January has seen me preaching a short series about mission or more accurately about being missional and I want to share some of the ideas that lay behind the series to help resource others who want to do something similar. Inevitably some of what follows will be more sermon like and less nuanced than many blog posts; but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The word missional comes in for a bit of stick but I like it for three main reasons.
Joining in Jesus mission: Mission is not about us but is about God and how he allows us to join in with the mission of Jesus. We are enlisted to this as part of our calling to be followers of Jesus, something which is about every area of our lives and not just particular activities we might wish to categorise as ‘mission’ or ‘evangelism’.
Intentional: Missional implies deliberate steps with a purpose in mind. In the same way that something is educational because it helps educate us or helps in the process of education things can be missional because they awaken us to the God who calls us or because they help us in mission.
Relational: Maybe it’s my background but in the early stages of my Christian walk things were either focused on evangelism (where we were to explain ‘the gospel’ to people often by bashing them over the head with ‘the truth’ as if it were a thing) or mssion which was about good works dressed up as spiritual things. Missional implies something more relational; both in our relationships with other people but also in bringing people and situations into relationship with God. (OK, I know I’ve also grown to understand both evangelism and mission in more nuanced ways but you get the point).
Of course, one of the dangers of the word missional (and often mission) is that if everything can be described as missional then missional means nothing. But there is a place for helping all of us to see that every part of our lives is lived on a mission with Jesus, and that we should be both alert to the opportunities it presents and willing to intentionally pursue them.
Generalisations are dangerous but as I look out across the church I don’t often see a poverty of knowledge about Jesus as much as a poverty of action where we live like Jesus (in the sense of living out gospel values, not living in the style of a 1st Century itinerant preacher!).
It’s the practice of living we struggle with. Our vision of God is too small, our expectations are too low and our engagement is too feeble. As believers we have access into the presence of God, the depths of God are open to us because God invites us, welcomes us and reveals to us. And yet we can be trapped in the mundane and distracted by the inconsequential. God has, in Christ, set us on the right path again, reconciled us to a holy God, placed us in a relationship which is of greater depth and importance than the ability to pray for car parking spaces.
We need to recapture an excitement for the truth of who God is and what God has done in Jesus. We need to allow a new enthusiasm to be birthed in us so we share the story of what God has done in our lives with others. We need a fresh energy to plant seeds, living in a way that shows others aspects of God’s character.
Otherwise our epitaph will be like the Rev Alexander Cromleholme, rector of Sherington and Beachampton (died 1810) of whom it was noted approvingly that he was ‘pious without enthusiasm’
Over the next few blog posts we will examine some things which might help us be enthusiastic for mission.
What would encourage you to enthusiastically engage in mission?
Do you need a bigger vision of God?