missio dei

one of my first ever modules at theological college was called 'introduction to mission' by a tutor called anne wilkinson-hayes. i mention this because it was my first introduction to the concept of missio dei.

the God who actively moves towards us, who is, in his very being, missional.

it left a deep imprint on me, one that has only got deeper as i've done more theological study and allowed this idea to permeate my thinking and my practice. this is God's work. God made something, Creation, which he loves, he moves towards it, he loves it, he watches it sink beneath the weight of its own choices, he loves it still, he moves towards it, he saves it. it really is awesome. sometimes tho i wonder why so many christians seem to live in a state of heightened anxiety about salvation. the frenzied evangelism that goes on in a way that is so far away from the patient God who is 'slow to anger and abounding in love', seems to advocate something entirely different to the idea that it is God's work.

does this mean that i don't believe in evangelism? that God can just get on with it and we can kick up our heels doing nothing? of course not. but it does mean that the anxiety that is so present in a lot of our evangelism can be made to melt away like a mist in the noon day sun.

i have two books to recommend which pretty much say a similar thing.

one is 'contemplative youth work' by mark yaconelli (son of the late great mike), which was written a few years ago and which i bought as a present for my husband. it may have 'youth work' in the title, but to be honest it pretty much talks to anyone who loves Jesus and wants to share him. it starts from a place of health in our relationship with God, no anxieties. from there we can share this wonderful saviour.

which brings me on to the more recent book that i am in the throes of reading and which reminded me very much of that moment in the classroom 8 years ago when anne spoke about missio dei. it is called 'from the abundance of the heart' by bishop stephen cottrell (who i mention here). stephen says this:

'For nearly ten years much of my ministry was involved in helping churches engage with the ministry of evangelism. On many occasions I would go to a church to talk about evangelism and sit down with their PCC or another group within the parish, and after about ten minutes I would shut up about evangelism and start talking about prayer instead. To put it bluntly: you can't give what you haven't got. How stupid of us to think that we could ever be effective in evangelism unless it arose from an authentic and lived spirituality....'

he then goes on to say

'In other words we get on with the ministry of evangelism, but stop doing it in a way that suggests we have all the answers (Jesus is the answer. Now, what was the question?). Too often what passes for evangelism in the church is really just a parading of slogans or, worse, a condemnation of anyone who doesn't share our world view. Someone has defined evangelism as one beggar telling another beggar where to get bread. Rather than being paralysed by the recognition that our own lives are only very dimly lit by the gospel, we could use this as a starting point for activities that help us address questions of meaning and faith in a way that will allow us to make common cause with others - as yet outside the Christian community - who are asking similar questions.'

our own lives are only 'very dimly lit by the gospel', but God moved toward us and asks us to partner with him in his mission. knowing God has not made us knowers of all things, only that we now know that we need God more than we ever knew we did before. one beggar showing another where to get bread. accompanying those who God is already working with on their journey. sharing what we know of Jesus, our joys and our sorrows, our moments of breathtaking happiness and soul-crushing despair, our intense peace and our table breaking anger, our stumbles and our faltering steps. knowing that God is with us too, he is our rabbi, we walk with him on our journey as we walk with others on theirs.

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