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Reclaiming the Discipleship Roots of CMS (Issue 24)

Two thousand years ago the world’s true ruler came declaring that the Kingdom of God was at hand. He explained – and demonstrated – what that Kingdom looks like. He died for our sins and rose to inaugurate that Kingdom. But rather than continuing to gather followers and spread the Kingdom himself, he did something peculiar. He told his followers that they were the ones to continue his mission, and central to their mission was this thing called discipleship (Matthew 28:19).

Discipleship is central to mission. As Dallas Willard said, “The church is for discipleship, and discipleship is for the world.” But where does this group called CMS, the Church Missionary Society, fit into the picture?

To be honest, we’ve wondered that ourselves. We’ve wondered where we fit in and alongside the Kiwi Church. And we’ve been wondering how we can make discipleship central to who we are and how we operate.

Back to our roots

As it turns out, when CMS was launched over two hundred years ago, discipleship was already central to our vision, values, models and methods. So when we say we’re making discipleship central, we’re actually talking about reclaiming something of our original DNA. We’re reclaiming this same focus for a changing world and a new generation.

The early CMS didn’t just send people overseas. Joining CMS meant being committed to mission everywhere, whether in deepest Africa or the streets of London. And ‘local’ and ‘global’ weren’t seen as opposed, but two sides of a single coin. After all, can you really say you value God’s mission if you only care about your own neighbourhood or focus only on the other side of the world? That’s why the early CMS sent people from within the community to the farthest reaches, and why they fought the slave trade in England – Wilberforce was one of CMS’ founders you know.

To join CMS meant to be part of a missional community who were together learning what it meant to follow a missional God. And that’s what emerged in New Zealand in the 1940s. Young evangelicals from various churches, calling themselves the NZCMS League of Youth, started gathering to explore all things mission. A movement was born. Passion for mission and the Gospel resulted in many people coming to Christ or going deeper in their faith. And from among the community people were sent into the nations. The League eventually waned, but we hope to see a new movement with that same passion raised up, one that suits our post-modern, post-Christian context.

From Agency to Community

Today NZCMS is typically seen as being a mission agency. We may send people to other countries, but ‘agency’ isn’t the right word to describe us. We’re the Church Missionary Society. First and foremost, we’re supposed to be a society, a community centred on God and his mission. We’re not an organisation you support or a list of missionaries for the church wall, but a community you belong to – a community made up of people across different churches, united by a passion for local and global mission.

How should this look in the 21st century? To be perfectly honest, we don’t fully know yet. Yet we sense God is moving us from functioning like an agency to being a nation-wide missional community once again.

So maybe the question isn’t so much where we fit, but where you fit.

The answer is to become CMS, not just support CMS. Because CMS isn’t, at its core, an office or an agency. CMS is you. It’s you aligning yourself to God’s missional Kingdom purposes and joining others who are on that same journey. It’s about becoming part of a movement that reaches beyond your local efforts to the farthest corners of the earth – because mission here should inspire mission there, and vice versa.

We’re exploring what the Society across the nation could become, seeking to develop and nurture purposeful missional communities. How are we to pass on the rich missional heritage to the emerging generations? How can we invite those God leads us to journey with us in our missional engagement? Can we be a community from which people are sent? All across the country I meet young adults seeking missional-direction. The challenge is finding mentors and coaches willing to journey with and open their lives to these people. We desperately need ‘discipleship incubation centres,’ missional hubs and communities: homes, café groups, small gatherings and churches seeking to shape the next generation of mission workers.

We’ve already started reclaiming this emphasis on discipleship. We’ve launched an online ‘community’ that hopes to engage young adults in an on-going missional conversation (nzcms.org.nz/hashtag). We’ve re-invented our Haerenga Mission Internship as an apprenticeship, reclaiming discipleship through imitation by placing people serious about cross-cultural mission under an active missionary (nzcms.org.nz/haerenga). We’re developing resources to equip you in your local efforts (nzcms.org.nz/intermission). We’re finding ways to expand our regional efforts. And we’re preparing to launch a new initiative for anyone seeking intentional missional discipleship that integrates into their daily lives.

Friends, we’re enthused by the journey God has us on of re-discovering our discipleship roots. Rather than say ‘will you join us’, I want to say:  ‘How can we join you?’ That is, how can we partner with you to deepen and further your missional efforts? We want to resource you, encourage you, challenge and equip you to participate in mission-focused communities wherever you are, and in doing so see you flourish as the Community of Mission Service. I’m looking for key people who want to be equipped to support and network local groups that are seeking to be intentional about living missionally. You may be a NZCMS faithful, you might be discovering who NZCMS is for the first time. No matter your journey, we look forward to where God is leading us together.

To find out how we can partner in mission, email me at steve@nzcms.org.nz

 

For discussion

What would it mean for your group to belong to this ‘community of mission service’?

What do you think CMS could look like in 21st century New Zealand?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.