Yesterday I had the privilege of hearing Rowan Williams (a great supporter of Salvation's Song) speak on the place of mission in the 21st Century. He gave an excellent exposition of Matthew 10.1-10 and Matthew 28.16-20 at the Intercontinental Church Society's Annual General Meeting. Here's my notes.
Where do we start in mission? We should start where God has already started - not wasting energy on things God is not doing, remembering mission is God's before it is ours.
What do we say? That God is nearer than you think - not distand & shy, needing to be introduced to people he doesn't know. He reminded us of Herbert's poem of Easter, which points out that God is always up first -
"Thou wast up by break of day/And brought thy sweet along with thee".
What are we doing? Bringing Christ-shaped change into every situation (healing, release, cleansing - transforming whole environments, not just beliefs).
Why do we do it? Gratitude! "Freely you have received, freely give!" We have received a gift that will not sit still in our hands.
How do we plan it? Initiative comes before resource, meaning that mission travels light. What we think we need sometimes stops us from responding to what people around us actually need.
And then -
Go. Mission travels, not expecting people to arrive. Mission is not just hyperactivity, hoping someone will notice. It asks questions - what do you need? Where is hunger?
Make disciples. Shape people who are willing to go on learning - bring people in and give them time. People are members of the body, not just and organisation.
Baptising them... Jesus immerses people in his life, sometimes before they fully understand everything. Doctrine is really important, but mission is not an exam to be passed. Relationship with Christ is a life, that leads to understanding.
We need to know this missionary God reaching out to us before we can reach out to others.
And from this Rowan gave 4 practical hints:
1. Good mission needs good local research.
2. Funding should be flexible.
3. Mission needs deep breaths and long views: a long term perspective and superhuman patience.
4. Mission needs a solid three dimensional liturgical life - teaching and symbol, making the rhythm of Christ's life second nature to us, the great story unfolding freshly year on year.
And yes - that really is him really holding a copy of Salvation's Song, which he describes as "a liberating and exciting book, which has the potential to open up some very new channels in mission." Here we are together, making the point clear:
Holiness is godliness in accessible humanity. Rowan is a wonderful, godly, holy man. His grasp and communication of Jesus is for me a golden thing. I think he has the worst job in the world, but is the best man in the world to hold it. It was a joy to see & hear him.
Incidentally, I was voted onto the ICS council - another privilege, and an honour. I had a great day, meeting Ambrose, a fellow Welsh man, Paul & Kay who I had spent time with one Wengen trip, and Nabil Shehadi, the ICS sponsored chaplain in the Lebanon; he describes his country as a cross between "club Med & world war three". To proclaim Christ there takes a special man - he seemed truly amazing to me.