“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Monday, July 21, 2014

"God has a mission so the mission has a church"

A new friend, Rev. Phil Gale (husband of CBM's Luke 14 Director, Lindsey Gale), in one of our many great discussions, turned me on to the thinking of Bishop John McIntyre of the Anglican church.  His comments about the "missional church" were really interesting in particular as they relate to ministry that includes persons with disabilities.  I quote Bishop McIntyre from an article in the July 2014 issue of TMA (The Melbourne Anglican, p. 11).  All emphases are added by me.

"To be a missional church, he said, was "simply in integretity to be Christlike and in grace point to Jesus Christ in all we are and all we do."
It is to be present in community with an integrity of being that assures all those whose lives we touch that we are there alone for their wellbeing; that we are committed to peace with justice, mercy and inclusion. Where we can live out that demand, I am convinced people will be drawn anew to faith in Jesus Christ. Then our churches will grow as we participate in the mission of God in the world."
One reason Anglicanism is Australia was hampered in its capacity to be genuinely missional was because in the past "we have essentially been an associational church rather than a missional church" - "just another association of people who happen to be religious," he said.
The problem was exacerbated when church people assumed the associational view of church as well, so that "what we call 'mission' then becomes finding new ways at attracting people to become part of our association." But the "mission of the church is not to grow churches," he said, "It is to live under the rule of God; to live in allegiance solely to Jesus Christ.
"God's mission has a church. If we make growing churches our aim, we are trying to do God's work. Our aim is to live in singular allegiance to Jesus. When we do that with integrity and grace, God grows churches as the means by which God's way is extended in God's world. Others come to faith in Jesus Christ and join us."

"...we are there alone for their wellbeing..." Imagine if that was our reputation as the Christian church in the lives of persons with disabilities. What things might we do for people for families? What example might we be to the community?

Once again, "God's mission has a church." The way Phil restated the bishop's words is that
"God has a mission so the mission has a church."
That resonated with me as different then the way we often understand church. It implies that we are up to something, that we are active, kinetic, doing something of worth in the community that draws people to want to join us in our mission and become followers of Jesus Christ. They will learn about what we believe, but our mission by God's grace causes us to be irrestible. In order to achieve our mission, we have a meeting place where we are trained, where our wounds suffered from trying to love our communities are ministered to, and we are prepared to be sent out again. The church meeting is not the focus of the mission, not the end all of the mission.  The church meeting, the Sunday morning service, simply becomes a part of the mission. We are not being prepared at that meeting to go home because we have done all we need to do for the week, untill the following week when we come in and sit again. It is a rallying point for our onging, difficult activity of loving our neighbor.

If the above were the case, we would be prepared to find our neighbors with disabilities in need of assistance or simply love and friendship. When was the last time you heard a sermon about loving your neighbor with disabilities? Unfortunately, that is currently not a part of the mission as evidenced by what we are not being prepared to do (assuming we are being prepared to DO something) and by the people who are not sitting in the chairs next to us.

We have a church because God has a mission and the mission is not our comfort.


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