Mission, or Task, is at the heart of what the Church of God is about. The idea starts with the assumption that belief isn’t just something that goes on internally, either in our minds or within the walls of our church buildings on Sundays, but is to do with transforming what we believe into what we do.
To those who are confused or even frightened by the very notion of being involved in some way in the mission of the church, there have been a couple of helpful developments in recent times:
Firstly there was the introduction of the idea of mission having five ‘hallmarks’: it meant preaching to the unconverted, baptising and teaching new Christians, having an eye to ministry among the needy, a desire to see the world changed through the power of the message of love and care for the created order of which we and all people are part…
Secondly (and thankfully for me and people like me) someone decide to ‘alliterate’ the list (write them down so they all start with the same letter!) to make remembering and understanding these hallmarks easier.
SO – the five ‘marks’ of the mission of the church are:
TELL – this is about communicating to the world around us our experience of the things of God: joy, liberation, generosity, hope, grace, faithfulness, peace, love… When we say ‘Tell’ of course we must remember the words of St Francis “…use words if necessary” . In other words, telling, preaching, proclaiming the message of love is every bit as much about how we live, how we behave, what sort of things we say and how we say them, how much we listen, our patience, compassion, grace, peace, generosity and so on, as what we merely say.
TEACH – this is about nurturing people who are new to faith, passing on to them something of what we’ve experienced and learnt – and are still learning – for example about trust, humility, mercy, commitment, forgiveness, prayerfulness… and helping them to experience the things of faith for themselves
TEND – this is about looking to the needs of others, whoever they are, whether we consider them to be good or bad, like or unlike us, near or far, deserving or undeserving
TRANSFORM – this is about having the vision of the world as it could and can be (our local community, family, colleagues – and ourselves) and seeking to help it to grow in love, hope, compassion, justice-with-mercy, peace
TREASURE – this is about having a wider view and respect for the of the whole of Creation and the way its parts are all inter-related and inter-dependent – including us
It’s important to understand that this doesn’t mean that each of us individually is expected (or even be able!) to do all of the things in each of the five areas; these are the ‘Marks’ of mission: guidelines for what the Church needs to do in order to fulfil its vital task of revealing the kingdom of God on earth – which is the whole point of the church’s existence.