Marks of Mission
When we think about how we share God’s love with others, we can quickly become paralysed by how big the task feels, or how intimidating the idea of it is. ‘Who am I’, we might think, ‘to be a part of what God is doing in the world?’
Well there are a couple of bits of good news for you to hear to help you share the Good News with those around you. The first is that, when you ask ‘Who am I?’, God says, ‘You are enough.’
The second is that the idea of sharing God’s love with the world around us is not quite as big as it first seems. In the 1990s, a group of theologians in the Church of England did some deep dives into mission, evangelism, and all things faith sharing. They spent time looking at the bible, praying together, and reflecting on it, and developed a series of ideas to help flesh out what it means for Christians to be involved in Mission in the world today.
Gone was the idea that mission was something that happened on the other side of the world, or that it was what young people did with their summer holiday. Instead what emerged were 5 Marks that together give a sense of what matters to God, and separately gives Christians a framework for action in the world.
Here are their ideas:
- Tell – To share by word the good news of Jesus Christ. This is not sharing the gospel with an altar call every time we speak of faith, but is to be ready to speak about why we find Jesus fascinating, why we have said ‘Yes’ to Him, and the difference He has made to our lives. Peter said that we should have an answer ready, when asked, for why we follow Jesus; We can all speak with authority about our own life and story, so let’s be confident in that.
- Teach – To teach, baptise, and nurture new believers. In Matthew 28, Jesus instructs his followers to go and make disciples of all nations, and we are included in that. Part of what this means is to help others who are intrigued by Jesus to learn what it means to follow Him. We might feel that doing this is to impose on others, but if we recognise that no one has this worked out and we are teachable as well, then we’re all learning together. Or, as the Bible puts it, we are iron sharpening iron.
- Tend – To respond to the needs we see around us with loving kindness and service. This boils down to being kind and helpful. That might seem easy, but it really isn’t. There is so much going on in the world that people are stretched thin and exhausted. When people feel like this, their kindness for those around them dries up and the world becomes a harder place to be. Jesus talked about placing a lamp on a stand for the whole house to see; we can be that lamp. Our churches can be places of kindness and love, and we can be the sort of people whose first reaction to the world around them is shaped by love.
- Transform – To transform unjust structures of the world. This seems like it’s one for the hardcore believers, the social justice warriors among us. But we can all be a part of this, through the consumer choices we make, the charities we choose to support, and by choosing to engage in the political process. Our money and our vote are the tools that we, in the UK at least, have. Let’s make a difference for good with them.
- Treasure – To safeguard creation and renew life on earth. We hear a lot about this at the moment, and understandably. It’s worth noting though that this is part of our work in the world and not something we should be involved with simply because it’s trendy. The bible tells us that we are here to be good stewards of creation. When we do this, human life, animal life, and plant life all flourish and multiply; a shorthand the bible uses to show something that is close to God’s heart.
When writing about Christians’ role in the world, Tom Wright uses a beautiful image; we are to reach forward into the Kingdom of God, and pull a piece of it back into the here and now. The Five Marks of Mission can help us do that, I wonder how they will help you share God’s love with those around you in the weeks and months ahead?