THIS ARTICLE IS BY ZACH BRADLEY, DIRECTOR OF CONTENT STRATEGY.
You can always count on Upstream pointing you to great books. One that played a key role in the writing of our book, The Sending Church Defined, was Michael Reeves’ Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith. Reeves is the Director of Union Theology, teaches at Union School of Theology in Wales, and has authored several other books. His text on the Trinity has gotten rave reviews in theological circles and, in our opinion, also has much to say to sending churches.
I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “You should pick up this book!” from pastors before I finally got around to reading it. I had put it off until the time was ripe for a little Crossfit-for-the-brain, as most works on the Trinity seem to cause. Imagine my surprise when I found it to be light in both content (only 135 pages) and presentation (the first subtitle is “Here Be Dragons”). After the Introduction alone I was scratching my head because, well, I wasn’t yet scratching my head over theological words that sound made up. And Reeves won my heart when he said that the whole intent the book was “to have your heart won and yourself refreshed” over the enjoyment of God as Trinity (9). I thought, “Is this really a book on the Trinity?”
Even still, I had no hint that it would be missiologically significant. In my habitual compartmentalization I was now expecting a devotional read at best. Then I hit this quote:
The Son is the image of God, perfectly showing us what his Father is like…And so, as he gloriously goes, shines and radiates out from his Father, he shows us that the Father is essentially outgoing. It is unsurprising that such a God should create…The God who loves to have an outgoing Image of himself in his Son loves to have many images of his love (who are themselves outgoing).The Father loved him before the creation of the world, and the reason the Father sends him is so that the Father’s love for him might be in others also. That is why the Son goes out from the Father, in both creation and salvation: that the love of the Father for the Son might be shared (43-44).
Reeves was speaking my language. The doctrine of the Trinity has everything to do with sending. Now, I recognize it’s currently trendy to take whatever you’re talking about and root it in the Trinity. That’s not necessarily a bad thing—except when it’s a stretch just to sound theologically thoughtful (i.e. You should have three cups of coffee each day in honor of the Trinity…). That’s why we wanted to be careful in the writing of The Sending Church Defined as we hashed out the sent nature of the church. The question became, “Is sending part of the intrinsic nature of the Triune God, or are we just pushing a missions agenda?” It was a tricky one, and Reeves helped us answer it.
The most foundational thing in God is not some abstract quality, but the fact that he is Father…For when John writes God is love at the end of [1 John 4:8], he is clearly referring to the Father. His very next words, in verse 9, state: This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son. The God who is love is the Father who sends his Son. To be the Father, then, means to love, to give out life, to beget the Son. Before anything else, for all eternity, this God was loving, giving life to and delighting in his Son (23, 26).
So sending flows from the very character of God as a loving, outpouring Father. What he shared for eternity within Father, Son, and Spirit then billowed over to be shared with us. To make sending more than that would be to say that God perhaps wasn’t complete in himself and needed to send for room service. To make it less would miss the best part of Trinitarian theology.
Now that’s a God to win your heart—and One who can compel your church that it is her very nature to send into the neighborhoods and the nations. That’s why we recommend this book.
Photo by Jared Erondu on Unsplash