And the question???
How should God’s people understand mission?
If we are going to be serious as God’s people about being who is calling us to be and doing what he is calling us to do (which we are aren’t we?), we must get our heads around this question! It is not something just for the academics. It is for practitioners like you and me!
The Brazilian missiologist Steuernagel (1993) tells us that the answer is ‘blowing in the wind’……..Well actually, he says it somewhat more academically. He says that mission should be understood pneumatologically. (Pneuma is Ancient Greek for breath, wind or spirit.) Steuernagel writes…
‘It is first to perceive the blowing of the Spirit and the direction from which it comes. And then it is to run in the same direction to which the Spirit is blowing.’
My concern is that whilst local, national and international Church structures do many good things, they can also serve to hinder responsiveness to the Spirit.
Men like John Wesley and Count Zinzendorf were prepared to let go of old church structures and adopt new structures for mission precisely because they were better suited to supporting the movement of the Spirit.
If a church is going to be more open to the work of the Holy Spirit, it needs to be shaped around mission. This means that its’ ecclesiology, structures and rules must all serve to support, rather than potentially to hinder the missionary nature and purpose of the church.
Ecclesiology is to missiology a bit like scaffolding is to a building. The scaffolding is there to support what is being built, but it must not determine what can be built. That’s not what scaffolding is for! As soon as the scaffolding starts to hinder progress on the building, the scaffolding must be quickly dismantled and reconfigured so that it can continue to support the ongoing building project. I hope that you get my drift….
To address this controversial issue within our churches will however require courageous, innovative thinking and effective leadership. Many both within and outside our congregations/denominations will not understand and of course we must be sensitive, wise and discerning, but ways must be found to ensure that churches ‘shape up’ for God’s mission. If this ‘nettle is not grasped,’ the consequences will be enormous – the church will be denied from being true to her sent out nature and she (like ancient Israel) may find herself inadvertently hindering God’s purposes to bless all nations.
If the local church is to be faithful to her calling, church leaders and congregations clearly have important decisions to make…
Please Lord, give us wisdom, discernment, sensitivity, the hide of a rhinoceros, courage and tenacity! Help us to keep step with your Spirit so that as this generation of believers we can be ‘your people’ for this generation.