The Convergence of Missio Dei and Imago Dei: A Option to Perceive Discipleship Alternate
I have had many conversations with Church members over the years in which I asked them, "Are you a Christian?" to which they would answer: "Yes, of course." After her admission, I would ask her, "How do you know you're a Christian?"
It got interesting here. Most people responded with “Christian activities” such as baptism, reading the Bible, praying, visiting the church and tithing.
Here's the problem: none of these activities make you a Christian. However, it seems that the Church has caused a generation to think this way – whether intentionally or unintentionally. Therefore, we are now dealing with a Christian generation who sees Christian maturation as assembly line activities (or action) rather than identity-building awareness (or becoming).
What makes someone a Christian – a believer or follower of Christ – is his belief in the Lord Jesus to save him from his sin and to become his king. The reason why I know that I am a Christian is a conscious decision I made about 30 years ago to confess my sins, turn away from my sin of life after Josh, and turn to Jesus as my Savior and King to turn.
This is how I know that I am a Christian. And who I am informs and shapes and shapes what I do (or how I live).
I would like to share three basic principles to help churches and believers understand a foundation of discipleship, and hopefully help to solve the discipleship crisis in the church.
The broken image of humanity
Almost every person reading this article has used a mirror recently. Maybe it was to brush your teeth or your hair, to make sure your wardrobe fits, or to come back from your driveway.
Imagine that the next time you use a mirror and find that it has broken? What do you see when you look in the mirror? A distorted, broken and fragmented picture. As a result, the mirror no longer provides a complete picture. It's not that it stopped being a mirror. It still offers reflection.
However, instead of presenting a full image because it has been broken, the reflected image is distorted and damaged.
Humanity was created to be the mirror of God. Humans were created to reflect God's image in the created order (Genesis 1:26). Christopher Wright explains: “The image of God is less something that we have than what we are. To be human means to be the image of God. “(1) Johannes Calvin conveys that man will represent and reflect the image of God, which will shine in spirit, will and in all senses. (2)
However, when Adam and Eve fell (sinned) in the garden, they shattered the Imago Dei in their lives.
Remember that we are still very human. Sin has not destroyed the Imago Dei in humanity. Sin shattered and distorted, damaged, and shattered our lives by giving complete reflection and representation of God.
This broken picture takes place in a variety of ways. Identity crises, image problems, sexual fragility, racism, ethnocentrism, violence, abortion, etc. are all effects of sin that destroy God's image in humanity.
The Missio Dei trying to restore the Imago Dei
At the time Moses wrote Genesis, kings and emperors erected images across their kingdom to mark their reach and rule. Many scholars therefore believe that God intended to convey this message to humanity – that it was created to reflect His glory in who they were and how they worked.
In other words, they should reflect God's character, nature, qualities, and thus realize his kingdom on earth as it was ordained in heaven.
Such imaging is only possible if men and women have a right relationship with God, have fellowship and enjoy perfect fellowship with him. However, when Adam and Eve rebelled and sinned against God, they separated perfect fellowship and fellowship with God, thereby destroying His image in (or on) them.
While men and women would still act as human beings, the basic functions would in fact be distorted either by misleading, misdirected, misappropriated and mistreated. In other words, sin damaged the nature of their person and thus their functioning.
Functionally, God wanted humanity to be fertile, to multiply, to fill the earth, to subjugate the earth and to rule on the earth (Genesis 1:28). G.K. Beale argues: "God's ultimate goal in creation was to augment His glory all over the world through his faithful image bearers who inhabit the world in obedience to the divine mandate." (3) Here are three headings to help the creation mandate in to summarize the basic functions of humanity: relational, cultural and managerial (steward / overseer).
These three functions are alive and well in humanity today. Although these functions are intended to be performed with the glory of God as a goal, they are not due to the case. Due to the destroyed image of humanity, these functions are misdirected, misdirected, misused, misunderstood, mistreated and misused.
