and manner of salvation, not the who. Salvation is not simply a ticket to Heaven. Salvation is for the present. Jesus is seeking and saving lost people today. Paul says in Titus that the grace of God “teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright lives IN THIS PRESENT AGE…” (caps. my emphasis)But I think we need to be careful over emphasizing present salvation over eternal salvation. I do not think that God is more concerned with salvation for the now than He is for the future. I am not sure He separates them like we do. At the same time salvation is not a “ticket to Heaven” it is also not “behavioral modification”. Instead it is “spiritual transformation”. That’s why “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Cor. 5:17)


CJ Pankey

I have previously been unable to connect a God who loves and is love to a God who predestines some of his creation to spend eternity separate from him. The more I study, the more I see that same connection cannot be made to a God whose mission is “seek and save the lost.” Love and mission are intimately connected. It comes down to how we respond to those overtures of love from God. It is our God given right to reject him or to choose him. God wants all of us to choose him but respects our decision either way. If we do choose him, he wants us to participate in those overtures of love to our fellow creatures.


Jeff M

Tom,

God is on a mission.  I love it!  What would the world be like if everyone really understood that fact?  I really like the way you ask the question, “I wonder, why isn’t a sovereign God supposedly capable of anything also able to save all?”  Why is it so hard for folks to realize that we, who have been given the free will to choose what we want to do with our lives, must choose to have God in our lives and accept Him (Jesus) as our only way to be saved? 

Those who promote the idea of predestination seem to think that they are the ones who God has chosen to save.  If what they say were to be true, how do they know for sure they are on the short list?  (Just a thought).


Shiro Sumi

I believe in a God that actively wants to redeem the whole world, but I understand the struggle for those who wrestle with predestination and free will. This article is a great introduction to the topic, and I’m hoping Dr. Oord it will explore the issue deeper.

In my experience, if people are not exposed to this topic in their church, they are exposed to it through their personal Bible devotions. People often look up the words “predestination” and “election,” and the most widespread resources tend to be along the Reformed tradition, which tends to emphasize the Sovereignty of God opposed to Free Will. Within the Arminian and Wesleyan traditions, we must strive to educate and define the alternative definitions of these words.


Jaclyn

“…free creatures may choose to reject God’s loving invitation. And God respects such decisions, despite their devastating consequences.”

This broke my heart and brought me to tears as I read this statement.  It breaks my heart for several reasons. 

First, I do agree with this statement of belief.  I believe God is seeking us, and desires for us to “let him find us,” but that might not always be the case.  I believe that God wants every single bit of his creation with him in eternity.  But if we were already predestined either to go there or not, it wouldn’t make our earthly efforts worth much. 

Second, every time I get emotional over something to do with people’s lives being lost or not understanding God’s love, I also am aware of how much more God must feel at those same realities.  If my heart is breaking, his must be shattered.


Shannon Trulove

“God on a mission does not predestine some to hell. God’s intention is for all to find salvation.”

I could not agree with you more. I had a friend a couple of years ago tell me in one of our theological conversations that she doesn’t believe everyone is considered a child of God. She said that she believes God only choses a small amount of people who will make it to Heaven and that we don’t have any control or choice in the matter. I was surprised to find out this is accepted and defended theology. My response was, “Then, what’s the point?”.

God gave us free will to love and follow him, he sent his Son as a sacrifice for our sins, making it possible for us to have salvation. If God is on a mission to reach all people and offer this salvation, then certainly some are not automatically destined to hell (regardless of their faith and choices).


Walt Wilkinson

Tom wrote, “Wesleyans can affirm a missional theology that says God’s intent is universal salvation. Yet they can also say universal salvation may not occur.”

