Our friend, Mark Stevens, down under in Adelaide, a wonderful spot on God’s green earth, wrote up this sermon and passed it on to me… I like it. I hope you do too. [By the way, Yes, I’d be glad to take a gander at your sermons for publication here.]
One cold winter’s eve a world renowned scholar and missiologist was invited to speak to our church about Mission. As the pleasantries were dispensed with, the speaker invited questions. One person asked what he and everyone else considered a polite, fair, and reasonable question to get things started. The expert was horrified and offended that the man could be so rude. How dare he ask such a thing! The conversation moved on but the night never really recovered. It is rumoured the well-known missiologist still complains about THAT night and THAT question!
So what is the question I hear you ask? What is mission?
I wonder if the missiologist was so stunned to be asked such an easy and straightforward question that he had assumed the man was being rude and “taking the mickey” as they say. But it should never be assumed that we know the answer to this very important question.
If we are going to take seriously the words of Jesus to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength and love our neighbour as ourselves then at some point we are going to be confronted with what this means for mission and Global mission in particular.
According to our good friend Scot McKnight Mission began with the words of Jesus in Matthew 4:18ff, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men”. It was clear from the outset that when Jesus called someone to be his disciple he was not calling them to a religious life but a life devoted to mission. He wasn’t calling them to the Temple, to Torah, but a life of active discipleship.
In Acts 1:8 we see that just before his ascension Jesus spoke to his disciples and told them that they would be witnesses of him in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. You and I sit here this morning because the first followers of Jesus took seriously the words of Jesus to go into the entire world!
And then in Acts 2, on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was gifted to God’s people to enable them to participate in the ongoing mission of God in the world. From the day of Pentecost the people of God became a missionary movement that has been forever expanding or “going out” from its centre.
Part of what it means to live faithfully as God’s people is to live as one’s sent out into the world, to avail ourselves to God in his ongoing mission and ministry in the world. But here is what I think – Mission is not something we do for God. It is not something we initiate and then invite God to participate in. Mission is what God is already active and at work doing in our world right now. The mission of God is something that we participate in on a daily basis. As we go about our lives at home, at work, at play, on the weekend and in the community of God’s people; our witness together grounds us as witnesses in the story and the practice of God’s mission.
As you and I live out the Jesus Creed – This love God Love others way of life – we give witness to God’s reign and his Kingdom. Think about it; God loves us so we love God in return. Not a wimpy half-hearted kind of love but a wholehearted passion for Jesus. God loves others so we love others. Not a pick and choose kind of love but an all-embracing all-encompassing kind of love. How we live gives witness to what we believe is true about God!
There are times when I wonder if we avoid mission because we think that God will call upon us to go door to door or stand on street corners. If we become too passionate and to in love with Jesus that he will send us into the Mall to proclaim his kingdom! Or, if God really wants to have fun with us he will send us overseas to land without toilets or clean water! However, I would argue that our participation in God’s mission is a natural part of who we are as God’s people. This doesn’t mean it’s comfortable. Since the day of Pentecost the mission of God has been an outward movement. It moves outward while somehow keeping Christ at the centre.
In closing, I would say the following to the question, “What is mission?” I’m wondering what you think of my answer to the question? Do you agree or disagree?
- Firstly I would say it is God’s mission not ours.
- Mission is the retelling or proclamation of the gospel (the story of Jesus).
- Mission is done as we live out the Jesus Creed. As we love God with everything we have and as we love our neighbour we are doing mission. We are giving witness to who the story and the truth of the story.
- Mission is an outward movement. It never stops moving outward from its centre which is Jesus Christ.
- Mission is something we are all invited, commanded even, to participate in.
When Jesus asked his disciples to follow him, when he asked them to lay down their lives and then sent them out to proclaim the Kingdom he was asking them to give witness to himself. As we live out the Jesus Creed in everyday life we make ourselves available to participate in the ongoing mission of God in this world.
Mission then is giving witness to who Jesus is through the proclamation of what we believe lived out in our daily actions; actions of loving God and loving others! Mission takes place in the everyday and ordinary. It is local and global – It involves our worship and devotion as well as our outreach and love to neighbour. The church becomes the foundation and anchor point for the continual retelling and celebration of the gospel story. The world, all of it becomes the context in which we live out the ongoing story of the gospel as participation in God’s Mission and Ministry in the world!