Mission is not something we do for God; it is what we do when we become like God. It is in the very nature of God to reach out to others in love. Christians will do the same as they become more like him.
Theologians have traditionally made a distinction between the being of God (technically known as the 'immanent Trinity') and the activity of God (the 'economic Trinity').
Does it follow from this that the being of God precedes the doing of God? God existed before he created the world and engaged in other activity. If the church reflected that dynamic – being before doing – unhealthy expressions of over-activism might be avoided.
I don't know if we can talk about the being of God preceding the doing of God, can we? Aren't the being and the doing one? The being is the doing. The love isn't static. It is dynamic. Over-activism may have its origins in anxiety rather than in a distorted Trinitarian theology. It's definitely to be avoided! Can we learn, instead, how to become contemplative activists? Or even active contemplatives?
Sue Hope, Priest in charge St Paul's Shipley and Adviser in Evangelism for the Bradford Diocese
God's inner life
According to a number of theologians, God's inner life is revealed to us in the form of community-in-mission. The community dimension is reflected in the inter-dependence of the three persons of the Trinity.
They are so dependent on each other that they even take their identity from one another. The Father would not be the Father if he didn't have a Son. The Son would not be the Son without a Father. Father, Son and Holy Spirit relate so closely to each other that they are also (in ways we do not fully understand) one person.
God is not inward looking. Theologians use the Latin term 'missio Dei' to describe the 'mission of God'. This is more than a particular mission, to create the world or redeem it; it is an impulse that throbs in the heart of God.
The whole 'instinct' of God is to move out. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are so full of energetic love that this love naturally overflows beyond themselves. Their love and energy spill outward. The mission of God results from this vibrant, overflowing love.
The mission is much bigger than rescuing humanity from sin, hugely important though that is. Scripture describes how the mission of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, acting together, involves creating, sustaining and redeeming the universe.
God's mission is cosmic in scale. It is about defeating evil as it affects every aspect of creation – from the vicious impact of poverty to climate change. It is about establishing God's reign over all dimensions of life. 'See, I am making all things new' (Revelation 21.5).
Mission, therefore, is no add-on for the church
The church becomes like God when it becomes a Christian community-in-mission, with a vision that takes seriously human sin but extends to the whole of creation. Often Christians think about church, then about mission. A fresh expressions mindset encourages believers to think first about mission, then about church.
Fresh expressions seek to contribute to God's mission by forming Christian communities that serve their networks or neighbourhoods, and the wider society.
If made welcome, they do this by listening to the people involved, offering practical expressions of love, helping community to form among recipients of this love, prayerfully encouraging members of the community into faith where appropriate, discipling new believers and helping them become a mature expression of church.