Amen and it’s because of the doctrine of prevenient grace/responsible grace that allows us to affirm that! As I read God’s Word I don’t see a sovereign God who predestines some to heaven and others to hell. John 3:16 is a perfect example! I see a God who is a lover and a respecter of all of humanity, which manifests itself in a several ways. 1. He created us to have a loving intimate relationship with us. 2. Even though we sinned against him, he put a plan in motion to redeem us. 3. He sent his Son to identify with us and die for us. 4. He sent His Spirit (prevenient grace) to woo us to himself, because he understands that without his grace we would remain lost. 5. He created us in perfect freedom to choose how we want to live. It is all of these factors that point to a God of love who desire to have an eternal relationship with his creation. The truth is God does not send people to hell; people send themselves to hell by choosing to ignore God’s prevenient grace.


Sarah J

I love the creative energy that comes from think about God in these terms.  God in, loving pursuit of all of his creation and allowing space for “free creatures” to play a role in his purposes.  It creates the beginnings of language to shape missional theology around this loving pursuit.  It’s humbling and empowering to experience the grace and care of a God we can join on a journey.


L. Mather

I love the picture missional theology offers of God: a God of love and a God of movement. He is active and moving in the lives of humans everywhere. He is loving humans everywhere, before they even love Him back.

What would it mean to believe God is lovingly pursuing each person on earth? I think it would mean that God wants to know people better than they know their selves. It would mean He cares for humans more than He cares for Himself or His own feelings (which He demonstrates when He offers us His Son and His love at the risk of complete rejection). It would mean He aches and yearns for us. It would mean he is present in our lives before we acknowledge His presence.

This God that desires a relationship with all, would not pre-select a few to join Him in the end. I believe He is anxiously and excitedly hoping for each person to say “I love you, too”. So much so, that instead of pre-selecting a few to come to heaven, I believe He has pre-selected all humans and is sad to hear when some choose to not accept His offer.


Ronald Baker

Tom,

Your question causes one to reflect on the possibilities and the outcomes of understanding that God is on mission. The revolutionary aspect of your question is the understanding that through Trinitarian existence, God himself is the Sent and the Sender. The salvation that came to Zacchaeus’ house reveals the nature of a seeking God. Since man’s fall from grace, God has been in pursuit; seeking to reveal his love expressed in mercy and forgiveness.

What does it mean to believe in the sentness of God? It means a radically different theology concerning the sovereignty of God. His sovereignty is expressed though his will that all might be saved while allowing the freedom of choice granted to created humanity.  In Wesleyan missional theology the sovereignty of God is expressed in the missio Dei; it is the reaching grace (prevenient grace) that seeks all. To understand the character of God as missional is to see the offering of unmerited forgiveness and restoration to those who will responsibly use the freedom to choose and accept his grace.

Experiencing God’s sentness brings salvation to me and my household. It also radically alters the church in experiencing her sentness into the world by the “Sent” God.


Ken Entwistle

God most certainly is on a mission.  He has been on this mission from the beginning and will be to the end.  If only we will open the door he will enter (us).  I am always enamored by our God whom never leaves us or gives up on us.  This is one of the aspects of prevenient grace that trips my trigger.


Joe

The way humanity responds to God has been a hot topic in theological discussions for a long time. Generally, people fall into either the predestination or free will camp. I connect well with the understanding of a missional God acting prior to any good work or response from humanity. This understanding removes the tendency for someone to take credit for the work of grace in their life. It also leaves the door open for someone to respond to such a grace. Salvation is only made possible by God. It is this salvation that makes it possible for humanity to respond with grace. In other words, the missional God is not only interested in saving us. The missional God is interested giving us opportunities.


Michael O’Neill

To borrow from Maddox’ “Responsible Grace: The Systematic Perspective of Wesleyan Theology,” it seems that the “Orienting Concept” of Calvinism is the Sovereignty of God; everything else, including the doctrine of salvation, must be compatible with it. In relation to that, people often use a “sovereign God” approach to the definition of “God’s Will.” They assume that if something is God’s will, it is his sovereign choice; i.e., it must and therefore will happen – as if “God’s will” is a stamped-in-stone decree of what God will make happen, regardless. But if we consider Jesus’ instruction to pray “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” (Matt. 6:10), it seems that Jesus is saying what God wills is not currently happening on earth like it is in heaven. Just because God “wills,” or “wants” or “desires” something doesn’t mean it will happen. I often counsel people, “What God wills and what God gets aren’t always the same thing. Often, it depends on what we do or don’t do, because he has given us free will.”


