by Rev. Algernon Lewis
Chairman of PEC
If my memory is accurate, we are in missionary season. Most congregations I know have their missionary service this time of the year. We grew up with the notion that mission is a fixed date on the calendar which is unlikely to change – 5th Sunday of September, 3rd Sunday of October and the like. But is it really? Can we localize missions to a day or ever a season?
How do we understand the great commission (Matthew 28:19-20), Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey every-thing that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. The great commandment is Jesus’ marching orders to the church, the called-out people of God, to get busy moving towards to the nations to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. That activity cannot be localized to a day, a month or a season. Missions is life. For us as Moravians, mission is who we are; the passion that burnt in the veins of our spiritual forebears.
Over the years, the term has become corrupted by religion. For some, missions has come to mean going afar to tell people about Jesus. It also has the connotation of summer trips for youth and others to do projects for people less fortunate.
There was also that added element of raising funds to support various purposes including propping up congregation’s budget. Missions has graduated to mean many things that are good and vital but not specifically intended under the great commission.
In recent years there is a movement to redefine what we are called to do as church. The term “missional” was introduced to help the church focus again on the great commission as found in Matthew 28. One might ask, “What is a missional church?” Great question! As usual, great questions do not always yield great answers. A missional church is many things. To my mind the missional church calls us to adjust our thinking and acting. We are well accustomed to speaking of the mission of the church. The missional church perspective does not focus on the church’s mission but the mission of God, the Missio Dei. To speak of the church’s mission is to speak about human endeavour. The mission of God begins with God. The missional church fundamentally believes that the mission of God has a church. The missional church seeks to actively discern what God is doing in the context and follow the lead of God. The mission of God informs everything – polity, worship, stewardship, discipleship among others. In the missional church there is a conversation between, the context, the church and God. The missional church sees itself not as sending but as a sent. It is sent to a broken world to bring a message of redemption, healing, justice, salvation and deliverance. The missional church is multi-dimensional, responding to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
So what does this mean for us? Before we become despondent, it is useful to note that we have been this way before. It was the mission of God that led our forebears to unknown paths to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was that same mission that caused them to focus on empowerment of people, invest in educating people of African descent and preach the gospel. Those were bold initiatives in their day as people of African descent we not seen as people and therefore could not be educated. They came to a broken place to give hope in the light of Jesus.
How can we do that this missionary season? How might we be more missional in our missionary efforts in 2019 and beyond? How might we bring hope to people around us who are marginalized? Are there people around us who have lost their voice and need our voice to be raised up for them? Where can we be present to the people in our various communities? God is not expecting massive programmes from us. God expects us to move away from missions that simply please us to missions that follow what God is doing in our context. For those who care to give this another thought, God will grant sight and insight into ways in which we might connect again to the needs and the people around us. As the mission of God becomes the driving force, survival becomes less of our concern. From this perspective, it will soon be clear that missionary is not a date on a calendar, not just a season but story of our lives. May the mission of God move us forward.