When one thinks of mission, how many of us immediately think of these words from Matthew 28; what we’ve come to understand as the Great Commission?
“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
For many years I believed that ‘going,’ ‘baptising’ and ‘teaching’ were mission instructions from the king and head of the church to all of us. Lately, however, I am beginning to understand these
words as more of an invitation from God to us for the sake of the world.
Let me explain.
Ever since humanity was sent packing from the Garden of Eden, God has been initiating reconciliation between us and Godself, and between us as people. We are reminded of this every time we celebrate Holy Communion in the Great Thanksgiving Prayer. We are reminded that Jesus was and is the agent of reconciliation and that before his ascension he declared the church to be the instrument of his reconciliation until he returns (2 Corinthians 5:18–19).
This is called the Missio Dei (God’s Plan) and we’re invited to be a part of it.
So instead of Matthew 28:18–20 being the Great Commission (instruction) it is an invitation to co-mission (partner) with God in what God has been doing, is doing and will continue to do in making the kingdom of God aneschatological reality. If we can grasp this, mission planning takes on a whole new focus. Instead of us deciding what we believe, we need God’s help in doing in the name of God’s kingdom (instead of us being the initiators of mission).
Mission planning becomes a process of discerning what God’s plan is and what role we are invited to have in bringing it, or part of it, about within our specific context, utilising our specific gift-sets and for a specified time period.
To this end, whenever I am involved in mission planning I seek to answer these questions:
1. Who are we?
Who do we understand ourselves to be? Who are we are in God’s eyes? Who are we as a Uniting Church? What are our core values? What are our foundational beliefs?
In answering these questions we come to understand our identity.
2. Why has God put us here?
What makes your context what it is? Why has God called us and placed us here and not over there?
In answering these questions we come to appreciate our context.
3. What has God put us here to do?
What are we uniquely called and invited to do that God has not called some other church to do in the same place? What will the outcome(s) look like in terms of our worship, witness and service?
In answering these questions we begin to see our part in God’s plan.
4. When would God have us do this?
How long will it take to get from here (current reality) to there (God’s plan/ outcome)? Will it be this year? Will it be three, or four, or five, or more years from now?
In answering these questions we establish a timeline.
5. How do we action God’s plan?
How’s the plan going to work? Who will be involved? Are there other groups that we need to talk to about this? What resources do we need? Where can we get the resources? What’s it going to cost?
In answering these questions we resource God’s plan.
If only we had the eyes to see God at work, we would see that reconciliation has always been and will always be the central work of God’s love. And if we had ears to hear we would be able to hear God’s invitation to be a part of this lifegiving work.
Rev John McKane, member of the Strategy and Mission Planning Commission, and minister in Eastern Wheatbelt congregations.