Christian groups and communities do a lot of good things and provide a tremendous amount of service to the wider Christian church. This article is about having an occasional heart-check about your mission: what the Lord has called you to do and to be. The article is slanted toward leaders and groups, but the principles have application even for individual Christians. There are tons of good things to do and needs to be met, but we are all working with limited margins of time and financial resources. We need to evaluate our uses of time and financial resources in light of the main call on our lives.
I’ll use personal examples and the mission of a specific kind: covenant Christian community. I’ll leave it to the readers to adjust it for their own personal lives or groups.
In our network of communities (Sword of the Spirit) we say we are a community of disciples on mission. We can see a particular passage in Scripture and an event that leads us to that description: the Great Commission and Pentecost. The call of the Great Commission is to make disciples. It’s reasonable to assume then, that disciples would take up the mission. So, what does Pentecost have to do with the third element: community? In a previous article I raised the concept of “anticipating God’s purposes”. With increasing study of the Scriptures, we can understand and identify more of God’s nature and character. As we grow in that knowledge, we can anticipate some of his purposes and some of his actions. By studying events and his actions in history, we can understand more of his likely responses to events in human history. For example, Pentecost led to the quick formation of the early church. The early church was, in fact, a community. They prayed together, had meals together, and cared for one another. They even had a substantial financial commitment to each other.
So, I would say, “Pentecost led to community.” When there is a “new Pentecost” in history, one could anticipate that community would follow.
As a network, our communities have a mission to build covenant Christian communities that raise up and support discipleship. That would include evangelism, baptism in the Spirit, discipleship, relationships, etc. We have an additional emphasis on covenantal relationships. I can imagine that the early church community had very stable relationships, but today’s newly converted Christians are presented with a broad spectrum of service choices and in some cases, that results in an incoherent approach to discipleship, and an incoherent Christian life.
One of the enemy’s tricks is to distract us from our primary mission with good works. This can lead to a loss of focus and falling short of our intended mission. Our enemy can even use other Christian disciples to draw us into their mission and that is called “conscription”. Many disciples think their mission is the most important one in the world and surely you should set aside your mission and engage theirs.
Consider this example from the Gospel of Matthew 21:1-2 “…then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “ Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me.”
I can imagine in today’s environment, someone would say, “Join me over here and help lead this bible series” or “Can you help with the soup kitchen?” “Help me with my mission! Surely its more important than an ass and her colt!” Pro-life groups have an important purpose as do prayer groups, soup kitchens, healing ministries, even those who set up the chairs! Do your mission! Do what you were told to do! “You are a part and not the whole!”
Our call in the Sword of the Spirit is to be a community of disciples on mission. Personal, family, and corporate decisions can contribute to that, but there should be something in us that’s sort of “spring-loaded” toward fulfilling our call.
Our mission is to build Christian communities that raise up and support disciples who are themselves engaged in the mission.
“…and what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well”.2 Timothy 2:2
A final note of introduction: In Jesus’ last days before the cross, he said things and prayed for things that should stand out to us because of the timing of his life on earth (e.g., the prayer for unity in John 17.) I want to mention two of his directions or comments:
“Go and make disciples.”Matthew 28: 19-20
“Love one another as I have loved you. By this all men (the world) will know that you are my disciples.”John 13:34-35
Our mission is a response to these two commands: We live to raise up disciples; and then we love one another in Christian community. There is a certain “light and leaven” to our mission.
A Useful Tool
One tool for evaluating proposals, activities, etc. …
*This table is customized for a particular community and would need to be redesigned for local application.
Along the top are particular groups and activities that the local community supports and participates in.
Along the left side are some distinct steps that support the mission. Each group or activity supports some aspect of our mission. More checkmarks under an event, activity or proposal means the activity is more essential to the mission.
Evaluating our groups, activities and proposals in this kind of exercise is meant to remind us that we need to be focused on the final steps of our mission if we are to be faithful to our call. It’s possible to do many good things and to forget that our call is to raise up disciples in community. If we miss that, we will eventually cease to exist.
These questions assume a leadership group that discusses proposals for: a new sub-grouping, a new event, a new investment of time or money, an addition to the schedule, etc.
- How does the new proposal contribute to the core mission?
- What level of influence would we expect from the new proposal?
- Is the expenditure of time and/or money commensurate with degree of influence?
- What amount of evaluation time are we assigning? (i.e. re-evaluating after a period of time)
- Are there secondary mission steps that we can identify? (e.g., support of marriage and family life; support of single life; support of parish life
These questions and issues are intended to raise and answer the question: Do we invest enough time and energy to activities that directly support the call to make disciples?
Top image credit: an illustration of a transparent body with vascular system and heart,
From Bigstock.com, © by SciePro, stock photo ID: 4863573.
Bob Tedesco is the founder of the People of God, a Sword of the Spirit community in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA where he served as Senior Coordinator for 26 years. He has been involved in lay ministry for over forty-five years, and has served as Regional President of the North American region in the Sword of the Spirit.