We live in a fallen world, with a fallen race (humanity), and with a fallen race consisting of damaged picture carriers, you will find broken and broken relationships, corrupt culture, greedy individuals and peoples, and overall poor life management.
All of this is found at both the micro and macro levels of humanity, and we have all (at some point) been guilty of breaking and breaking relationships, corrupting culture, abusing power, and having poor management.
Enter the Missio Dei. At its core, God's mission is to create a people for themselves (from all nations) that reflect their glory in all areas of life (see Adam, Israel, Jesus, the Church and the New Creation). Therefore, the main aim of Missio Dei is to restore and renew the Imago Dei in men and women.
In his work God Who Sends, Francis DuBose emphasizes the relationship between the Imago Dei (image of God) and the Missio Dei (mission of God). DuBose argued: “Restoring the lost image of God in humanity is what the Bible is about. And one of the most important healing themes of the New Testament is how this image was restored through God's redemptive work in the second Adam, Jesus Christ. "
In some places the apostle Paul captures this idea of redeeming and renewing God's image in man (Col. 3:10; Rom. 5: 12-21; 8:29; 1 Cor. 15: 45-49; 2 Cor.) 3: 12-18).
As Dubose put it: "Just as God's first mission (" the beginning mission ") was to deal with the problem of the broken image of God in the first family, so God's last mission was in Scripture (the final mission in Jesus Christ ) restore this image of God in the new family of the redeemed. "
Get discipleship right
Matthew 28 contains the command of Jesus to “make disciples of all nations”. There were two parts to discipleship – baptism and teaching. Baptism was this obedient act of identification with Jesus. All that Jesus taught them was the way they taught believers about their new life in Christ.
Discipleship is the convergence of Missio and Imago Dei. That's why, Discipleship could be defined as the process of restoring learning, what it means to be truly human in the likeness and image of Jesus.
In his book Simply Christian, N.T. Wright says: "Learning to live as a Christian means to learn to live as a renewed person and to anticipate the possible new creation in and with a world that still longs for and groans for this ultimate salvation."
For those who like formulas, here is a sequential discipleship formula based on the information and definitions above:
Who I am (IDENTITY) + What I do (IDENTIFICATORS) = Who or what I reflect on (IMAGE)
This formula is extremely important. Why? Because if we misunderstand the formula or put the identifiers before identity, the product is a distorted picture. (Note: this happened in autumn!)
For example, if we focus on identifiers as activities that nurture our identity, one or two things can happen – especially for “Christians”. First, they will be tempted to see their activities as what makes them Christians. This can result in them having a form of Christianity based on redemption based on works.
Second, they may tend to forget who they are because they struggle to keep up with all activities. If devotion, worship and prayer are lacking here, it can lead to doubts, depression and discouragement.
True Christian discipleship is rooted in the identity of Christ. Paul says: "For I have been crucified with Christ and no longer live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal 2:20).
I am a Christian again because I am in Christ, Christ is in me; I died for myself and rose to new life in Christ. Because my new life with Christ is hidden (Col. 3: 3), I give up my life (all facets and spheres) so that he can live through me. My behavior, my functions and therefore my identifiers flow out of my identity.
The final result? As I am molded into the likeness (and identity) of Jesus, my life reflects the glory of God and His Kingdom – what it should do all the time.
In my opinion, if the churches (and therefore the leaders) understood discipleship this would help redefine the ominous discipleship practices and programs observed today. And this is urgently needed when we navigate through a post-COVID world.
(1) Wright, The Mission of God, 421.
(2) John Calvin, Calvin Commentary Series, ed. Rev. John King, The First Book of Moses Called Genesis (Grand Rapids: BakerBooks, 2009, Reprint), 96.
(3) G.K. Beale, the Temple and Mission of the Church: A Biblical Theology of God's Home (Downers Grove: IVP, 2004), 82.
Josh Laxton is currently the deputy director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, North American coordinator from Lausanne at Wheaton College. He has a Ph.D. in North American Missiology from the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. The Exchange team contributed to this article.