Over the past six weeks we have been having “vision alignment sessions.” During these times we share a meal, pray, hear how God is active in our lives, hear Scripture, and discuss a topic relating to church planting: community, church, culture & values, and most recently mission. Before we began our conversations last Sunday, we watched a video on mission and heard a wonderful testimony of how one member from our church plant was connecting with her co-workers. Below are some thoughts on mission harvested from our session.
What does this have to do with Plant Medina? Our mission is to participate in the mission of God: of announcing the redemption that is only made possible in Jesus Christ. At Plant Medina this mission looks like an intentional desire to grow (mature) in our relationships:
- with God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (upward)
- with Family: biological and spiritual (inward)
- with Neighbor: actively and intentionally loving those in our broader community (outward)
Mission. It brings so many phrases to my mind: Military missions. A homeless mission. A mission trip. Local missions. Global missions. A corporate mission statement. Even evangelical church culture is catching on to the terminology. ”Mission” and “Missional” are now fashionable words (as is “community”) with churches that see the limited reach and depth in their current models of church. Churches large and small spanning across denominational lines are seeing the need to be “more mission focused” or “missional”, but what does it mean?
Mission does not begin with a mission statement, a program, a fad, a model of church, or a church growth agenda. Before the mission of the church (summarized in the Great Commission’s call to make disciples of Jesus Christ as we go) there was (and always will be) the Missio Dei: the mission of God. The one and only God who created the universe calls us to participate in HIS mission: creation, redemption, recreation. A movement of holy love from God to rescue humanity. The sending love of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit propels us to incarnate the Gospel with our lives in the places we find ourselves. Our mission field is all around us.
Mission isn’t about a specialized ministry that a pastor does in the church or a short-term trip to an exotic part of the world. Mission is about being a disciple of Jesus Christ. If there is a “priesthood of all believers” then certainly why not a “missionhood” of all believers. Making disciples and mission are like peanut butter and jelly: they were meant to go together. The Anglican Mission has a saying , “everyone has a mission.” We all are called into the mission of God in a particular context. What area of town do you have a burden for? Do you desire a certain network of people to come to know Jesus? Do you want to see marriages healed, drunks delivered, the poor fed, single moms and widows cared for, young men find purpose and meaning, or some other context that you can incarnate (be like Jesus to)? The good news is that we are not alone in mission! We have the Holy Spirit guiding us, comforting us, empowering us. And we have each other, the Church – TOGETHER participating, resourcing, networking, and supporting each other in mission.
Follow up Questions:
- What are examples of “mission” in the Bible?
- How do Discipleship and Mission relate to one another?
- What are some mission contexts that you would like to reach in Medina County? What are you going to do about it?
Yesterday we began a series of “vision alignment” discussions where we will be discussing some of the dynamics of our church plant. Due to people’s schedules, summer vacation, and jobs I am going to be doing video recaps to try to summarize some of what we talked about.
Before you watch the video below, I recommend you revisit one of our previous posts, a video post on Airplanes and Missional Community . This will help give you a context for the recap video.
In the coming weeks we will be discussing the following topics: church, values and culture, Anglican distinctives, worship, and leadership. You can download our “roadmap to retreat” for more information.
“The calling of the church in every culture is to be mission. That is, the work of the church is not to be an agent or servant of the culture. The churches’ business is not to maintain freedom or to promote wealth or to help a political party or to serve as the moral guide to culture. The church’s mission is to be the presence of the kingdom. . . . The church’s mission is to show the world what it looks like when a community of people live under the reign of God.”
- Robert Webber in The Younger Evangelicals
One of the basic tenants of the Anglican Mission in the Americas is that everyone has a mission. But perhaps this intimidates most of us? After all, we aren’t all able to travel across the planet to share our faith. We aren’t all eloquent enough to preach evangelistic sermons in town squares. We aren’t all Seminary trained to give a defense for the hope we have in the face of professional atheists. We aren’t all Bible-college trained to be evangelists. After all … we are just moms and dads, sons and daughters, grandparents, brothers and sisters, students, and college drop-outs, construction workers, lawyers, business owners, recovering alcoholics, former drug users, medical professionals, retirees, single parents, and any other descriptor you want to use to describe your relationships, vocation, or ascribed cultural stereotypes.
