Thursday September 18, 2014
Not a lot happens without prayer but the “Go!” command must mean more than support for overseas mission.
“GO and make disciples of all nations…” is one of those Bible phrases that has memories for me. A well-worn church hall with lighting designed for economy rather than clarity – today we’d call it ‘ambience’ – and people with Bibles struggling with the small print. At this meeting, older people, mainly.
This was the ‘Prayer for Missions’ evening when items from somewhat crumpled, duplicated prayer letters would be shared, from people in remote and difficult-to-pronounce places. We knew that they had a call. We knew that they were very different from us and when they came home on leave – it was called “furlough” – it was clear that they were different. A bit odd… but of course, very brave.
If I am am poking fun, it is only at the culture and the process. I am red-hot keen on mission (and prayer!), because I believe, like Swiss theologian Emil Brunner, that “the church exists for mission like a fire exists for burning”.
In those days it was thought that we lived in a Christian country and therefore ‘mission’ was the word used for overseas mission. Some traditional missionary societies still apply this piece of exclusivity. But mission is every aspect of godly, redeeming contact and friendship “out there” and it begins close by the gathering place of the church, not at a great distance from it.
So when we are commanded by Jesus to “Go…” it is a command. It is His purpose. And the blessing is on our doing it.
Jesus’ final instruction was not a new idea – they had had three years of being told to go in one way or another.
– Go the second mile
– Go to prayer
– Go and proclaim the kingdom
– Go to the lost sheep
– Go and give to the poor
– Go and be reconciled
There are about 20 separate instances in the gospels. What does that tell us? That the call to discipleship and mission is a call to resist being settled, in location or in attitude.
While we are told to go to the nations, we are also told to go to our own localities in various ways, and “the nations” or more literally, peoples, carries the contemporary sense of going among the tribes or different people groups we have around us.
More on that to come.