The Church Mission Society emerged from an informal mission community, the so called Clapham Sect. This group of people met together, ate and prayed together, and were in and out of each other’s homes. It was energetic group of diverse, influential leaders being shaped by God’s mission in Christ. Led by the Spirit they set up CMS to work for social and moral reform in the UK, to spread the Gospel in Africa and Asia, and to abolish the slave trade.
Since those early day over 10000 people have crossed cultures and continents to share the Good News of Jesus through CMS. Importantly, they’ve been supported not simply by the CMS organisation but by the wider CMS community. In fact, for many to join CMS isn’t just a membership commitment but rather a welcome into a mission family that understands and values them and sees mission as much bigger than any human enterprise. That’s why I’m delighted by a renewed CMS emphasis on regular people putting the call into action wherever they made be.
The development of new creative Christian communities is vital in the West for the proclamation and demonstration of the Gospel. As CMS began to encourage emerging church movements and pioneers working in the UK, we realised we needed to re-imagine and re-define what membership of CMS means. We were keen to continue to encourage all followers of Jesus to play an active role in mission both locally and globally. As we became an acknowledged community by the Church of England, CMS UK has been recognised as being a community that encourages the wider church into mission.
We wanted to renew the idea that membership in CMS means participating, praying and learning in God’s mission together – and by doing these things we grow as a true community with a contemporary purpose. Developing a missional lifestyle is key to our community and our discipleship. Whilst many of our older members radiate this practice, newer members are attracted by the offer of belonging to such an intentional mission community with a global as well as a local outlook.
ALWAYS BEST IN COMMUNITY
Community is the enabler of mission. When we’re talking about the ‘belong’ of mission, we’re not just talking about belonging to a nice social club. Mission always happens best in community. Think of the early church in Acts. Sure, there were some key leaders who played important roles, but when 3000 people came to faith, they were “added to their number” – they were welcomed into a community. And in many cases today, people come to faith and experience the richness of God’s Kingdom by being accepted within a community – oftentimes, ‘belonging’ actually happens before people come to believe in Jesus. Without a community to welcome people into, mission doesn’t happen.
Community is also the context of mission. Too often we desire to be more missional, but we can feel alone in it – honestly, it can be pretty crippling. Going out and finding ways to engage your neighbourhood by yourself can be discouraging and difficult. If it all rests of your shoulders, it often amounts to little. Mission happens best when a group of people – a ‘missional community’ if you will – has decided that together they’ll reach out to a particular location or group of people. Synergy is created by engaging together. My weaknesses are overcome by your strengths and vice versa. By working together, we can do significantly more than if each of us went about it alone. How sad is it, then, that many who are passionate about mission in our backyards feel so alone and isolated in it!
So let’s remember, we’re all called to belong to God’s family of mission.
Paul is the Director of International Mission for CMS UK. He’s previously worked as an economist, a church planter and helped lead a drug rehabilitation project in South Asia.
What difference does (or would) belonging to a mission-focused community make for you?
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 belonging?