We can’t talk about global mission without talking about the local church. When all the paraphernalia of mission agencies is removed the call to share the good news and make disciples is a call to the church. I’ve blogged before (here) about some practical steps churches can take to get involved in global mission but wanted to suggest a way of thinking about it more generally.
I know that lots of churches don’t pay much attention to the historic creeds (I’m a British Baptist after all) but they give us a helpful framework in their description of the church as being ‘holy, catholic and apostolic’.
Local churches are communities of disciples; we teach people to live by the story of Scripture, to become Jesus shaped as they follow the One revealed in the gospels. We are communities of those set apart (in baptism) to be servants of God, to witness to God’s grace, love and mercy wherever we are. We are to be salt and light in the world, people who seek God’s justice and faithfully embody these things in our lives of worship. We seek to help others join us and become disciples of Jesus themselves.
All mission starts by us being faithful followers of Jesus and the incubator for this is the local church.
We are part of the universal people of God, spread across the world and throughout time. As such we are called to a life of Unity in Christ. In the UK we are used to being part of a church group / denomination and local ecumenical groups. Globally we express it by building relationships with churches in other parts of the world. In the past this needed to be through organisations and mission agencies, but increasingly we can build relationships directly.
Mission recognises that we are part of a global church. And that at God’s communion table, we are all equal and that the table manners are not western.
We are a faith which looks to live in continuity with the Apostles. Our lives are based on the same teaching, handed down to us in Scripture, and we join them in wanting to see the gospel proclaimed everywhere.
There are numerous places in the world where the church is not strong; not just among ‘unreached’ peoples, but in our own country and community. A local church should be concerned about reaching its neighbours and its nation, just as much as the ‘far’ places on the globe. One of the ways that it can show that concern is by supporting work in these areas and, where this is not local to them, by sending people to live and work there.
Mission is about sharing the good news of the kingdom of God, and churches have a role to play in seeing this done in every corner of the world. Sometimes they will work to encourage others, other times rather than supporting others, they will do this by sending people to share in the work.
Any church looking to take global mission seriously also needs to take local mission seriously. Growing disciples and seeing them transformed by God; developing relationships among the people of God locally, nationally and internationally; being true to the faith and working to see it take root in every location. In this sense mission is not an add-on, it is of the essence of being church.