Brad Thompson

Dr. Oord,

The whole idea of God predestining people to hell defeats everything the incarnation, cross and resurrection set out to accomplish from the very beginning. In fact, predestination negates the whole idea of missio dei and God on a mission. It also eliminates the need for us to participate in that very mission. However, you’ve adequately expressed we serve a God who is on a relentless pursuit to “seek” and “save” his creation. This pursuit in one sense just might be the greatest expression of love we’ve come to know. The beauty of this love is ones freedom to reciprocate. Perhaps a missional theology means we not only reciprocate that love to God, but daily endeavor to embody for others how that love should be reciprocated. Perhaps this small example may inspire and lead those “not-yet” saved to a relationship where love is mutually shared with their Maker.

Grace & Peace,
Brad


Don Smith

Dr. Oord
This is a great post and reaffirms what I believe when it comes to predestination. Because I believe I have a free will and the ability to choose. But I am also glad that God chose to pursue me as well as all mankind and that it is His desire to be in eternity with all.
One of the things that I could never understand by the stance of predestination is that if we were actually predestined for eternity with God or if we were pre destined for an eternity separated from God then why would Jesus have to come and die on a cross? Just a rhetorical question but it has always made me wonder what people the believe in predestination do with John 3:16.
It is great to know that God is on mission and that His mission includes everyone, not that everyone will join in this mission, but that all are invited to join.
Thanks and blessings
Don


Francis Mwansa

I appreciate the post for the fact that, it helps one to mark a distinction between Weslayan and Calvinistic theology. As Weslayans, we uphold the believe that God wants all to be saved and not just a few. Human beings are created with freedom to choose. Our destiny is in our own choices depending where one wants to spend eternity. Calvinistic view tends to portray God as a God of injustice who loves some and condemns others. This theological understanding makes one to wonder, what is the essence of doing missions if God has already predetermined our future? Thanks again for this wonderful lecture.


Jim Cendrowski

Yes! In recent years, I have pulled away from my Nazarene theological heritage and decided that I would examine many different voices, listening to them with an openness I may not have before. The conversation, in particular, that I have been engaged in and listening to has to do with postmodernity and a need for a new reformation. It is funny, because as I listen and also contribute, the ideas and reforming of ideas all seem to put me/us right back to a more Wesleyan, missional perspective. I do not think this a coincidence, but those who seem to have a passion for the church to push forward and be the light in this new era of history, are looking to rethink their reformed, Calvinist theology. The questions they ask about God and the church in mission all point to a more Wesleyan perspective.


margaret tyler

The image of God on a mission stirs passion in me. The thoughts of God chasing after us, that all might be saved–invokes desire in me anew as well. I don’t know that we have the luxury or privilege to quit caring, quit telling, quit going, quit saying or quit hoping. This is loving well for the sake of loving.


Cezi

Dr. Oord,
The doctrine of predestination makes God look weak, more judging and less loving. Mission does not make sense either. Why bother getting engaged in the community or going to another part of the world to bring the Gospel? Why even go to church? This takes away all the human responsibility. We would even be able to talk about relationship with God, or free will, or sin.

God has created everyone with free will, because this is the only way to have a loving relationship with us. In his grace, he has enabled us to freely chose him and love him. God does not have favorite children, if he would, he would be a bad father.

Yes, God is on a mission; he is on the move to bring salvation and redemption to ALL humanity and creation.


David A.

