In almost every church, organisation and para church group there is a little plaque somewhere with a statement about their mission. Maybe there's a five page document elaborating on it, explaining how they are going to achieve their goals and measure their success. But have you stopped to thinkâwhat actually is mission? What do we think of when we see this word that we so often bandy about?
As I see it, if we look at the definition of the word itself we see that mission is "The vocation or calling of a religious organisation, especially a Christian one, to go out into the world and spread its faith" (www.oxforddictionary.com).So you could say that mission is God's calling to Christians or to the church collectively.
I think this might satisfy the Google translators, but I feel there is something missing that is key to this idea. I think there is a deeper, richer and fuller way to understand the term mission.
Mission is at the heart of God
Growing up I had a fairly black and white view, and thought anyone involved in mission was a missionary. So I never saw myself as being a part of mission, because I wasn't a missionary.
Later on, I started to see mission as more of a mindset: every Christian could be a missionary if they as to intentionally spread the Gospel in their own context and environment.
Lately though, my refection and learning has taken me to a place where I feel mission is not so much a mindset as an outworking of the heart of God. I think mission is simply at the heart of God, and so we cannot separate being in relationship with him from being missional.
In 1931 Emil Brunner wrote, 'The church exists by mission the way fire exists by burning.' I don't think we can talk about mission separately from the heart of God: if we do, it's not mission any more. I think mission really is about more of a world view, or a way of being.
Mission is being sent and seeking connections
It is written that Jesus appeared to the disciples after the resurrection. In his greeting he said: "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (John chapter 20, verse 21). This really sums up what I think mission is all aboutâbeing sent, and going.
As the disciples were afraid when they first saw him resurrected, Jesus reminds his disciples of who he is, and in that moment he describes himself as a sent man and tells them we are now sent because of him.
The idea of being sent is in stark contrast to being withdrawn, or holding back. Jesus was all about being forward, seeking connection with people, wanting to build his relationships, and helping others to build and restore theirs.
It's this constant push for connection, to go into places to build connection, and helping others to do so: this is mission. This constant moving forward to connection. I really believe this is exactly what we are called to do.
Being withdrawn and retreating into our own selves and lives; staying within the safe huddle; not seeking out new relationships; or simply maintaining what is there. These are not only not mission, they are exactly what Jesus taught against.
In a way, this non-mission is what the Pharisees taughtâhow to maintain the 'right' way, how to keep what you've got. If people want to join in they can, but they must come to usâit will not be us going out and seeking connection. I think it all comes down to who seeks who. Either we seek the other, or they have to seek us.
So then, what is mission? I think mission is all about God seeking connection with others, and so, as Christians filled with God's Spirit, we seek connections with others as well.
Are we seeking connections?
Think about this: when you or the people in your church pray, do you ask for people to be brought in to the church or into God's Kingdom? Do you pray at arm's reach for God would send workers out? '...for the fields are white for the harvest but the labourers few' (Luke chapter 10, verse 2).
Or, do you pray while making connections, helping restore relationships and creating new links in your community? In other words, are you praying people will come to youâor praying as you go out to people?
Michael Enderby is currently an Intern with SU Victoria in their schools program, while studying a Diploma of Youth Work with Praxis Victoria. He has a heart and a passion for walking alongside youth and helping them realise their potential. He resides in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Michael Enderby's personal blog is here http://www.scot262wh.wordpress.com
His previous articles are at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/michael-enderby.html