Modes of Mission: A Missional Practice
Thus far, I have attempted to outline the missional modes, or impulses, of “community” and “sentness” when the missio Dei is enacted. But there is one more missional mode that is enacted when the Church embraces the totality of God’s mission—and that mode is “multiplication.” Multiplication is used by God to advance his mission throughout the world. While the impulse of “multiplication” is hinted at in the Old Testament in places like Genesis 1:28 (“be fruitful and multiply”) and Genesis 15:5 (Abraham’s infinite number of offspring), it becomes very clear in the New Testament.
The Pauline mode of mission enacts the missional impulse of “multiplication.” Paul saw God’s global mission connected to an aspect of God’s covenant with Abraham (Gen. 12:3; Gal. 3:8). Thus, in light of Matthew 28:18–20, Acts 1:8, Acts 9:15, and Romans 15:20, Paul saw his mission to the nations, multiplying believers and churches.
By understanding the mission of God as being directed toward the nations, Paul implemented a mission strategy that included: (1) targeting populated urban centers, (2) evangelizing the city, and (3) planting and establishing churches. This strategy makes the Pauline mode of mission one of “multiplication.”
According to Eckhard Schnabel, there are at least fifteen phases or locations of Paul’s missionary work that took place in the thirty-five years between his conversion (31/32 AD) and his death in Rome (67 AD) (2008, 40). During those years, Paul went on three missionary journeys (see Bolt and Thompson 2000, 102; Schnabel 2008, 40) where he engaged the cities, evangelized, and planted churches.
1. As Paul went to the nations, he would go to their cities. Tim Keller asserts that part of Paul’s mission strategy included going to the largest cities of the region (2002, 29). Seldom do we see Paul navigating away from cities. It seems Paul believed that cities had the greatest potential for gospel impact and gospel multiplication.
2. Once in the city Paul did at least two things. The first was to evangelize people. Paul evangelized through preaching at the local synagogues, participating in small group Bible studies, meeting people in the marketplaces, renting halls and lecturing, and engaging people through tent-making, his profession (Keller 2002, 355).
3. The second thing Paul would do when he arrived in a city was to plant multiplying churches. As Paul made disciples, he planted and established churches. Keller summarizes Paul’s missional engagement with the cities in this way:
When Paul began meeting with them [converts], they were called ‘disciples’ (Acts 14:22), but when he left them, they were known as ‘churches’ (see Acts 14:23). To put it simply, the multiplication of churches is as natural in the book of Acts as the multiplication of individuals. (2002, 356)
As seen in the life of Paul, “multiplication” requires intentionality. It requires going where people are, sharing the good news of Jesus, and planting and establishing self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagating churches.
In short, the Pauline mode of mission, “multiplication,” became the missional practice of the Early Church. The end result of the missional practice of the Church is found in Revelation 5:9 and 7:9, where John sees a vision of God’s people being from every tribe and language and people and nation. Thus, for the Church to be missionally effective, we must participate in God’s missional intent of multiplication—going where people are, making disciples (micro multiplication), and planting churches (macro multiplication).