It was a moment I may look back on as a personal epiphany. As my team and I were in a strategic planning session late last year, something occurred to me about the link between what God says about humanity in the Creation accounts of Genesis 1 and 2 and what Jesus says about his followers toward the end of his high priestly prayer in John 17.
It has to do with community and commission. I like to talk about the Church as a “Commissioned Community.” My reason for this is simple. Those two words have a common root word, “common,” but unity and mission are eternally intertwined as well. First and foremost, the Church is a community; those who belong to the Church have union with Christ and, therefore, union with one another. It is a common-union, a community. But it is vital and required by Scripture that this community be qualified by the adjective commissioned. Why? Because in John 17:23, as Jesus is praying on behalf of any who follow him just, he says, “Let them be one, so that they the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you have loved me.”
Jesus’ prayer connects unity and mission. This unity has a purpose; it is not limited to our vertical and horizontal union. It extends outward into the world. Jesus was sent to the world (John 3:16), and he sent his followers into the world (John 20:21; Matt 28:19-20) to give them life as he intended it (John 10:10). The mission since Genesis 3 is redemptive, restoring union with God, each other, self, and creation. This is our job.
What I came to see a couple months ago is that commission and community have gone together since the very beginning. When we read that God made us in his image, the usual idea we grasp is that we are relational beings. He exists in a perfect community as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he desires for humanity to join that common union. We are designed for community, but we only find it in a common union with God.
As God put it together, just two verses later in Genesis 1, he blesses (similar perhaps to Jesus praying for his followers?) Adam and Eve, and then he gives them a mission. It is a common mission, meaning it is God’s given to humanity. God says, “Be fruitful and multiply.” God tells humanity to take what he has made and make it better. This is a job description for creative work.
Out of our common union with God, we are given a common mission in the Cultural Mandate and the Great Commission. So, both creative and redemptive work are part of the common mission, are required of us today, and spring out of our common union with God through Christ. The mission has a people, and that people is the Church.