• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

A missional DNA

For an upcoming conference, I have been asked to talk about ‘how to make mission part of a disciple’s DNA’. I have been tossing around a number of practical ideas over the past week or so. However, to be honest, at a given moment, I got stuck. I got stuck on the ‘how to’ part.DNA

The answers to the ‘how to’ question certainly help another believer know what mission might be about. However, it doesn’t ultimately point us to who sends us forth in mission, or who is the source or drive of our going.

To be honest, it’s that assurance, deep in one’s heart, that one has been sent and that the God of the universe goes with him/her that will make mission part of any disciple’s life.

Looking back at Matthew 28:18-20, one saint from long ago wrote: “Never, certainly, would the Apostles have had sufficient confidence to undertake so arduous an office, if they had not known that the Protector sitteth in heaven, and that the highest authority is given to him; for without such a support it would have been impossible for them to make any progress.”

If the Gospel brings us into fellowship and relationship with Jesus, then the Gospel would also push us out to intentionally move towards others because as Jesus said: ‘just as the Father has sent Me, so I send you’ (John 20:21).

Your thoughts?

8 Responses

  1. Making our DNA is not something we can do ourselves in the first place. Nowadays people have found the technical means to do this, but from the beginning this was the Creators ‘job’. He created us. It is also He who re-creats us when we are born again. Right there and then He creats His Mission oriëntated DNA in our hearts by which we can follow up on His command to reach out to our neighbors with this good news message we have heard ourselves and now get enabled to pass on to others. This reproducing system and ability is part of this new DNA. The ‘how’ question should be awnserd by obediënce and submission to the Lord of Lords and letting Him fill our agenda of our life. This makes us His co-workers, His followers finding out He is doing the work Himself at any time, even if and when we are (more or less) involved. When I awnserd His call into Mission He paved the way for me to walk on. He does so untill this very day. If not I would not be walking in His Mission anymore. I stand in awe looking around every next corner on our journey. Mission is His idea, promise and fulfillment.

    • It is the ‘circle’ that intrigues me. Obedience flows out of thankfulness and is powered by grace and the Gospel which leads to further obedience.

    • Marco, you are on the right track. But it is helpful to examine the issue in order to help people grow as disciples. After all, we are mandated to go and make disciples, which is clearly a task we can do; but it is important to remember God calls and equips.

      • That short statement at the end of John’s note is the core of the whole issue. None of us are capable of having any impact or influence (through making disciples) if the Lord has not called and equipped us. I am surprised how often I forget that. As John said, the more we delve into the subject, the more we recognize the importance of making disciples and the more we recognize our dependence on God to make disciples.

  2. David, you have been posed a challenge which is hard to address.
    The idea of missional DNA sounds very attractive, but does such a thing exist in such terms, or is it in fact a misleading way to address an issue which is nebulous but real to those of us passionate about mission?

    I notice that some people use the term in different ways. For example, Alan Hirsch in “The Forgotten Ways” asserts that there are 6 elemental components of mDNA (which he expounds in chapters 3 through 7) as follows:
    1. Jesus is Lord—more than a mere confession, but the essential and practical centre of every significant Jesus movement, in that the Lordship of Jesus is the compelling force at play in every aspect of life for members of the movement. Jesus is head of the movement.
    2. Disciple making: every movement member becoming like Jesus, embodying his message, and inviting and teaching others to follow him too.
    3. Missional-incarnational impulse: “the dynamic outward thrust and the related deepening impulse, which together seed and embed the gospel” within a people group. (p. 25)
    4. Apostolic environment: the place of apostolic influence in creating the “fertile environment” which initiates and maintains phenomenal movements of God. Apostolic leadership is necessary to sustained growth and impact.
    5. Organic systems: Phenomenal movements (note Hirsch uses these terms with deliberate intent) need organic network-type structures for metabolic growth. Movements go viral!
    6. Communitas not community. Borrowing from renowned anthropologist Victor Turner, Hirsch takes the idea of “communitas” as necessary to a dynamic movement. (Communitas is the unique sense of bonding and belonging which arises through rites of passage when vovitiates/candidates for initiation are extracted from the comfort and security of “normal” society and enter a state of “liminality”. This is the central phase of a rite of passage, so called because it is an “in between” stage and the “threshold” of something new. During this time, initiates experience cognitive dissonance, feel threatened and are subjected to ordeals or risks which force them to bond together.)

