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.
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?