Community: church & context
Youth in Mission is defined by the priority of community. Just as we assume the love of God is already at work in ourselves and others; we can safely assume God is already at work in the local church and the context of the community in which the local church is located.
Often we are surprised just like Jesus’ first followers in Mark 9 when what we think is competition Jesus identifies as the work of his Father:
“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.”
This is humbling.
The church as the community of faith gathers as the “called out ones” from the community to worship Christ together. Just as the church is gathered to worship so the church is sent to serve. By joining the mission of God already present and active in the world the church participants in the redemptive and renewing activity of God. This takes on many forms and methods.
Andy Stanely offers this stirring reflection on being the community of the church:
“From the first century through the twenty-first century, there has always been a remnant, a group who has refused to define the church in terms of location or hierarchy. There have always been, and will always be, men and women who view the church as a movement with a divinely inspired mission and mandate.”( Stanley, Andy. Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World (p. 79). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
The assumption of the missioner is that God is indeed already going about the activity of bringing his kingdom into our reality through the church and context. Leslie Newbigin gives a hard shove to any thought that God’s mission is restricted to the church or bound to a specific location by stating: “the ‘home base’ of missions is now nothing less than the worldwide community.” (The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission). This includes where YOU are from. Yes…your home base; where you live IS the mission field. Often the home location culture has become a cross-cultural setting (ethically / ethNically / intergenerationally) unbeknownst to the church and its congregation members not just outside of the church relationships but within them, as well. If you are a part of the global community, and even if you were on Mars, you are included as the home base of mission because you are human. No exceptions!
God is at work through the Spirit of Christ in and through the church (called out / assembly) sent into the context. The church is to go out into the community of its’ context to join what God is already doing there (aka-prevenient grace). And where we need be to join the momentum of action toward the justice of God’s kingdom coming is to be united with the message of hope in Christ. It’s not that God is not already working in the context. He may very well be working in spite of the church! Which is…me. And you. Let us pray we do not get in the way of the WAY!
It is the church’s mandate, as believers in the resurrected Christ, to name the hope from which the action of mission springs toward mending a broken world wherever these actives can be found! And then to join what God is already doing intentionally through the community; cooperating with God’s good work on behalf of his creation and those made in his image.
For more on this see “The Monkey Serves the Fish” in Duane Elmer’s book Cross-Cultural Servanthood.