There is talk in your post about realizing that a pursuing God changes the status quo. The problem with quos is that they do not like to be changed. I wonder if the quo in the church that is in most need of changing would be the addiction to power that the quo maintains. It seems that a church which gets to proclaim who gets saved has enormous claims to power. It seems instead that in order to turn the quo upside down it will take a surrender of the power to offer salvation and to instead go and be the salvation of the world in every facet that can be polished to reflect the glory of God’s perfectly good intentions, whether social, economic, ecologic, or any other way that is less than its potential. This is far less glamorous than being the arbiter of God’s salvation but would appear to be in good company as God doesn’t appear to be content with only adjudicating salvation but he decided to become it as well.


Angela Lerena

It has always seemed to me that predestination goes against all that I know about God’s character. As we focused on last week, imago dei is all about being created in the image of God. I am uncomfortable with a God who creates some in his image, and others not.

Prevenient grace should help us see one another as beloved children of God. It is not just about Christians or non-Christians, but about everyone. God has created each of us as beloved, all in His image, and not as some who are lucky enough to be chosen.


Cassy Wynn

“What would it mean to believe Jesus’ loving pursuit of the lost – which seems to include you, me, everyone, and everything – tells us something essential about who God is?”
One thing that this question tells me about who God is, is that he is a God who wants us to choose him. God certainly wants to save everyone and I believe he has the ability to do so. However, if God gives us the choice. Without choice it would not be a relationship. Everyone has the ability to be saved but not everyone will choose it. If everyone believed that God was lovingly pursuing the lost then we would offer more grace. Too man times we pass judgement and with hold grace from those that we don’t view as made in the image of God. Even non believers are made in the image of God and offered the same grace that we have been offered.


Sarah Brubaker

Dr. Oord, you said: “An important step toward a consistent missional theology, then, is to argue that the God on a mission does not predestine some to hell. God’s intention is for all to find salvation. And free creatures play some role in the fulfillment of God’s intentions.” I think this is key.

As a missionary people tend to ask what I think of those who haven’t heart of Jesus and what our responsibility is in terms of “double predestination”. I think, though, that the point of prevenient grace is that God does everything possible for people to see and believe and come to peace and reconciliation with Him. Just because there are those who are chosen and there are those who choose does not mean that God does the opposite and chooses who will not be chosen and who will not choose.

I feel that this line of thinking is indicative of our beliefs of God’s character and this makes me sad. God is a God of justice and He is a God who clearly allows people to make decisions whatever the “detrimental consequences” (I appreciated that wording that you used). This doesn’t fit with someone Who would condemn people to Hell because He chose to. It seems that we pick and choose the thing that we believe and run with about God and the things that we call to a halt because they don’t give us clear answers or because those answers make us uncomfortable.

What is the problem with saying that we don’t understand how predestination works and that God, being the all-powerful and incredible God that He is, can somehow manage to work our free-will and predestination while still remaining true to His character? It seems that often our theology limits the truth and the magnitude of God.


Chris Nikkel

For God to exhibit the kind of control over His creation in which predestination demands He would have to control every decision, every person makes, from world leaders making choices that affect billions to the person deciding between a Big Mac and a Quarter Pounder at McDonalds. Every decisions has an impact, and if God searched through all of history to find the few elect to be saved and the many who would be damned everything would need to be orchestrated.
There is either free will or there is not. If humanity cannot choose there can be no condemnation because liability never enters the picture. Can humanity really be sinful if there is no choice in the matter? There can be no rejection of God if the choice is not available. Even in the matter of criminality is in question if the choice was the orchestration of God.
God is more than a programmer.


Barry

John Wesley’s description of prevenient grace paves the way for a good understanding of God’s missional heart. God’s outreaching love offers humanity the opportunity to respond to the gift of grace. This gift can be received or rejected. Freedom is essential if love is to happen. The Missio Dei would lose it’s way If humanity is coerced into a relationship or if God chooses some and leaves out others. God is love and His love for humanity allows for us to respond in what Wesley calls responsible grace. God’s grace given compels a response. It is here where God’s grace provides a way for us to “work out our salvation.” God works in us therefore we are able to work. We cannot take credit for our salvation nor can we do enough good works to deserve it. Grace is a free gift that flows out of the heart of a missional God who desires to seek and save All who are lost.