But the good news is that mission doesn’t begin or depend on us or our abilities! Mission begins in the heart of the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Out of the core essence of who God is, love (1Jn4), He spoke forth the visible universe and made humanity as His special treasure, so that we could share in the unbroken love of his being. But though we have all gone astray from this initial gift of relationship by looking for love elsewhere, God has made a way for us to be restored and redeemed; that is to say, for us to find a reality-altering meaning for our lives, hope for the despair and suffering in the world, and freedom from the bondage of sin and death.
God has ripped open the veils of history, space and time and entered into our human narrative not as a spectator or distant deity but as one of us regular folks. Jesus became like us in our death, so we may be like Him in His life. Jesus entered into our human experience so that we may experience God’s love. Jesus as one of us means that Jesus was conceived as a human-person, born as a human-infant, raised as a human-child, died as a human-sacrifice for sin, risen from the grave as the only human-hope, and ascended as the human-advocate. Historically, mission has been about this, the redemptive work of the Triune God in human history.
Therefore, mission is not some trendy term that we throw around to describe an edgy outward focused Church. Mission is about helping ourselves to the ministry of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father. Mission is about sharing the love of Christ in the contexts that we find ourselves: PTA meetings, conferences, AA meetings, filing taxes, loving the poor, Airplane clubs, football games, baseball games, or wherever else you have a community outside the church. Mission is about being focused on something or someone outside of our immediate worshiping community. In our context that would be embracing our friends in Medina, OH with the radical love of Jesus where they are at. Mission changes people (including us in the Church), places (our neighborhoods, city, and county), and perspectives (how we view and value reality).
So the question isn’t what is your mission? But what is the context of your mission? Who needs a gentle word of comfort, who needs food, who needs a listener, who needs an advocate, who has a sinking marriage, who is dealing with alcoholism or sexual addictions, who is the guy or gal in the office that is unbearable? Everyone has a mission that is about announcing the Kingdom of God in the context of the relationships they find themselves a part of. This is why Jesus sums up the entire Law and the Prophets as this, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; AND love your neighbor as yourself.” (lk 10:27)
“And Jonah stalked to his shaded seat and waited for God
to come around to his way of thinking.
And God is still waiting for a host of Jonahs in their comfortable houses
to come around to his way of loving.”
– Thomas Carlisle in his poem “You Jonah”
Would it surprise you if I said my aim isn’t just to plant a church? Would it surprise you to find out that my hope is to see all the Medina churches (as well as ours) experience revival? Would it surprise you if what we sought to plant was the Kingdom of God?
What if what we sought to plant was best described as a movement? Not just a church planting movement. Not just an Anglican movement. But a movement that at its core is about announcing the Kingdom of God? One of my favorite parables of the Kingdom of God is when Jesus in Mark 4:26 says,
“The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”
In this parable there is an organic movement from the seed to the stalk to the head and finally to the full grain. The work of the farmer is to sow the seed, to watch ‘the earth produce of itself’, and to come and harvest when the grain is ripe.
In our context this would look like planting a seed in a garden and watching it grow and bear fruit. This is the movement of Plant Medina: A primitive vision (seed) of the Kingdom of God growing to maturity in the context of a Christian worshipping communities (garden) in Medina, OH that bears the fruit of the Holy Spirit (fruit).
So what is the seed? What is the garden? What is the fruit?
- The Seed – The seed is our identity. The seed is our vision. The seed is both who we are and who we hope to become. The seed is the promise of the Gospel: of redemption for our sins and sorrows, of growing into wholeness and healing, and of the promise of salvation from death.
- The Garden – The garden is the worshipping community. The garden is about where and how we gather together. The garden is growing as a community into the fullness of who Christ says we are. The garden is a safe place to work through brokenness and receive healing.
- The Fruit – The fruit is our values. The fruit is what others know us by. The fruit is for the sake of others. The fruit is what makes us distinctive among other belief systems.
So who was that “someone” in the parable that was sowing seed? Doesn’t it seem a bit unspecific and open-ended… “someone”? Why couldn’t that someone be me? Why couldn’t that someone be you? Why couldn’t that someone who was scattering the seed of the Gospel on the ground be our church? This brings us to the next post, “Everybody Has a Mission.”