Friday, January 27, 2012

what is mission? a story of paying attention to the missing

The question is not: what is the church? but who is the church? (Natalie Watson, Introducing Feminist Ecclesiology).

What is mission? As a missiologist, I am always looking for ways to answer this question clearly. I can give you the definitions. Like this one from the Commission on Mission of the National Council of Churches in Australia.

Mission is the creating, reconciling and transforming action of God, flowing from the community of love found in the Trinity, made known to all humanity in the person of Jesus, and entrusted to the faithful action and witness of the people of God who, in the power of the Spirit, are a sign, foretaste and instrument of the reign of God.

But they tend to make some people’s eyes glaze over. So what about this for a story from a local pastor, working with an elderly congregation, as a way of defining mission?

The pastor thought a lot about who in the community was missing from the church. And how to help the church remain attentive. This generated the idea of making some life-size cardboard cuts out of people typical of their community, but missing from their congregation. In their case, a boy aged 5, a girl aged 11, a parent aged 35.

The pastor found some photos, blew them up life-size, printed them in colour, stuck them on some plywood, cut them out and built a stand. A boy 101 cm tall, a girl 132 cm tall, an adult 163 cm tall.

And then the pastor began to take these 3 figures to every leadership meeting. And when key discussions were being made, the leaders would be asked to stop and consider the impact of the decisions on those 3 cutouts, the people absent from their church.

And the pastor also took these cutouts to church. So that as they gathered, and when they prayed for others, their prayers would include those figures, the people in their community.

Which is commendable because we follow a Jesus who paid attention the missing.

(Hat tip)

What is mission? Mission is the deliberate act of paying attention to those who are missing. It does this through inviting our prayer, our time, our talent, as individuals and as a communities.

Posted by steve at 11:30 AM


  1. Love it Steve. A fascinating idea to remind us of the groups that are missing from our community. I wonder if we’d have the courage to do something similar with not only age…but colour? And disability?

    Comment by Mike — January 27, 2012 @ 12:03 pm

  2. absolutely Mike. that is where my thinking goes. You could have “local” missing and “world” missing and thus focus on your local community, plus wider eg boat people, unreached people’s. Plus you might want to throw in a creature eg a local species under threat of extintion, to hold open the creation care side of mission,


    Comment by steve — January 27, 2012 @ 12:21 pm

  3. The maths of mission. Priorities1 over 99.

    Comment by ian — January 27, 2012 @ 11:06 pm

  4. Thanks Ian. No wonder the Canaanite women did her pushback aye? Needed to remind Jesus of the need to do his maths better 🙂


    Comment by steve — January 27, 2012 @ 11:37 pm

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