Tuesday, October 12, 2004

trinity and mission

A while ago maggi posted on the Trinity and worship. All the recent talk about missional Church reminds me that the Trinity and worship risks remains self-indulgent without the Trinity and mission.

At the heart of the Trinity is three persons – Father, Son and Spirit – in the giving of love. Love is shared between persons, in an unlimited, ever-spiraling flow of love. The church fathers used to call this perichoresis – the divine dance of love. It is a beautiful metaphor; fluid, whole-bodied, dynamic.

What makes this missional is that this dynamic, fluid, flowing love is shared with the world, in creation, in Christ, and in the activity of the Spirit. This flow of love refuses to remain self-centred.

When God breathes breath into humanity, created in the image of God, we see the relational love of the Trinity shared. Love is never self-indulgent. In Christ, the relational love of the Trinity is shared. The sharing is so radical, so complete, so life-giving, that one person of the Trinity will die for the Other. The affirmation that the Spirit is in our world reminds us that love is always calling us, always inviting us out of our circles, out of our understandings of community, out of our walls and set practices. In this sense the Trinity is missional,

Further, the Trinity offers us unity and diversity, one love shared between three distinct persons. This also guides our mission. The missional church will be an expression of the shared love of God. Equally the missional church will be locally distinctive, a unique, grounded expression of the God-head.

Thus talk about church and mission needs to be grounded in our understandings of God as Trinity. A “missional church” is not new, but a recovering of very ancient understandings, in which we live, we create, we emerge, as an outflow of the shared love of God. We seek to express fluid, whole-boided, dynamic love. We honour the unity with other expressions of church, we applaud diversity, we celebrate uniquely grounded differences.

Posted by steve at 09:43 AM


  1. Good thoughts, Steve. Fits well with an essay question on Trinity and community I set for my students this semester.

    Comment by StephenG — October 12, 2004 @ 10:05 am

  2. Reading Grenz @ the moment on those very subjects.Stephen G. kindly sent me a copy of a critque of Grenz, and Grenz’s response. Looking forward to reading his latest book which should develop most of the issues you touch upon.

    Comment by Paul Fromont — October 12, 2004 @ 11:22 am

  3. We have been using a Trinity-based mission model in the local church – what is key is the common misconceptions about the Trinity even among long-standing committed Christians which lead to a false understanding of mission.

    What is intriguing is when a survey was done among Church of England Clergy, Trinity Sunday was the least favourite Sunday to preach on.

    I guess that we have tended to leave the Trinity on the shelves of dusty doctrine. We are now re-discovering it as a major tool for post-modern Christianity.

    Comment by Tom Allen — October 13, 2004 @ 1:22 am

  4. Steve, this is well written. I think after the recent debates in the UK between what appeared to be the alt.worship camp and the espousers of missional church, I think you (from all the way in NZ to boot!) have articulated the relationship between worship and mission very well. Dare I say brilliantly? Can I cross post this entry on my blog?

    Comment by Stephen Said — October 13, 2004 @ 2:30 am

  5. Hi steve. Thanks for inviting me over. I can’t see any dichotomy between what you say here and what I said in the post you linked to. Only that Trinity and Worship can’t possibly be (or remain) self-indulgent if it truly engages you with the Trinitarian God, because, as you rightly indicate, the nature of God is self-giving love.

    The question that has mostly been debated in the UK recently is really whether you can state that there is a priority of mission over anything else. (Much of that conversation was mis-firing due in part to it being based in part on a false premise about Church growth in the early centuries.) I would say that ultimately you can’t place mission and worship in an order of priority within theology because they are so interdependent. I like your drawing mission into a social trinitarianism, think it works well.

    Comment by maggi — October 20, 2004 @ 4:59 am

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