My understanding of mission has changed drastically since first entering seminary. To me now, “mission” is equal with “calling”. It is the act of living out your calling by daily being obedient to God’s will and determined in your purpose, which will usually include coming alongside others. God’s presence is lived out through His people, most especially to those less fortunate. Prior to seminary, I felt mission was something you went on in order to be a good Christian. It cost hundreds of dollars and usually involved building a house … or there was always Africa. As an only child, I was not allowed on these “missions” with a church, and would, therefore, usually have a residual feeling of not being a good enough believer when I was asked about my last “missions trip”. I did not have the awareness then that you can serve God anywhere.
With my current pursuit of pastoral care and ministry, it has become much more clear that having a missional perspective should be a daily habit and that being missional in your actions is imperative. The relation to our first commandment is direct. Example, what do people do when they go to other places on a mission? They serve. They build. They feed. They encourage. Stephen Bevans and Roger Schroeder define mission as God Himself, “[Mission] is what God is in God’s deepest self: self-diffusive love, freely creating, redeeming, healing, challenging that creation”. This does not solely include the sharing of the gospel with “unchurched” non-believers unless that act is also defined as feeding the hungry, visiting the poor, consoling the troubled, or nursing the sick. When a hungry person is visited, the last thing they want first is a lecture on faith. They want food. Once you have served them as God commanded, His love can be communicated with words. This is my stance and one I learned firsthand while working in crisis ministry at a south county church a few years ago. I’ll never forget the things I saw, heard, and experienced while I was there … or the women with whom I shared some of their darkest moments. I learned quickly that it was more about being, listening, and coming before God together than it was anything else. At the age of 23, I’d never lived through a drug addiction, divorce, or the loss of a child … but I had experienced struggle, loss, and betrayal. It wasn’t necessarily about the specific life occurrence as it was the feelings that went along with them.
The same is true when acting missionally. When Jesus commanded us to make disciples and share the Gospel in Matthew 28, he promised his eternal presence. He literally promised to come alongside us and never leave. To be missional, to think missionally, and to act from Matthew 28, all require the humility to know that everything is from God, who gave us Christ’s example so that we could know freedom from any sort of bondage, oppression, sadness, or grief. It is because of this lens that I see “mission” as a continual act usually centered around the aspect of care and service, not so much the one-time act of building of a house or sending funds so a village can have water.