It is not God’s church that has a mission, rather it is God’s mission that has a church

26 Sep 2021 by Rev Andrew Smith in: Letters, Thoughts, News

It is not God’s church that has a mission, rather it is God’s mission that has a church

From Rev Andrew Smith
Presbytery Minister - Congregation Futures 

Recently the Mission Strategy Committee has begun to use the Presbytery Strategy for Engagement to Grow Mission to help strengthen congregations in mission. Initially the committee is using the strategy with Tuggeranong Congregation to assist in strengthening them in mission and to produce learnings and insights that will be useful for resourcing other parts of the Presbytery in mission.
Last week in this article space I mentioned that one of the strengths of Tuggeranong for its stage in mission is appreciation of one another. This appreciation builds capacity and inspires and lifts the energy of the congregation for mission. To ‘Appreciate so to remain dynamic’ is a focus of the strategy for the stage that Tuggeranong is at in mission with its local community. The article also included some of the important questions Tuggeranong has asked itself (and continues to ask) along its journey into mission.
A common theme to a few of those questions was about seeing the purpose of the church being bigger than itself and the busyness of programs, and then finding that bigger purpose in what God is already doing. As we look to what God is doing, we are beginning to frame the mission of the church in the context of God’s mission. For this framing, we need our talk about God’s mission (‘theology of mission’) to be accessible. The engagement with Tuggeranong is helping the Mission Strategy Committee to describe it understanding of the theology of mission in terms that are more readily accessible. Here is some of the progress to date:

  • Talk of the mission of the church can often be narrowed to: “how to keep the church going”, or “how to get more people to come and join with us in the way we like being church”. In this way, mission is focused on the church. This can arise from a sense of obligation to keep this church thing going that has been handed on to us. It can also arise from how deeply we value the fellowship of our church – it means a lot to me, and I want others to have the opportunity to enjoy it too.
  • We are to step back and take in a wider view of mission from it being just about the church. It is not about doing church to be busy. This is a shift from talking about God’s church having a mission, to God’s mission having a church. The church is not an end in itself. It’s not a matter of keeping the church going. Rather, the church is a means to an end. It is an instrument of God’s mission.
  • So, what do we understand God’s mission to be? God’s mission starts with who God is. God is love. Loving relationship is at the very core of who God is as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So great and abundant and hospitable is this love within God, that it can’t help but overflow to enfold all creation. For God so loved the world that he gave …
  • In this way, mission is not an optional extra. The church is caught up in this generous and abundant overflow. Thus, the Basis of Union of the Uniting Church recognises that the Church’s call is to serve this end: to be a fellowship of reconciliation, a body within which the diverse gifts of its members are used for the building up of the whole, an instrument through which Christ may work and bear witness to himself.
  • As this love of God overflowed and was embodied in Jesus as part of a particular culture and time in first century Palestine, so the church embodies God’s overflowing love in each place and time so that the world can experience more of the gospel.
  • Again, it is not God’s church that has a mission, rather it is God’s mission that has a church.

 Hopefully the Committee’s learnings and insights from the strategy and its engagement with Tuggeranong will be useful for resourcing you and other parts of the Presbytery in mission.