Our thinking about mission often starts in the activity of mission—mission as a project. We think of getting up and going out on an edge. Pushing out in a new way, out of our comfort zone. This is not wrong. Christian faith is something active and courageous. To believe in Jesus is to move after him – not just to believe in the right things or sit on the spot and seek enlightenment. We only come to know Jesus as we follow him. So Christian faith is active. Mission, too, is active
But there is a problem.
If Christian faith were just the activity of making the world a better place, we would burn out. We can’t do everything. If you were to try to do everything that you thought was good, you could be working for hundreds of years to make the world a better place, and you would barely scratch the surface. We are severely limited in our ability to change things. And when we are at our busiest, doing all sorts of good things, we get that hollow feeling: we wonder what it is all about. A lot of the time our efforts to make things better just cause more problems. Christian mission is not just an activity. We get a different picture of mission in 1 Thessalonians. Mission is something bigger than our activities. Mission begins in who we are. It is a quality. It is a character. Martha was busy in the kitchen, in a flurry of activity, getting things ready for her guests, doing the dishes, sprinkling icing sugar on the sponge cake. But Mary was calm and unflustered. She sat at the feet of Jesus, her long black hair slipping gently around his ankle, the aroma of expensive perfume filling the air. Mission is all about who we are before God. Mission is understanding that God’s character, animated in the person of Jesus Christ, fills life in a new way. Life is renewed through faith, hope and love – those three words from the start of 1 Thessalonians. And this does not just happen through our activity. Mission is sharing in the character of God – intimately, like Mary. If we start here, the activities of mission flow. Activities of care, concern, speaking, encouraging, serving – these all overflow from our love of God and his love of us. This will never wear out, because it is the very character of God. Paul said to the Thessalonians: “We were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.” Jesus was not just an activity of God – he is the character of God sharing life with us. Mission starts with God’s character that overflows in love.
Partnership Coordinator VIC/TAS