Public Bus Missiology

Have you ever had a moment where the Word of God simply opens up before your eyes? I will never forget the day when I was sitting on the back of public bus in Athens – after just a short season doing missions in Greece – praying to the Lord that He would guide me in the mission He had called me to do.

I was taken by surprise when almost immediately after my prayer, the Scripture in Ezekiel 37 started unfolding in my mind. In it, the Holy Spirit showed me a few crucial steps in accomplishing His mission. So here are some crucial Missiological steps from the back of a bus for fulfilling your mission as found in Ezekiel 37.

1. Missio Dei (God’s Mission) – In Ezekiel 37:1 we read, “The hand of God was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.” The first step towards completing the mission is to understand that the mission itself belongs to the Lord. The mission is God-intended, God-dependent and God-initiated.

Missio Dei is the Missiological understanding that it is not the Church that has a mission, but it is the Mission of God that has a Church. In the concept of Mission Dei the Church of Christ is an instrument used by God to reach and fulfill his ultimate purpose, the establishment of the Kingdom of God and the redemption of all who believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In this 1st verse we that God initiated the prophet Ezekiel’s mission. It was initiated and intended by God that the prophet would go to a valley of dry bones. “He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley.”  In the Missio Dei, God is the one who sends. He calls and only He can fulfill that calling (1Thess 5:24). It is not up to the missionary to choose when to be called and where to go, but it’s birthed in God who will also see to fulfill that calling.

David Bosch, an influential Missiologist writes, “Our mission has not life of its own: only in the hands of the sending God can it truly be called mission. Not least since the missionary initiative comes from God alone … Mission is thereby seen as a movement from God to the world; the church is viewed as an instrument for that mission. There is church because there is mission, not vice versa. To participate in mission is to participate in the movement of God’s love toward people, since God is a fountain of sending love.”

The missionary task is as reflection of God’s character. God himself is a missionary; Jesus left his culture and heaven to live in a different context among people of a different culture. Learning that God is the initiator of the Mission is the 1st crucial step towards completing the mission.

2. Contextualization – In Ezekiel 37:2 we read, “He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.” The 2nd crucial step towards completing the mission is contextualization. Contextualization refers to how the missionary identifies and communicates to those in the foreign culture.

 We see in this 2nd verse that the prophet and missionary Ezekiel was inserted and very close to those he would minister to. Back and forth he engaged the culture and was able to notice very particular details concerning those around him. For example, he noticed that the bones “were very dry.” Only a missionary who takes time to build personal relationships can notice certain details in the target culture.

In Contextualization, the target culture is accepted and relationships with locals are nurtured. The lifestyle and social values brought from home are restricted to the things that are not offensive to the locals and even thought the physical, cultural and linguistic limitations are apparent, the aim is always to progress.

The right approach of the foreign culture can either make our break the missionary effort. Over the years we have seen the Missionary Movement struggle with trying to find the right behavioral attitude in missions. But recently, Cultural Anthropology has provided us with tools to understand ourselves and the foreign culture in a missionary context.

Throughout history the focus of Missions has changed and we have learned, through contextualization, to relate, engage and influence individuals without infringing in their culture. God loves cultural diversity and heaven is a place for individuals of all tribes, nations, peoples and tongues. Learning to contextualize your life and message is the 2nd crucial step towards completing the mission.

3. Faith – In Ezekiel 37:3 we read, “He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” The 3rd crucial step towards completing the mission is the element of faith. In this step we see the prophet/missionary Ezekiel acknowledging that only God could revive that valley of dry bones.

Faith in God alone is crucial because it gives us the right mindset and understanding of who we are, and who God is in the mission context. Through faith and dependency on God we are constantly reminded that we are called as co-laborers. To co-labor means to work alongside of another, in this case, God himself. God initiates the mission and calls us to believe in the work that He’s doing.

The mission of God will always be greater than ourselves and the philosophical possibilities of what we can achieve. We are called to take part in a higher calling (Philippians 3:14) and acknowledge, as Ezekiel did, that only God can breathe new life to the dead. The mission is useless without the element of faith in the power of God.

It is important to keep this step in the forefront of our strategic planning to ensure that our vision is completely and exclusively dependent on God. It has been said that mission’s success should not be measured by quantitative results but by faithfulness to the Lord for only through faithfulness we can complete His mission. Being dependent of God for everything is the 3rd crucial step towards completing the mission.

4. Declaring the Word – In Ezekiel 37:4 we read, “The he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!”. After understanding the Mission of God, contextualizing our lives, and being dependent on the Lord, he calls us to declare His Word.

The Word of God is a crucial step for it is the very life to those who are spiritually dead. The declaration of the Word should be the main focus of all mission endeavors regardless of the approach, budget or geographical location. We are reminded in the Great Commission that our mission is to teach the Word, regardless of the way we do it.

Only the Word of God has the power to revive, heal and restore. It is through the Word of God that the Kingdom of God is established and His purposed is fulfilled. We read in Matthew 4:23 that “Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom and healed every disease and sickness among the people.” God’s truth causes change when it is faithfully declared. The declaration may be done in different ways, but the missionary is ultimately called to communicate the truth of God’s Word.

It was only after the prophet/missionary Ezekiel obeyed the call to declare the Word that change was brought to the mission field he was in. Declaring the Word of God is the 4th crucial and final step towards completing the mission.

A missionary is an ambassador; he is a herald with the mission to bring the message of God’s love to those who haven’t heard. He realizes that he is an instrument and only a part of a greater mission, so he strives to identify and communicate with those around him, all-the-while having the faith that only God is able to produce change through His Word.

Public Bus Missiology is a lesson learned in the midst of the valley of dry bones. It is a revelation that “the one who calls you is faithful to fulfill.” 1Thess 5:24