Mission is the Gearbox of the Church

Its the strangest feeling being in the study on a Saturday evening and not having to prepare a sermon after 30 years of preparing at least two sermons and sometimes three per week. I think I've got withdrawal symptoms. Anyway, I still had a busy but interesting week moving between meetings at 121 and also preparing for the lecture I gave this afternoon at the International Christian College in Glasgow . The theme was "Mission in the Contemporary West" I was especially delighted to be given this opportunity to speak on the occasion of the college's library being renamed after their past principal Dr Geoff Grogan. Grogan was a delightful man, who always seemed to have a childlike honesty about him. He was a giant of a man who often had to stoop down to listen to what was being said. I will always carry the image of him bent over listening intently. Such an image reflects something of the humility and integrity that went with his life and preaching. So Mission has come back onto the agenda of most churches today. Last year the Church of Scotland Council of Ministries stated that Mission would be its top priority in the coming years. Indeed the Council affirmed the idea that Mission is part of the DNA of any authentic Christian Community. Understanding the aambiguous nature of the meanings attached to mission was the starting point for the lecture. This ambiguity has been the source of much tension in various church quarters as theologians and missiologists try to reach an agreed definition of mission. Some believe that the gospel imperative, "to go into all the world and preach the gospel" has been diluted by those who wish to pursue an agenda that involves social care and peace and justice. It is argued that the core gospel is "repent and be baptised for the forgiveness of sins" to add anymore to this is to detract from the good news of sins forgiven. Others wish to promote the comprehensive idea that Mission begins and ends with God. The "Missio Dei" as promoted by Barth and then developed by Bosch invites us to open our eyes and realise that mission is part of the DNA of the Trinity. God the Father sends, God the Son institutes the Father's mission, and God the Holy Spirit constitutes the mission through men and women like you and me. Understanding how the Spirit goes about constituting mission brings us to the place of surprise and wonder. The Spirit moves where he wills and he works in the hearts and minds of all men whether believers or not. All this brings us to realise that their are many aspects to mission. Thus to try and make one aspect more important than the other is to be like the person who drives their car in first gear all the time. I suggested that Mission was like the gearbox that drives the church. The various gears represent the various aspects of mission. Learning to use the gear box correctly will enable the church to transverse across the cultural terain and engage with a changing and somewhat fragile culture. I suggested that to define the term "Contemporary West" was almost like mission. It had an ambiguous meaning. To engage with the phrase " The Contemporary West" we need to remember that there are no definitive definitions that can adequately describe what has been classified as " The contemporary West" . For me it describes the the shear transitory and ephemeral nature of post modern relationships. To speak or even feel the shear fragility of such an idea or phrase like "The Contemporary West" is often best captured through contemporary art. Take for example those who sculpture with ice or create works of art in the sand. Such artists are drawing our attention to the transitory nature of living. To be contemporary is to be in the moment, for the moment then gone. Replaced by another moment. Truth and understanding are all in a progressive process and no one can be sure of anything. Your truth is for your moment. It is all temporary. The challenge how do we engage the eternal gospel of lasting relationships with a world that is passing away? In his book "Soul Tsunami", Leonard Sweet speaks of "Change" in terms of a great tidal wave that has hit the post modern world. " A sea change of transitions and transformations is birthing a whole new world and a whole new set of ways of making our ways in the world. We have moved from the solid ground of terra firma to the tossing seas of terra aqua. " If the truth be told many in the church feel they are drowning, others feel they have lost everything because there are no familiar landmarks. The biblical map which once described a sold firm route requires to become a navigational chart, because there is no road left, only water. No one seems to be able to find a chart or a compass, let alone a captain who can steer the ship or a pilot who can navigate. Yet to be "Contemporary" is to try and bring together that which is fleeting and temporary and give it meaning for your time, your moment. This is what Paul speaks of in Ephesians when he writes of the "cosmic Christ " bringing all things together in the unity of the Spirit. How then does the church engage with what we describe the Contemporary West? What are the things that are happening in your moments, in your life in your world? What is it that is happening in the world of so many all around us? We are all living through an age of unprecedented change how we deal with it determines our future." To see Jesus Christ as the one who connects with our disconnectedness and brings meaning and purpose out of broken relationships is one of the most hopeful beliefs of the Christian Church. Finally the most important agents of mission are individuals. men and woman and children who begin to live out the gospel by putting into action the power and the presence of the gospel. The contemporary world more than anything else needs committed obedient disciples who are willing to stay in the place of brokenness for the long haul and in the words of Eugene Peterson keep going with "a long obedience in the same direction."

Posted By: italker   On: 13 Mar 2012   At: 10:56pm

Thanks Gibbie good point well made. tarted preparing material for the worship at the General Assembly. Enjoying doing spot visits to congregations. you might see us at the Tab one of these Sundays.


Posted By: Gibbie Campbell   On: 11 Mar 2012   At: 5:07pm

The oil in the gearbox is vital to lubricate the engine. A dry gearbox soon stops working. The Holy Spirit keeps Mission going and the gears help it to negotiate the terrain….just to add the analogy. Enjoy the break from sermon preparation.


Posted By: h   On: 11 Mar 2012   At: 3:48pm

We are missing you both too, but glad all is going well and enjoying your recent thoughts.

So good to know that amongst all the changes of life, God’s love is still the same today, tomorrow..and forever.

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