Christian mission has changed. It used to be thought of as churches in
sending missionaries abroad. These missionaries were selected, trained and sent
by special agents, the missionary societies of the various denominations. Britain
Today, mission is from everywhere to everywhere. The missionary agencies have either changed their role or even ceased to function. Instead of thinking of missionaries as special agents, we now think of the church as a whole as being called to mission, and of every Christian as sharing in that call. Moreover, the mission thinking of the worldwide church is now that the church does not even have a mission. It does not have a mission; it is a mission. The mission is the mission of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit engaged in a huge project to love and redeem the whole of creation.
In seeking to understand what the mission of God might mean, in 1984 the Anglican communion worldwide recommended five marks of mission as a sort of checklist - http://www.anglicancommunion.org/ministry/mission/fivemarks.cfm. In 1996 the general synod of the Church of England adopted these, which are now known as “the five marks of mission”. Would you like to test your own Christian life against the expectations of these marks? If that seems a bit too personal, then perhaps you would like to assess the life of our own church in Kings Heath as a mission church. Here we go!
The first mark of mission is to proclaim the Kingdom of God. This expression is taken from the teaching of Jesus himself, who saw the
coming in his words and deeds. In
what ways do we bear witness to the Kingdom of God ? Kingdom
The second mark is to call people into discipleship to Jesus Christ and to nurture them in faith. The Holy Spirit does that through us whenever a child is baptised or people are prepared for confirmation. How else do we do it?
The third mark of mission is to extend loving care to the community. This is where we really score! Surely the medical centre, the services to young people and senior citizens, to say nothing of the village square are all extending care to the Kings Heath community.
The fourth mark of mission is a tricky one. It is to transform the unjust structures of society. What is an unjust structure? Can sincerely good people find themselves working in unjust structures? Who benefits from the unjust structures, and how can these be identified, challenged and changed? Clearly, these are important questions for our society and for the world: about the growing gulf between rich and poor, and about the worldwide situation of hunger, sickness and war. How does our church measure up to this mark of mission?
The fifth mark of mission is to strive to protect creation and to restore the face of the earth. Here again, as with the third mark, perhaps we are doing rather well in All Saints. After all, we are an eco congregation and are about to have solar panels installed on at least one of our buildings.
How do you respond to the five marks? Should every Christian be involved to some degree in all five? Is it right for a particular congregation to specialise in one or two of these? What steps can we take to ensure that through our lives, our worship and our witness the whole mission of God is being expressed?
John M. Hull
The Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education