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Weekly Blog - Paul Lancaster: Am I sent?
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Am I sent?

The word ‘mission’ has always excited me. It has a sending dynamic, momentum, direction and purpose. It is used in all kinds of contexts, sending astronauts into space, rescue missions, mission statements for organisations and businesses etc. As a child growing up I associated it with missionaries working overseas, who were seen as very special people, often invited to our home by
my parents.

During the summer, whilst on a beach in South Wales with my grandchildren, I noticed a ‘beach mission’ in full swing. Seeing the enthusiasm of the young people caused me to reflect back over many varied experiences of what I would have understood as ‘mission’. These have included sharing my faith with school friends, college missions, teaching Religious Studies in schools, church planting, facilitating mission training courses, partnering in mission in many different countries and working with over 30 nationalities in Leeds.

In recent years I have read a lot about ‘mission’, and quite apart from this I have found myself doing a lot of rethinking. It would be very easy for me to be critical of my understanding of ‘mission’ and the methods I employed in previous years, as well as that of others engaged in ‘mission’ now. Nonetheless there were many times I and others could see that God was clearly working, often in
spite of us. So where does this leave us?

Some may not like the term “mission” because of negative connotations it carries for them e.g. colonialism, domination, superiority, insensitive ‘hit and run evangelistic’ methods which make them cringe, non-relational engagement lacking in contextual understanding. Others may want to associate it with radical and generally young activists or American styles of approach. This is understandable, depending on where we are coming from- but let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater!

I have found the term ‘missio Dei’ (mission of God), as distinct from missions, helpful in gaining a broader understanding of ‘mission’. Jesus spoke of being sent “… as the Father has sent me…” to proclaim the “kingdom of God”, not by rule and domination, but by liberating, reconciling and empowering love. God is a God of “mission”- incarnational and transformational. “Mission” at its best is being caught up in the slip stream of His life generated in and through us. The way we live and love others is all part of ‘missio dei’, a greater purpose than we can possibly imagine.

At the heart of ‘mission’ is an understanding of what it means to be sent. In Isaiah 6, after Isaiah experienced an amazing theophany of God in His majesty and splendour, a question is posed to the prophet “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah responds willingly “Here am I send me” even though he was conscious of his unworthiness and told he would meet resistance.

I wonder whether we still feel we are being ‘sent’, even though we may not be travelling anywhere or engaged in what has been traditionally defined as ‘mission’ As we realise afresh that we are caught up in ‘missio dei’, then we can continue to feel a new motivation and expectation in our daily lives wherever we are.

Let’s look to God for a fresh vision of his glory and continue to play our part in “the whole church, bringing the whole gospel, to the whole world.”

 

Paul Lancaster (Hope for the Nations)

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profileI want to thank you for informing me about the above funding/grants. I was successful in being granted some money towards my education project (Praise God!!)