Missional Postures

We’re All Called to Participate (Issue 29)

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Only about 10% of Kiwis go to church, and that number hasn’t changed in decades! The average church sees only about two (or less) people come to faith each year, and that’s while many others walk away from the faith. And importantly, up to 80% of Kiwis are beyond the reach of a Gospel witness – either they don’t know a committed Jesus-follower or their Christian friends haven’t shared the Gospel with them.

Why’s it like this? God doesn’t want anyone to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9) – so it’s not because God doesn’t want people to know him. Perhaps the problem is closer to home – people can’t believe if they haven’t been told (Romans 10:14), and sharing isn’t just the role of ‘professional Christians.’ We’re all called to be ambassadors for God, yet maybe many of us think we’re the exception. But we’re all called to participate – God wants an army of ambassadors, not just a few Generals.

EVERYONE GETS TO PLAY It’s easy to see things as ‘us’ and ‘them.’ The professional preacher and us normals. The gifted leader and those who are led. The ‘missionary’ and the ‘supporters’ back home. ‘They’ are the ones with the calling; we’re here to watch or help out. But we all have a role to play, each and everyone one of us. Some roles may seem dramatic and exciting, others may seem small and insignificant, but every follower of Jesus has a place – think of 1 Corinthians 12:12-26. And importantly, from God’s perspective, no role is more important.

Think about that. The missionary in China or Abu Dhabi is just as important in God’s mission as the little-ol’-lady who enables community by serving tea after church. If they’re both doing what God’s called them to, if they’re contributing what they’re capable, then God values it equally! So let’s not act as if some of us are ‘more important’ than others.

“All God’s kids get to play.” John Wimber built a movement on this principle: ministry and mission is something for us all, not just the ‘professionals.’ And it’s important to stress that we get to, not have to. Too often appeals to get involved are all about turning up the pressure. We’re made to feel guilty that we don’t preach to our neighbours, that we don’t volunteer at a soup kitchen, that we don’t feel called to travel overseas.

But God isn’t so much pressuring us to do more, but is inviting us to be involved in something life-transforming. It’ll take us closer to God, unite us in our communities, give us meaning and purpose, not to mention the eternal rewards we’ll reap (Matthew 25:20-23, 31-40). No one is excluded from the fun and joy of mission, even if it may be challenging.

God is welcoming us all to participate, not with a stern look of frustration at how little we’ve done, but with the hopeful excitement of a loving Father who’s delighted to share his greatest joy and passion with his kids!

AN ILLUSTRATION What’s it look like when everyone’s following their call to participate? Perhaps each person simply feels equipped and ready to live missionally in their local contexts: their workplace, school, family, neighbourhood. But sometimes it means finding ways to participate together. After all, mission happens best in community.

Our church has been putting this into action with a ‘church open day.’ One Sunday a year, the seats are cleared out and replaced with bouncy castles, candyfloss machines, a sausage sizzle, face-painting stations, manicure tables, ministry promo stalls. People from the community venture in – it’s less threatening and more inviting than a typical church service. Maybe they’ll stop and listen to someone sharing a testimony from the front. Maybe they’ll get into a deep conversation with a church member. Maybe they’ll join a programme our church offers. Maybe they’ll just grab a coffee and then disappear – but even so, our prayer is their view of ‘church’ and ‘Christians’ is softening.

Why are these powerful events? Community creates synergy. You didn’t have to be the gifted Gospel preacher or the one sharing a testimony. Regardless of your gifting and strengths, you have a role. Everyone is essential, the preacher as much as the one keeping the toilets clean! It’s the combined effort, not the work of any key player, that created a platform for us to engage our neighbourhood.

Sometimes we get to all participate together like this, the synergy of our efforts accomplishing more than we could alone. And sometimes being called to participate is about remembering that God’s invitation to engage in mission is always open to us whenever and wherever we are. Missional engagement is possible for each and every one of us.

We’re all invited to participate with God in what he’s doing, wherever we are!

 

For discussion Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 together. How does this passage speak to our equal invitation to participate in God’s mission?

As someone called to belong to God’s community of mission service, what’s his challenge to you and your group when it comes to participating?

