In preparation for our retreat last weekend the vestry and I read Peter Steinke’s book, A Door Set Open. In the book Steinke places significant emphasis on “Mission.”
Our retreat was led by Jim Gettel a consultant who has worked with me in the past. I find Jim’s approach to leadership, scripture, faith, discipleship, and mission inspiring.
I have pondered mission for the better part of the past eleven years. What does mission really mean?
I began my journey pondering mission with books by Diana Butler Bass: From Nomads to Pilgrims and Christianity for the Rest of Us. Her work has been transformational for me, and has inspired much of the work I have done in congregations.
Nonetheless, I have found a need to have someone who remains outside the congregation, someone not me guide the leadership through the work needed to move into a missional mode. It’s not that this work is impossible for a priest/rector/pastor to do. It’s just that as a solo priest/pastor I am pulled in many directions and stretched thin, which makes it difficult to maintain momentum in building a missional focus.
Jim guided us, using scripture, through a series of reflections on what it means to be a disciple – to follow Jesus. Much of his focus is linked to this idea, found in A Door Set Open, referring to David Bosch’s book, “Transforming Mission.” Steinke writes:
The Great Commission, Matthew 28:18-20, was not understood to be primarily about mission until the early nineteenth century. Before then, the verses were read as part of the rite of baptism. Biblical scholarship has revealed that the mandate “God!” is not in the original Greek. It is a participle – “GOING.” The translation would be “as you go.”…as you live, as you go about your daily work, as you move to new settings, as you join or create new communities of discipleship’s, as you fulfill your vocation as a follower of Jesus – you shall be witnesses.
But, still I wonder, “What is mission?”
Mission is the nature of the church, not some list of qualifiers. Because God has a mission, a church arises. Apart from mission, the church is meaningless. The mission has churches….the word mission means – “sending.” ….Missiologist David Bosch write, ‘Mission is the church sent into the world to love, to serve, to preach, to teach, to heal, to liberate.’
Using the reading of the Good Samaritan, Jim asked us to think about “Who helped,” and “Who is our neighbor?” Of course help came from the one who was not bogged down by the “law,” nor by the one locked into doing things according the status quo, but by the one who acted out of compassion and love, the stranger, the foreigner, the one willing to “do.”
Mission is the church willing to do: to love God and to love neighbor, to love with abundant hospitality.
Our next step is to figure out just what it means “to do.” In particular, what we are to do.
This Sunday the readings from scripture will focus on the transfiguration of Jesus. In this reading Peter wants to stay put, to build three tents, to keep everyone right they are.
But Jesus says that staying put is not what we are called to do. We are called to Go. And as we go, we are called to love. To go and love as God loves, generously, graciously, compassionately, completely.
This, then, is what is meant by mission. Going, and, loving as we go.