I enjoy the stuff over at NextReformation, especially getting deeper into the concept of mission and missions. The church IS A MISSION. We participate in the story of God for the world. And yet, the church is involved IN MISSIONS. We have a food bank and we do outreach in the community. And it’s interesting pondering what the whole point is of the church without some kind of dance between these two concepts…what the church is and what the church does. The author of NextReformation is Len Hjalmarson in British Columbia, Canada. He’s making me think.
I’ve had the following couple of paragraphs from his blog on my radar for over a week now.
Newbigin distinguished between missions and mission. The church both “does mission” and “is a mission.” Missions are specific activities undertaken by a human decision to bring the gospel to places or situations where it is not heard. These efforts have quantifiable results. But while missions activities are a part of healthy churches, they do not adequately describe the fullness of God’s work in the world.
The concept of missio Dei, however, captures Newbigin’s wider intention. The mission of the church is less a “missionary mandate” than a participation in the ongoing work of redemption. The missio Dei is God’s mission – the grand story of creation, fall, and redemption. And it is a “story,” not a list of propositions. Propositions are helpful in particular times and places, but are enculturated by language and ethos. The story, however, rooted in time and place, transcends both. When we attempt to export a set of propositions from one time and place to another, we are usually operating in a colonial mode.”
Now, the question I have, as I ponder this at 11:45 PM on a Thursday night is… “Can the church have an adequate understanding of the MISSION of the church without a grounding in MISSIONS?” My hunch is that it is only when grounded in “mission work” can the church understand the mission of God. I think this means that the church (and my church) has its work cut out for them (and us).