Monday, October 03, 2005

effective mission

we have been at it for almost 7 years now.
we have been trying to put mission at the heart of our being the church. we have been intrigued with the idea that mission is the mother of theology (and, we might add, ecclesiology).
but i know i have often tried too hard and seen mission as the 'target' instead of the off-spring. too much self-awareness about being missional. it seems to me that we need a gentle urgency (as David Bosch put it) funded by an outward orientation. we have been at our best when we have acted on a courageous, intentional optimism about the ever expansive Kingdom of God.
in more recent years we have lived our way into a matrix of ideas and practices that include (but are no means restricted to): caring for the homeless people in our city through housing and lay social work, delivering meals to people suffering from AIDS, connecting our eating habits with local food production, welcoming and settling refugees, visiting with like-minded communities throughout north america and the world to stimulate reflection and foster solidarity, and partnering with local environmental and human rights activists. we just spent the weekend with friends committed to birthing a training and development complex to equip native american leaders (see more here).
this gaggle of experiences has formed us into a missional community.
we're still trying.
still failing.
tons more to learn...

This week i have been reading a book called Journeying Out by Ann Morisy and this quote (p.17) gets at what i have been learning:

"Effective mission is not achieved by giving it focal awareness. effective mission is a fruit - a gracious outcome of other factors working effectively and appropriately. This upends all our habits and assumptions. It means that effective mission is something that emerges as a result of looking and journeying outward rather than by means of a self-conscious and self-regarding process."

5 comments:

jonny said...

great book... i got it on your recommendation. am thinking of getting her to do a blah for us in london

james said...

Geoff,
A couple of questions, becuase this is an area I've been wrestling with over the last couple of weeks. 1. given the quote is true, Why is our venture neccessary given the large number of other more institutional bodies that do not place mission as the focal point, yet do produce mission as a fruit? 2. What haven't those other bodies that have failed to produce the fruit of mission done, or where has their perspective faultered?
Do these make any sense?
James

geoff said...

James,
this is how i would respond to your questions (anyone else chime in..i'm not an authority)
1. i simply don't agree with this statement, that is "the large number of other more institutional bodies...produce mission as a fruit." this, in my understanding, is rare if happening at all. also, i'm not sure it is ultimately helpful to talk about mission as a 'fruit', like it is an object...it's far more nuanced, sublime, than that. ann morisy fleshes it out more in her book so that mission, in her framing, is more like an attitude (optimism about the coming kingdom) paired with practices of love and justice. and that brings me to
2. i think they (and us in patches) have failed to 'journey out'. the book i quote from uses this phrase to describe the process of mission.

to journey out is to steadily put ourselves 'out there' to serve and sacrifice, not for the church (service/building/event) but for the kingdom of god. then the church is born in a movemental sense (is so far as it is in motion).

one last thought. i think we need to be careful to accept this wisdom that 'focus' can undo missional engagement and leadership to the degree that your first point suggests (why are we necessary?). i am still a firm believer in intentionality which will need to be there is we are to get ourselves up out of the pews (so to speak). hirsch and frost do a great job with this idea (hebrew...kavanah) in 'shaping of things to come.

ooops. i've rambled on. sorry about that. hope that gets at your reflections....does that engage with what your asking?
peace.

james said...

Geoff,
Thanks for the feedback. This does get a my reflection, however, I've got a couple of clarifications. I used "fruit" because of the qoute you had used in your post had used this phrase to describe mission, I was not intending to reduce mission. Also, I guess I'm still not convinced that we (or groups like us) are part of a small minority "doing" mission. I think many traditions and even institutions are engaged in missional lives. To me, mission is definitely journeying out, but its also a life of prayer in a convent or monestary, or celebrating the Eucharist, or simply gathering with those on the road together to worship, etc. If you journey too far out without these things you're in danger of being in mission for the next best thing, not for Christ or His Father's Kingdom.
james

geoff said...

thanks for your clarifications and thoughts about mission, james. good things for us to keep reflecting on. may we see the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven...
peace