I came across the following snippet in an Anglican course designed for local churches. It's an audio interview, and I'm still chewing it over
How is the local church best equipped to meet the challenge of being missionary?
"By forgetting that it's to be missionary, but remembering the extent of God's love for us, and demonstrating God's love for us. If we do things because we are trying to be missionary, we will fail. If we do things because we have been loved, we are called to love, and we practice love, then we will effectively do mission. But if we do mission because we ought to, (or from guilt, a sense of being holier than thou) we will fail."
I'm struggling with this on several fronts:
- Jesus gave the church a clear mission, and it's reinforced in the New Testament. The recent history of the Church of England is that we have forgotten to be missionary, and just assumed that being nice and meeting once a week would suffice to disciple a nation. That's been, to use the lingo, an epic fail.
- It creates a false dichotomy: the assumption that people are only overtly missionary from a sense of guilt, obligation or a sense of superiority. In my experience, those aren't the only reasons why people are motivated to mission. I don't see that in Jesus, Paul, Peter or the other early missionaries, or in more recent examples like Jackie Pullinger, Brother Andrew or the Chinese martyrs
- The church has obligations, those laid upon it by Jesus, because we don't naturally love, forgive, make disciples etc. and so his clear marching orders to the church hold us to the course, strap us to the mast, of things we might otherwise find too hard or shy away from.
- The church is not called to do mission, it is called by God to share in his. We have a vocation. In the end it's not about God's love for us, the church, or individuals, but about his love for the whole of creation, and the church called to be partners in redeeming it.
- As a local mission enabler, I'm not quite sure where all this places my role.
It feels like it takes one aspect of the witness of the church (the regular refrain of the New Testament that the quality of the life and love of Christians is a witness to Jesus, one picked up well by Graham Tomlin in 'the Provocative Church') and turns it into the whole of the witness of the church. In fact, one reason the NT stresses the quality of community life and mutual love, is because it is missional. Mission and love are inseparable, rather than one entirely swallowing the other.
Or am I missing something?