By Les Henson.
The word ‘mission’ or ‘missio’ in Latin means sending, and sending implies the crossing of barriers. So, what are the barriers that God calls us to cross? I would suggest that the barriers are: personal, religious, cultural, political, ethnic, linguistic, social and at times, but not necessarily geographical. Likewise, we can describe mission as crossing the barriers of faith to non-faith, and church to non-church.
Mission is not the task of a few specially called out people. Instead, it is the task of the whole church, the people of God. Johannes Blauw speaks of the “missionary nature of the church.” While Emile Brunner states that, “The church exists by mission as a fire exists by burning.” Thus, mission is not an option for God’s people. Rather, it is the essence of what it means to be the people of God. Archbishop William Temple said that the church is the one organisation in the world that exists, not for its own benefit, but for the benefit of others.
However, being sent out into the world necessitates that mission primarily takes place beyond the doors of the church. Yet most congregations in Australia focus more than 90 per cent of their effort and activity within the confines of the church building. We need to learn anew what it means to live out the gospel in all its fullness out there in the world — loving our neighbour, caring for those in need and relationally sharing the gospel in an appropriate, sensitive and meaningful fashion. If we are to do so, we must build strong, meaningful relationship within our neighbourhoods, social networks and workplaces, etc. It means spending less time and effort on church-related activities and more time out in the local community creatively establishing life-giving relationships. It does not mean we neglect church activities, but that we seek to develop a healthy balance.