Rich Evans

I love this post and that fact that God is so crazy about me, and humanity, that He wants all men to come to know him. I have heard of those who struggle with the whole theological perspective about “predestination” and similar to your post, I always refer back to 2 Peter 3:9. If God has a heart for the least and the lost, then if we are created in God’s image, then our hearts should also be for the least and the lost. The thought of predestination sounds like we would be following a God that lacks love, which isn’t the God that I have read in the scriptures. Since Jesus is the very image of the father, Jesus mirrored the importance of what it meant to love others, this included Jew or gentile. In fact, Jesus not only loved the Jew and the Gentile, He also called twelve to partner with Him on mission. If God was all about predestination, then I would venture to say that this would disqualify any type of mission being a part of His vocabulary. Bottom line, our Father has called us into the mission, and because of this, we should be willing to invite others into our family mission. Loved the post.


Rosanne McMath

I admit that I do not know enough about the Calvinist doctrine of predestination to argue against it. I do believe that humanity was born with free will. I do believe that God, through prevenient grace, places people and things in peoples’ lives to prevent the person from going to hell. Ultimately, it is the individual’s choice once the Gospel in whatever form (personal evangelism, a church service – however the individual hears it) to accept the Good News. The love of God is seen in that there is Good News; that He does not want anyone to go to hell; He has sent a people out to herald this Good News to all nations.


Tony Kayser

As I read this blog I ask myself one question. Can there be any room for both predestination and missional thinking? There can be at least some room for the two in one key area. Even those that are predestined for heaven still need to hear the gospel. Therefore, it is still a necessity that believers share the gospel. Missional theology can make its way into many faith traditions.
The sad truth is that if this is how missional theology finds its way into predestination theologies then we cut missional theology well short of its intended end. Missional theology done for the purpose done for the purpose of telling those that are predestined for heaven can only be done from an attitude of obligation.
The difference comes when we realize that we do not fulfill the mission out of obligation but out of love for God and others. We are co-workers with God because it is the greatest thing that we can do. God has shown us great love. We return the love. This is the mission.


Sarah Dupray

Though it is something many wouldn’t dispute, God lovingly pursuing each of us, it is something that I do not think we take time to reflect on often enough. I wish we as Christians, as a whole, could better communicate this idea. It seems like we are known for what we stand against verses what we stand. I like the point you made that a God on a mission does not predestined some to hell. If that was the case, then there really wouldn’t be a point to a mission.


Aneel Mall

Dr. Oord,
Wonderful blog, it comforts me to know that God is on a mission for us. This distinction I believe confirms the image of God within us and puts a great value on every human life. The problem that I have always have had with predestination has been why would God create man in His image only to then pick and choose which ones He wants to save. The purpose of creating man would be lost if certain were created with the intention of letting them perish. The mission of God therefore through the Wesleyan view not only shows the love of God but also the purpose with which he created humanity. I have not seen this kind of love in for humanity in any other religion or this type of an urgency implied toward us. Prevenient grace is not just a theological concept but a first act of God’s love where He reaches out to sinners who have spent their life running away from Him. Just as we look at the value of God’s love in reaching out to us I believe God must also receive the same joy in the response He receives when we say yes to Him.


Jon Thompson

Missional theology in its essence is a call to action. Believers have the direct responsibility to share what has been given to them freely. The thought of Jesus seeking and to save, suggests of course that God does care who goes to hell and who does not. In fact, if we believe that those who have accepted salvation have a responsibility to share God’s love. Then is it such a stretch to suggest that humankind chooses the destination of their eternity?

Missional theology describes for us, God’s nature, God’s love for creation and God’s desire for humankind to understand freedom through salvation. Of course, the maturation of this freedom goes into other areas of grace, yet it can still be realized. I would also tend to think that missional theology does not end with one process, yet it continues down a path, that causes the believer to deepen its relationship with God.


