Spirituality for Mission

20 Sep 2020 by Rev Andrew Smith in: Letters, Thoughts, News

Spirituality for Mission
From Andrew Smith
Presbytery Minister - Congregation Futures

On Saturday 5 September, 19 people from 9 congregations in our Canberra Region Presbytery took part in the final day of training of the Mission Shaped Ministry course that started in November last year. Although the training commenced face to face last year with most of the people coming from just our Presbytery, COVID restrictions opened the way for the remainder of the course to be delivered by zoom, and for us to join online with a Parramatta-Nepean Presbytery cohort who were also undertaking the course. This was a bonus for both Presbyteries as we shared in each other’s diversity and leadership capacity for the course.

The final day of training expanded the network of reach even further with the unit on “Spirituality for Mission” being delivered as part of the Synod wide “Healthy Churches Expo 2020”. The unit material was enriched through being presented by Karina Kreminski and Armen Gakavian. From their website: https://neighbourhoodmatters.com.au/:

“We are a husband-and-wife team committed to loving our local neighbourhood and seeing it flourish. Neighbourhoods matter. We want to help people look beyond the four walls of institutions and develop the ability to listen deeply to what the skills and gifts are in their own communities. It’s only after we listen that we can discern contextualised opportunities to bring about peace, justice and mercy in the ecology of the neighbourhood. We believe that through our Spirit-inspired relationships and initiatives we can embody transformative love in our world. We believe in the goodness, diversity and complexity of the urban space, even though this is sometimes a forgotten area for engagement. Cities are places that need “salt and light” and good deeds so that they become resilient and places where all can live, work, learn and play together.”

Karina and Armen live in Surry Hills and are deeply engaged in mission with their neighbourhood. With the insights they have gained from their experiences so far, it was great to hear what they have learned about spirituality for mission. Part of their presentation included “accountability questions” that they formulated to ask themselves regularly in the course of each week. These questions are important for helping them stay focused on mission in their neighbourhood, especially when the mission in which they are involved is often hard to measure. Here are the questions they are using to keep themselves accountable to mission:

  • How am I loving others?
  • How am I paying attention to the least of these?
  • What faith conversations am I having?
  • Who am I eating with?
  • How is God’s Kingdom growing in my neighbourhood?
  • Am I inviting people to join me?

Accountability questions like these have an important place for people to be at mission with their local communities. They help us be disciples of Jesus who acted and spoke and taught us to pray for the Kingdom of God to come on earth as in heaven. Given the purpose of these questions, perhaps they are better named as “congruence questions” or “integrity questions”. Such renaming helps us understand that these questions don’t simply represent a further “to do” list for us to check off as an optional extra in our discipleship, but are questions that help us be who we are as disciples. They help us live integrated lives as disciples.

Other writers who are seeking to urge the church on in mission to local community also emphasise their own forms of accountability questions. Mike Frost in his book “Surprise the World – The Five Habits of Highly Missional People” recommends that people gather in weekly groups of three to ask each other his set of accountability questions because he sees this as a key way to make the habits a central rhythm of life.

The Godsend App* also encourages these kinds of communal practices or rhythms of life that arise out of accountability questions. The App thinks of them as a contemporary version of the eighteenth-century Wesleyan “bands” or “class meetings” in which people can support each other in practising a certain sets of behaviours. 

There was more of great value that Karina and Armen offered to nurture a spirituality of mission. The key point being that mission is not simply going to happen by itself. It needs to be nurtured. You can watch the video of Karina and Armen’s session under the “Mission and Growth Stream” at https://ume.nswact.uca.org.au/event-calendar/healthy-churches-expo/hce-2020-resources/
* The App is free, and you can download it by searching for 'fx godsend' in the App Store or Google Play.