In the first chapter of The Soul of God, Ray Anderson gives voice to his responding to God’s invitation to enter into pastoral ministry. He draws on an example of how his father talked with him about involving him in ministry efforts while growing up – “Tomorrow, we will go to those who are like sheep without a shepherd and bring them to a safe place” (p. 17) – to describe how he sensed God’s call upon his life.
This “we” language of his dad’s, Anderson describes as “his language of love” (p. 14). His dad was intensely relational and he would often speak in terms of “we” “when speaking of his life and tasks including [Ray] as a participant. ‘We will plant corn in this field next year’” (p. 14). Anderson expresses that this “we” enabled him to realize that in his father’s eyes he “was not just a boy who carried his [father’s] lunch, but a partner in the family enterprise” (p. 14).
When Ray Anderson responded to God’s call upon his life, he came to realize that he was being included in the “we of God.” The “‘we of God’ reached out and included me” (p. 17). My notes in the margin express that this is what makes our callings intensely missional.
The “we of God” describes the perichoretic or relational understanding of Trinity. God is in three persons, but not in a static hierarchical relationship – rather God is involved in a divine dance – which is what Eugene Peterson describes as what is being expressed by perichoresis (cf. Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, pp. 44, 344 n15) in which “the divine modes of existence condition and permeate one another mutually with such perfection, that one is as invariably in the other two as the other two are in the one” (Peterson, p. 44, citing Karl Barth in Church Dogmatics 1/1, 425).
God is a “we” as much as God is “I AM.” And when God calls us to participate with God in the mission and ministry of God, we are invited into the “we” of God, invited into the “dance” of God. God reaches out and includes us in what God is doing in the world – we are integrally involved with God in God’s redemptive mission of reconciling humanity to God through Jesus Christ and restoring creation.
Ministry or mission is not a solitary venture, but inherently a deep participation with God and the purposes of God in the world. As Jesus promised his disciples, and us as well in Matthew 28, “I am with you always to the very end of the age.” We are included in the “we of God” as we respond to God’s invitation to participate with God in God’s mission! I cannot think of any better way of being human making a difference in our broken and alienated world.