Phil Michaels

“The God who wants to save all, however, may not actually save all out of respect for creaturely freedom.” This is the key to understanding both a God who loves relentlessly and a God who refuses to disrespect our freedom. God loves us more than we can ever imagine, and shows that through God’s continual pursuit of us. God does everything – gives everything – in order to bring us into relationship with God. God “goes before us” and is at work to save us before we ever realize it. And yet…when it comes time to be saved, we have to choose to cooperate with God in that mission. God will not force us, because love never forces anything. Love does not pre-determine outcomes, but asks us to choose what is good, right and holy. But we are not on our own. God’s grace enables us to choose the good. Will we cooperate with God? That really is the question that defines the direction of our lives.


Jennifer Glover

God is on a mission. The piece of this blog that stood out most to me is the idea of God’s love giving us freedom. The love he has for his children allows this freedom even when that freedom brings on natural consequences that are unpleasant. He loves us enough to allow us to learn from our own mistakes. He is patient with us. He loves us enough to be patient. He seeks us with his patience. He seeks us by never forcing us, but allowing us to experience life on life’s terms, gain wisdom through experience, and find him there.

Find him where? Find him in the midst of whatever life we are a part of. We find him finding us in the compassion shown by friends, family, and strangers. We find him finding us through the community that is experienced in teamwork. We experience him when we teach a child, or give a gift, or receive a hug. God constantly seeking us and at the point that we think we have found him we realize that he has been with us all along.


Joyce Tempel

“Free creatures play some role in the fulfillment of God’s intentions.” I love this statement! Our ability to choose is a gift from God, but because of that ability, we must live with the consequences of our choices and the responsibilities that come along with our freedom. Even though God has good intentions for creation, it is up to us to take action for the fulfillment of them.
God’s grace is freely offered to all humanity. However, humans may choose either to respond, to ignore or to resist this activity. To each person is given the free grace and the free will to respond to God’s salvation. God requires a person to respond to the work of the Holy Spirit. Thus, not all called by grace answer their call.
When thinking about predestination I think as if God’s grace would be available only to individuals whom God had elected to eternal life. The others would live without any possibility of redemption. If that is so, then all our missional efforts are in vain. The elected will infallibly be saved, and preaching will be useless to them that are not elected, for they will be infallibly damned. Therefore, God would not be a God who seeks and saves, a God on a mission!


Troy Teeter

I love the understanding that God’s being on a mission isn’t just something to do, but is something from the very identity of God. The fact that we, as the church, get to participate in that is inspiring. I always struggle with some who nonchalantly declare God’s will, without thinking about what that really means. We all get to choose to accept our part. We have a role in that the gift isn’t one that is forced, and we aren’t coerced to accept it. As some would say, it is freely given and it can be freely accepted. But there is a cost in accepting that gift. Jesus instructed us to count the cost. By accepting the grace given to us, we are held to a responsibility in what we do with it. If we are truly trying to live into that grace, it calls us to something much bigger than ourselves. Much bigger than just smiling and asking how a person’s day is. It means that we are called to join in the mission of mercy, justice, and above all, love. As God seeks and saves, may we join the mission that still includes loving us beyond “the status quo.”


Jon Wren

This seems so huge for me in the intention God creates. He does not create anyone to perish, but to have everlasting life. If God is truly loving, he would of course create each person with the possibility of being in paradise with God forever! I often find myself very drawn to a God who enables universal salvation and love what you say in the end: “Wesleyans can affirm a missional theology that says God’s intent is universal salvation. Yet they can also say universal salvation may not occur.” I have theological restrictions that make me question universalism and think that is extreme, but on the one hand who are we to say God can’t save all people? How great that would be to have everyone in Heaven with their creator. But the ontological understanding I have of this world, creaturely freedom does in fact decide if we respond to the grace we are given, and this dictates and allows us to be in God’s presence in this life and the next.


