As Pauline and I attended the Baptist Assembly in Peterborough last weekend, on several occasions we heard a phrase that has become very familiar to us over the last fifteen years. Speaker after speaker pointed out, in one way or another, that Christian mission is about discerning what God is doing and joining him in it.
Revd Mark Ord, director of BMS World Mission explained that at the start of the 20th century, theologians and churches typically talked about ‘the Church’s mission’. Nobody talked about ‘God’s mission’.
By 1950, we weren’t so sure. Two world wars had undermined the Church’s confidence in its mission, and theologians started talking about ‘Missio Dei’ – Latin for ‘the mission of God’.
Fast forward to the 21st century, and that has become the emphasis of most key Christian thinkers and leaders.
Mark argued, however, that modern-day secularism and consumerism often hinders us from recognising when God is at work. As a result, we still talk about mission as if it’s something that the Church does and asks God to join in with, rather than being about what God does in his world, which he invites us to join him in.
As we prepare for our church Awayday on June 16th, it’s worth remembering the example of Jesus. He had a mission, which he expressed in Luke 4 as ‘bringing good news to the poor… proclaiming release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, letting the oppressed go free, proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favour.’
But even Jesus said that he only did what his Father told him to do. Even Jesus’ mission was directed by his Father. Surely that is an example that we should follow.
Today we celebrate Pentecost – the day that God’s Holy Spirit came upon the Church to empower us for God’s work in a broken world. It marks the day, not when God’s Church was given a mission, but when – to borrow Mark Ord’s closing reflection on the subject – God’s mission was given the Church!
With my love and prayers