Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Decade of Mission - Some Starting Points

My speaking debut at General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui was pretty much a non-event. It was the kind of motion - calling for a Decade of Mission - that nobody was very excited about, but equally, nobody could be seen to vote against! Synod was focussed very much on the same-sex issues, and worked incredibly hard to find a way forward which would keep us together.

My perspective is that if we don't make a significant, passionate, creative, energetic, faith-filled intentional response to the Decade of Mission, then by 2015 there will be little left to hold together. Yes, good things are happening here and there, but the overall picture for the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand is decidedly gloomy, whatever gloss our excellent communications team put on the situation. And I am a compulsive optimist.

So I will step out and make my suggestions for four starting points for this Decade of Mission.

1. We need a clear understanding of the Gospel. The definition of Anglican Mission as "doing something nice for someone and hoping they guess why" simply will not do. The Gospel has never been, is not, and never can be about what I or you do; it must be about what Jesus has done. We do not have a self-help Gospel - that is no good news at all; our Gospel contains an offer of a whole new life which we can accept and live out together. This new life comes exclusively from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, without which we have nothing, absolutely nothing to offer to a needy world.   

2. A clear focus on discipleship. I have publicly stated a number of times that the greatest challenge facing the church in NZ is not evangelism, but discipleship. We have taught that discipleship is about knowledge and understanding, when in fact it is about obedience. Disobedience to God is sin.To not fulfil the Great Commission - to go and make disciples - is sin. There is no discipleship without obedience - not a slavish, fear-filled obedience, but rather an obedience which is feely offered as a joyful response to the ridiculous love, grace, mercy, purpose and abundant life which we have each received.

3. A genuine embracing of every member ministry and every member responsibility. As was stated from the one of the elected members of synod, if we do not each commit to the Decade of Mission ourselves, then voting in favour of the motion is meaningless and hypocritical. (Well, he kind of said that!) Mission is not an option for those 'who like that kind of thing' while the majority look on  (and in ten years time look back and say "I knew it would not make any difference.") The need is for all of God's people to be fully engaged in God's mission, at home, among their neighbours, in the workplace, and college and school and yes, even in church.

4. We must do some things very, very differently. As someone said, "If we keep doing what we've always done, we'll keep getting what we've always got." The message remains the same, the means of communicating changes. We continue to gather, but what happens when we come together changes. We remain committed to justice and social action, but we learn to lead the way, not meekly follow. This calls for courageous leadership - not just leaders who give permission and keep their distance, but leaders who walk alongside and constantly affirm those risk-takers and ground-breakers among us.

Church Army New Zealand is committed to doing all we can to make this happen. Will you join us, and how can we best serve you?