The mission of the church is, first of all, the mission of God. This was the consensus of a meeting of mission leaders and those who are involved or interested in mission at the Annual Gathering of the Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) in Chile.
The meetings are being held in the capital city of Santiago from July 2-7.
The task of the church is not to develop its own programs but to respond to the mission of God, participating in that mission. We can recover the essence of the mission of the church as understood within the concept of Missio Dei, an expression that says mission derives from the very nature of God, and the missionary initiative comes from God alone. God invites persons and churches to participate in God’s initiative. This response is expressed through commitment and seeking God’s guidance in the fulfillment of that mission.
We get our understanding of mission from our theology, and a proper understanding of the Trinity helps our understanding of mission.
Oftentimes the church fails in the fulfillment of God’s mission, unless forced to do so. This is evidenced in the book of Acts. Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” But the early disciples did not take this Gospel beyond Jerusalem until persecution broke out and they fled into Samaria and other regions and cities.
The meeting heard of a similar account of the Baptist Church in Bagdad. It was only after Baptist Christians fled the city into the northern parts of Iraq during the recent war that other Baptist churches were being planted in those regions of the Middle Eastern country.
Churches should be sensitive and responsive to global mission. A quote attributed to Oswald Smith expresses this best. “The church that shines the brightest furthest shines the brightest at home.” Every church should have a vision for world mission, even small churches with limited resources. For Baptists, such opportunities exist through the Global Impact Church program of the BWA where local congregations are invited to join in weekly prayer for Baptists around the world, through their gifts, and other means of support and involvement.
A concern expressed in the meeting is the sustainability of mission, especially in light of limited resources and waning interest. It was strongly felt that those among whom mission is exercised should be encouraged, over time, to take on the responsibilities of mission themselves. A planned exit strategy by those leading the mission effort that includes training of local leaders and the locals eventually resourcing the mission enterprise themselves is fundamental to sustainability.
An important aspect of mission is attention to social and justice issues. Evangelism and social work should be done together. The practice of mission should be relevant to the realities and context in which mission is exercised, and paternalism should be avoided.
Baptist World Alliance®
© July 4, 2012