Dear <<First Name>>
I sometimes get a very funny look when I say that I have a bit of a problem with the word mission. Don’t get me wrong – most of the things we do that we call ‘mission’ are great. But we have rather come to use the term to cover absolutely everything. We often ask: “what is the ‘mission’ of your local church?” We often say: “We should be more concerned about ‘mission’!” We often resolve: “Let’s call it a ‘mission committee’ to help us focus…” and so on.
And yet, what are we doing when we take the Latin translation of a Greek word that, in the New Testament, only gets used for the sending of the Son and the Holy Spirit out into the world? Why do we use it to construct an entire edifice of Church life? Following Jesus and the Spirit out into the world is, of course, a wonderful thing to do, but when a word begins to mean almost anything, it can mean nothing.
I have found myself in recent years talking, perhaps more cumbersomely, about the “Worship, Witness, Service and Evangelism” that make up the call of the Church. There is nothing new or radical in doing that – these are words, and ideas, that folk have used for millennia. I do find that they point us more directly and concretely to those elements of the life of the Church that are vital.
Everything we are and do is rooted in our worship, which, as Andy Braunston helps us see in his reflections on worship over the next week, shapes and forms us into the people God would have us be.
Evangelism is also utterly central to our call as a Church – if we are not proclaiming the good news and baptizing new Christians we are failing to offer a fullness of life and human flourishing to all we encounter. We would do well to reflect far more carefully on this as a tradition, which Nick Stanyon helps us do in his series of reflections.
We are nothing if we are not giving witness to the Good News in the midst of the world – seeking to ensure the values of the Kingdom shape life in the world today as much as possible. Roo Stewart spends a week enabling us to ponder helpfully, with reference to some of the work of the Joint Public Issues Team what shape our call to witness might take.
Service is where the Gospel takes concrete form in the way in which we serve all those made in the image of God (ie everyone!) as we encounter them and their needs in the life of God’s world. Marie Trubic concludes this series and helps us reflect from the perspective of a Church Related Community Worker on how we might embody this.
It becomes so easy to subsume everything under that word ‘mission’, and actually hide away from our central call – or hide away from aspects of it that we are less comfortable with than others. Without any of these dimensions of the life of the Church we are not fully who we are called to be, and I pray that this series will focus our minds on these primary elements of the call to be the Church and individual disciples.
The Rev’d Dr John Bradbury,