We’re All Called (Issue 29)

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By Steve Maina (NZCMS National Director) 

I’m often asked to speak about mission. At churches, in small groups, in Bible College classes, that’s the topic they all want me to share about. But the word ‘mission’ carries a bit of baggage with it – we all have an understanding of what it means, and more importantly, of who’s called to be involved. And that’s a major question: is mission for a select few, or is it for you? Is it for us all? The question matters, because it determines whether or not you see yourself as essential to God’s mission in the world.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT ANYWAY?

Mission belongs to and originates from God. The Bible’s grand narrative has mission at the centre: from the start to the finish, Scripture is all about a God on a mission, a God seeking to redeem his whole creation through Christ from sin and evil. “God so loved the world that he sent…” (John 3:16). Mission flows out of God’s very heart.

God is a God of mission, and his Church is supposed to be the same. The Church doesn’t send some people with a special calling in missions; the Church itself is sent. As Emil Brunner said, “The church exists by mission as a fire exists by burning.” The Church is not and cannot be the Church unless it’s orientated around mission. Whether or not someone crosses cultural or geographic boundaries to pursue mission isn’t the issue. Wherever the Church is, it’s in God’s world and is supposed to be all about God’s mission. And here’s an important reminder: if you’re a follower of Jesus, you are the church!

NOT IF BUT WHERE

The question is not if I’m called but where I’m called. It’s time we stopped legitimising some places as ‘mission fields’ and others not. We’re sent to follow Christ as Lord in a broken world and to shine Christ’s light wherever we are.

We need to pause to ask God where our ‘wherever’ is supposed to be. It may mean leaving one’s own location (social, cultural, geographical, intellectual) to enter a new space we’re unfamiliar with. Maybe it’ll be found across an ocean, in a shift within your city or country, or simply by going out of your way to meet people you otherwise wouldn’t. Moving from the known to be with the other is exactly what Christ did. He emptied himself and left behind the glories of heaven to enter the darkness and poverty of our world (Philippians 2:5-8).

Or perhaps you’ve already discovered the ‘wherever’ that God’s called you to. But even there, maybe God’s opening new doors: opportunities with neighbours, workmates, family. Being sent by God isn’t so much about where you go, but the posture of your heart – people who know they’re ‘sent’ have a readiness deep within them for whatever God brings along.

MAKING MISSION THE CENTRE

For a while we’ve wrestled with the question: how can you sum up who NZCMS is and what we’re about? Many people view us as essentially a mission sending agency – an organisation that sends people overseas. That’s a big part of what we do, but the core of who we are is much deeper and bigger. Our purpose is to partner with the Church in order to make mission central for every follower of Jesus.

That’s it: Making Mission the Centre.

But if we’re to help believers discover what God’s mission is all about and how they can make it central to their entire lives, we need a shared understanding of what a missional follower of Jesus looks like. We’ve identified five postures – five lived-out attitudes – shared by people participating in God’s mission. These postures are the same whether you’re serving overseas or engaging here in New Zealand.

And we’ve not taken these out of thin air. These reach back at least as far as a NZCMS bookmark from 2008 that invited people to make four simple commitments: to keep informed, pray regularly, give generously and go willingly. The simplicity of this list was great and made clear that we all have a role to play, though unfortunately it implied that mission is ‘over there’ and not here; mission is for the go-ers meaning the rest of us are more-or-less merely senders. (We, of course, do need to be sending some people as Mission Partners to different parts of the world, which involves supporting, praying and financing their efforts. But all of us have a role to play in mission, not just supporting others in it.) So we’ve made some updates, keeping true to the list but making it clear that mission is for us all.

We’re all called to belong

We’re all called to participate

We’re all called to pray

We’re all called to give

We’re all called to Go

We’ve arranged this Intermission around these five missional postures, exploring what each can look like in hopes that you’ll join us in committing to living these out as best you can. That’s what it means to belong to the CMS family: it’s not about signing a piece of paper or a membership form but sharing this missional DNA.

Join us as we seek to Make Mission the Centre for every follower of Jesus.

 

For discussion

Are you familiar with the earlier four NZCMS commitments? Share what these meant in your journey of faith.

What would it mean for you, your group, your church to ‘Make Mission the Centre’? What challenges or obstacles might get in the way?