A Portland based blogger, Aaron Smith (www.culturalsavage.com) asks, “What if we stopped being on mission and instead were in mission?” While the difference may not be obvious, there is a noteworthy distinction. Smith suggests that “On” mission implies that we have the responsibility. The task is given, and we take over from there. “In” mission implies that we are part of a broader idea, movement, initiative; not “God-given” but actually done by God through us. I think this is what Jesus means when talking about the Kingdom of God, and what Paul means when he says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me“ (Galatians 2:20). The Church is called to be in mission with God, not on mission for God. That’s the distinction I wish to make. The Kingdom is guided by God through the Church. The Church is the means of the Kingdom, not the end goal. The Church exists to be the conduit, the vehicle for the Kingdom. Mission is done through and in the Church, not by the Church. The Church is not where God is, or what God does. It is how God does it.
Centre Street Baptist Church exists not for itself or it’s own purposes. It is not meant to be something we maintain and work hard to preserve for God, but something through which God can move into St. Thomas. “Success” is not measured in dollars or in membership, but in impact and submission. Have we bowed our collective will to God’s desire? Have we used our resources to meet the needs of the community? This is what matters. We are being “successful” not when the pews are full, the bank accounts are blossoming, the building looks great (although those would be wonderful!). We are successful when the mentally ill man on the corner knows he is loved. When the pregnant teen knows she can ask us for help. When the man who has sinned knows he is forgiven. When the sick elderly woman receives a bowl of soup. When the lonely newcomer feels at home. When the widow feels surrounded by love. When the divorced single mom can bring her unruly child and worship God. The couple in trouble feels supported. When we join God’s mission to the vulnerable, we are successful, because we in mission; immersed in the love, glory and power of God. When we are on a mission we are struggling on our own. We lack community. We lose focus. We get or priorities wrong. We miss the point. People on a mission do many good things. They honour God. But do the fully participate in the Kingdom of God? When we are “in” mission, we ensure that God is in control, that His will is done, and His Kingdom is coming on earth.
“It is not the Church of God that has a mission, but the God of mission that has a Church.” Church of England, Lambeth Conference 2008.