Mission is the great imperative for the Church. It’s not so much that the Church has a mission, as that the God of mission has a Church. Or that’s the line, anyway.
But mission is highly contentious. Burned by the colonial past and hesitant in pluralist society, Christians often struggle to know what faithful and appropriate mission looks like, and how it engages the world.
That’s a problem too big for one blog post. However, as an appetiser on the subject, as it were, I thought it worth noting that the Anglican Consultative Council – an international Anglican body concerned to facilitate the cooperative work of the Anglican communion – has developed what has become something of a touchstone for me in thinking about mission: The Five Marks of Mission. They seek to present a balanced view of what Christians, and Christian churches, should be about in the world. These are the marks:
1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.
2. To teach, baptise and nurture new believers.
3. To respond to human need by loving service.
4. To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.
5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
It’s a fairly comprehensive package; proclamation, teaching, nurturing; service; social justice, peace making and reconciliation; faithful stewardship of creation. It is not necessary, or in many cases even possible, for every Christian to be engaged in all of these aspects of mission; but it is possible for every Christian community to challenge itself to embrace this breadth of thinking about mission. If we come to a place where reducing our waste paper, writing letters to members of parliament, working in a soup kitchen, and all the other good works of the church can be seen as part of the Church’s embodiment of the love of God for the world, just as much as preaching or the sacramental life of the church, I suspect we are on our way to a healthier way forward than perhaps many of us have known.