One of the active characteristics of God’s mission is the notion of “sentness.” God establishes this pattern early in redemptive history. He goes to Adam and Eve, but sends Abraham to the Promised Land, Moses to Egypt, Jonah to the Ninevites, Jesus to the world, the Spirit to the Church, and the Church to the nations. Clearly, God’s mission involves sending. In the New Testament, John stresses the “sent” theme more than any other. Other than describing the sentness of Jesus and the disciples, John also references John the Baptist being sent (John 1:6–7, 15; 3:28, 34) and the Holy Spirit being sent (John 14:26; John 16:7–8). Thus, the Johannine mode of mission establishes sentness as a missional impulse.
The missional impulse of sentness is found in John 20:21, where John records Jesus saying, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” It may seem on the surface that sentness means going. While sentness certainly implies going, the Johannine mode of mission stresses something far deeper and richer given that it connects the sentness of the disciples to that of the Father sending the Son. (See the following on the “sending” terminology in the context of Jesus: John 4:34; 5:23, 30, 36–38, 43; 6:29, 38,39, 44, 57; 7:16, 18, 28–30; 8:14, 16, 18, 29, 42; 9:4; 11:42; 12:44–45, 49; 13:20; 14:24; 16:5; 17:3, 8, 18; 20:21.) The depth of sentness as a missional impulse of the Church is understood in light of Jesus’ sentness.
The richness and depth of Jesus’ sentness was that the Father sent him into the world. In Jesus’ name, the Father sent the Spirit as the indwelling presence of God to live among the people so that God may shine Jesus’ glory and bring salvation and healing to people (John 1:4, 14). Broadly, Jesus was sent to take up residence among God’s people so that they could behold God’s glory. But, more specifically, God’s glory would emanate from Jesus’ life through his faithful obedience to what God sent him to do. What was Jesus sent by the Father to do? According to Andreas Köstenberger (1998, 108), Jesus was sent to:
- Bring glory and honor to the sender (John 5:23; 7:18)
- Do the sender’s will (4:34; 5:30, 38; 6:38–39) and works (5:36; 9:4)
- Speak the sender’s words (3:34; 7:16; 12:49; 14:10b, 24)
- Bear witness to the sender (5:36; 7:28)
- Represent the sender accurately (12:44–45; 13:20; 15:18–25)
- Exercise delegated authority from the sender (5:21–22, 27; 13:3; 17:2; 20:23)
- Know the sender intimately (7:29; cf. 15:21; 17:8, 25)
- Live in a close relationship with the sender (8:16, 18, 29; 16:32)
- Follow the sender’s example (13:16)
The Father sent Jesus into the world to be faithfully present with him—which consisted of Jesus obeying the Father in all areas of life—so he would reflect the Father’s glory and as a result bring salvation and healing to the nations. John seems to understand Jesus as the fountain (or river) of life that flows from the presence of God (Gen. 2:10–14; John 4:14; 7:38; Rev. 22:1) that brings salvation and healing to the nations.
With regard to the sentness of the disciples, Köstenberger notes that the references to Jesus’ mission “are arguably recorded with a view toward the sending of the disciples” (1998, 108). Thus, if Jesus was sent by the Father to be the incarnational presence of God radiating his glory to the degree that God brought healing and salvation to people, then this describes the essence of the disciples sentness. They, too, are sent to be the incarnational representation of God so that God may reflect his presence and glory through their lives—through both sharing and showing the gospel—and in doing so bring salvation and healing to the nations. Since God is a sending God, sentness simply means we respond to his nature by living sent lives.
The missional mode of “sentness” speaks of the Church (and individuals) having a missional posture. Thus, missional effectiveness requires churches to move from being distributors of religious goods and services to equipping a people sent on mission.