Aneel Mall

Your blog does a wonderful job in supporting the view that God is on a mission. Also, I think the underlying position that you are pointing too is that a God on a mission would not need to be on a mission if He had already predestined whom to save and whom to perish. This also brings another issue up which is that if God has chosen to save some then it must be clearly stated that he has “chosen” not save others and in another words he has chosen to allow them to perish. This is a very dangerous and slippery slope we are taking when speaking about a God of love and compassion. If salvation was “predestined” then God would not need to be a on a mission and neither would we be commissioned of a mission. In essence the purpose of life would have no value and the morality of good and evil would also no longer matter. Missional theology does offer a true understanding of God , Scripture and our own purpose.


Roman Lyon

The notion of God continuously pursuing His creation to be in right relationship with Him is a God that I want to participate with. Not only that, but God is a God who wants us to choose Him and to participate with Him. Our freedom of choice is an act of love on God’s part because He is not a God that wants to control us. As you said, “free creatures may choose to reject God’s loving invitation. And God respects such decisions, despite their devastating consequences.” On the other side then, for those that believe predestination, I struggle to see how God is redemptive when humans play no part in the matter. If there is no response to the free gift of grace that God offers, and God just chose me and not you, then where is the hope that God offers His creation? As Wesleyans, we get to believe in and participate with God on this mission to bring people to know Him. That is truly inspiring to me.


Kevin E. Bottjen

“What would it mean to believe Jesus’ loving pursuit of the lost – which seems to include you, me everyone, and everything – tells us something essential about who God is?” A powerful question that seems simple at first, but quickly becomes very difficult in to define a personal application of such a belief. I had a friend who was raised in a church that taught only Jesus loved them, and God the Father wasn’t worthy of our praise since he despises humankind. When I first heard this, I was taken aback. I asked him what about John 3:16. He had never heard this verse mentioned in his church. When I showed him the light about God the Father loving us so much that he sent Jesus, he went silent.
Of course, God is on a mission; It seems so clear… but is so often not believed. When we truly believe it, we must learn to see with Christ’s eyes, touch with his hands, and love with his heart. We must be able to see his creation as he sees it, not as our jaded cultural history defines it.


Rob Birks

God is on a mission and that mission is to seek and save all. In that sense, I agree that God’s intention is universal salvation – salvation for all, as his desire is that none should perish. It makes sense to me that while God knows who will (or, in the language of the view of God existing above time, “who did”) respond to his Spirit’s prevenient grace, that knowledge is not proof that he predestined their response. Similarly, while God is sovereign and omnipotent, he doesn’t use that power to coerce a confession of his Son. Instead, like the Prodigal Son’s father, he looks for us on the horizon, and before we can make it home, runs to welcome us.
I have not heard the “predestination status quo” before, but I like it. If I believe that the triune God is on mission to seek and save the lost (myself included), how can I not sign up and serve in whatever capacity helps to accomplish that mission?


Jonathan Gibson

The idea that Gods respects HIs creations built-in ability to freely choose to the point of allowing choices that have eternal consequences is amazing to me. To think about the love and grief that sits at the heart of God is a profound undertaking. God, who’s nature and being radiates mission, a mission to be restored, to love and be reunited with His creation. That missional heart must break as His creation chooses to be separate from Him, even though they have been given the ability to choose restoration through prevenient grace. God goes to such lengths to seek and pursue, to then withhold that missional need is the ultimate act of love in my mind. Thankful to have been sought after and to have been created with the spark of belief so that I could have the choice to be restored to relationship with my God! Oh the amazing grace and love of God, it’s beyond comprehension.


Travis Dotter

If the Bible had a subtitle I think it would either be: God on a Mission or Seeking and Saving. If someone asks how to sum up the Biblical story I am pretty sure I would say, “It is about a loving God who is on a mission to seek and save those who He loves.” However, God’s wants are not guaranteed to happen because of our own sinful nature and our free will. God loves us so much that He wants us to choose Him, not be programmed to follow Him. I think that this concept is huge for missional theology.


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