    On the other hand, Neil Cole in “Church 3.0” reduces missional DNA to three things:
    1. Divine Truth that “comes from God” (and he expands a little on this pages 97-98).
    2. Nurturing Relationships.
    3. Apostolic Mission

    (Cole expands on this a little more on pages 113-115)

    Cole is too reductionist for my liking–forcing a lot into the acronym of DNA, and I prefer the more expansive version of Hirsch.

    But the question remains: ‘how to make mission part of a disciple’s DNA’?

    On the manward side, it is clearly by helping people to understand the apostolic (kerygmatic) gospel about Jesus Christ exactly as outlined in the New Testament (e.g. in the sermons in Acts and expanded on in the epistles); but also to understand that within the larger framework of the narrative of redemption.

    It is also understood through discipleship which responds to the call of Jesus to deny ourselves and take up the cross daily, and to follow Christ as Lord, through the power of the Holy Spirit. It seems to me, this is the numb of missional DNA, because discipleship gives a new focus to our desires and ambitions, and the obedience to and imitation of Christ demand of us a missional and incarnational lifestyle.

    Increasingly I see discipleship as a lifestyle oriented to Jesus in every way, and in the everyday rhythms of life. This is a concept I found well-articulated in “Saturation” by Jeff Vanderstelt.

    But I like Hirsch’s idea of communitas, which goes well beyond the glib talk of community in churches today. It goes beyond the idea of typical western individualists using community as another way of serving the needs of self (a salve to the aching and broken heart which you dip into occasionally). Communitas is the bond and commitment of the tribe to their common beliefs, existence and survival; it is the bond experienced by members of a social movement who are drawn together by the adversity or oppression they share, and the sacrificial commitment they give to each other and to the pioneer and leader of their cause, as well as the cause itself. (Vanderstelt brings this kind of idea out in “Saturation” in lay terms and with real life stories, whereas Hirsch is quite theoretical).

    But on the Godward side, perhaps we underestimate the role of the Holy Spirit who works subtly by surely in the hearts of men and women who truly understand what it means to own Jesus as Lord. Disciples who recognize that their faith is accompanied by daily, deep repentance, conscious choices of self denial (what Paul calls “putting off”), and deliberate faith choices to know Christ better, and to “put on” the characteristic of grace by walking “in step with the Holy Spirit”.

    I think if there is such a thing as missional DNA, it is the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of faithful and obedient disciples who daily set out to own Jesus as Lord.

    • This is the kind of ‘meaty’ response that one looks for to push the discussion forward. I have seen Vanderstelt’s article and need to give it a closer read.

  3. I fully agree with the biblical based and gospel centered thrust of your thinking.

    For the topic “how to make mission part of a disciple’s DNA” three thoughts come to mind up front. they are1) this should be a fundamental objective of disciple-making, 2)the disciple-maker must be intentional in implanting the missional DNA, and 3) ultimately only the Holy Spirit can make this happen. Therefore this will not take place fully and authentically apart from two factors: 1) the teaching of God’s plan of redemption progressively revealed from Genesis to Revelation, and 2) the disciple progressively learning to to know God’s heart for the world through worship and meditation on His word.

    You are correct, I believe, in noting that in Matthew 28: 18 to 20 that the missionary mandate “to make disciples of all peoples” is buttressed before and after by two strong encouragements. The one before tells us that Jesus who gave the mandate has authority over all earthly authorities and also over all spiritual authorities. The one that follows assures those who are making disciples that God will be with us to guide and empower us to the end of the age. The three present participles in the mandate define the major dementions of the missionary task.

    One additional thought is that if the DNA of mission is not begun to be planted from day one a church-planting movement is not likely to take place.

    • Thank you, Ed, for your good comment. I particularly appreciate the before and after of the great commission.My own studies of Matthew convince me that the entire narrative is preparation for this mandate. The gospel of the Kingdom is good news that must be proclaimed and lived in the world.

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