Education‎ > ‎Adult Study‎ > ‎A Mission from God‎ > ‎

Missio Dei

The Pew Research Center's study of America's religious landscape gives the following explanation for the steady growth in the numbers of "Unaffiliateds" at the expense of the Catholic and mainline Protestant denominations:
"As a rising cohort of highly unaffiliated Millennials [born 1981-96] reaches adulthood, the median age of unaffiliated adults has dropped to 36, down from 38 in 2007 and far lower than the general (adult) population’s median age of 46. By contrast, the median age of mainline Protestant adults in the new survey is 52 (up from 50 in 2007), and the median age of Catholic adults is 49 (up from 45 seven years earlier)."
In response to the Pew Research Center's findings, Professor David Campbell of Notre Dame noted:
Most of the people who say that their religion is "nothing in particular” or “none”... are what we might call soft secularists. Most do not describe themselves as atheists or agnostics, which suggests that they are not totally disaffected from all aspects of religion, or from a belief in a God or higher power. In other words, this suggests that many of the “nones” are not actively opposed or hostile to religion, and that some of them might even be attracted to a new form of religion.
Informal discussions with Millennials who grew up in Faith UCC indicate that a major stumbling block to regular church attendance is the stress of jobs and commuting. The world with which these young people must cope is in some ways qualitatively different from that which their parents and grandparents encountered at their age:
Because of pressure from investors and shareholders,... corporations are forced to subordinate other priorities. There is little room for social, ecological, or spiritual values.... families and communities are torn apart as wage earners leave to make a living in the city.... In their search for scarce jobs, scarce money, and scarce love, people become far more insecure and far less willing to do favors for other people — who become competitors rather than neighbors. - Helena Norberg-Hodge (2000)
...And now you live dispersed on ribbon roads,
And no man knows or cares who is his neighbor
Unless his neighbor makes too much disturbance,
But all dash to and fro in motor cars,
Familiar with the roads and settled nowhere.

- T.S. Eliot, Choruses from The Rock (1934)
What is God now calling us to become and to do, to play our part in His work of healing this wounded earth and its peoples? How can we adopt or adapt the Church's traditional understanding of its mission, and the strategies it has employed over the millennia to carry out that mission, to meet the needs of these times?
According to Wikipedia, "Missio Dei is a Latin Christian theological term that can be translated as the 'mission of God,' or the 'sending of God'", which "became increasingly popular in the church from the second half of the 20th century" beginning with the 1952 Willingen conference of the International Missionary Council (IMC), which merged with the World Council of Churches (WCC) in 1961. The Norwegian theologian Tormod Engelsviken has written a review of European understandings and misunderstandings of the term, and the American theologian J.Todd Billings has reviewed its application to the recent "missional church" movement in North America.
The most useful study guide for our purposes is provided in the following documents, developed through a 2002-2008 ecumenical dialog between the Roman Catholic and Uniting Churches of Australia:
In addition to the New Testament sources cited in the above study guides, the Old Testament is also full of examples of "God's sending."
As you read the passages listed at right, keep the following questions in mind:
  1. What is being sent?
  2. Where is it being sent?
  3. Why is it being sent?
  4. How is it being sent?
  5. What does this tell us about what God is sending us to do here and now?