What is Mission?
From the beginning, it’s been clear that being Christian means being part of something larger than yourself.
The first disciples who followed Jesus left their homes behind and spread out across the world to tell others about Jesus. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit enabled Christ’s followers to speak the many languages of the world. For two thousand years, followers of Jesus have understood that part of being Christian is ensuring the good news Jesus preached is heard around the world. Christians call this “mission,” from a root word that means “sent.” The CCCW’s Intercultural Encounter programme wants to help you explore what it means to be a Christian in mission in the modern world.
But in a complex world in which we regularly meet people from all faith backgrounds and none, mission can be a difficult concept to grasp. Does sharing the good news about Jesus Christ mean that non-Christians are wrong? Do I have to have great theological training to be a missionary? Couldn’t all religious traditions ultimately be pointing to the same god? If so, what’s so special about Jesus?
These questions show broad Christian mission can be understood to be. In some of his first words at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus himself said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (Luke 4:18-19) In his teaching, he told his followers that when they visited people in prison, clothed the naked, and fed the hungry, they were doing it for him because when Christians serve the least among us they serve Christ himself. (Matthew 25:31-46) Shortly before he ascended into heaven, he told his followers that they should “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded of you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Jesus’ followers interpreted these words in many different ways. The Apostle Paul spoke of how Christians have been given the “ministry of reconciliation” and now act as “ambassadors for Christ.” (II Corinthians 5:18, 19)
In recent years, some Christians have expressed the breadth and depth of Christian mission in what are known as the Five Marks of Mission. The mission of the church, it is said, is:
- to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom;
- to teach, baptise, and nurture new believers;
- to respond to human need by loving service;
- to seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind, and to pursue peace and reconciliation;
- to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
The Intercultural Encounter programme encourages you to go deep into what it means to be a person of faith in the world in the 21st century. It encourages you to go deep into the Judeo-Christian tradition and its commandments to love one another, care for the least among us, and work to end injustice and oppression. It encourages you to learn more about how God loves all of Creation and how humanity is called to steward this loving gift of God. It encourages you to think more about how the good news of Jesus Christ is to be proclaimed in word and deed.
By spending time with Christians and non-Christians in a cultural context other than your own, we believe that you will gain new insight into the meaning of religious faith, and the importance of cross-cultural relationship in an ever-changing world.
Ready to learn more?