The work of Mission Committee
By Revd Grant Wilson
Mission Committee is one of four Synod committees reporting to Synod Executive. It ‘encourages local churches to consider their mission and to engage in evangelism, coordinates synod responses to social issues, oversees ecumenical relations and supports local ecumenical partnerships and promotes international church relations’.
It oversees the work of members of the Synod team tasked with mission, specifically Mission Enabler, Jane Rowell. It also oversees the work of our Green Apostle, Trevor Jamison, which many of you will know about. They will write here in more detail about their own work at some point, I am sure.
You may well be thinking, this is probably too much for one committee to handle. How do we perform these many tasks? One substantial element of the Committee’s meetings is receiving reports from members of Mission Committee who attend other committees on Synod’s behalf. The danger is, we receive a report, but do nothing with it. The challenge is to capture the learning from the organisations represented on those other committees, and pass it on to Synod churches in ways that enable them to act on it.
The work of a mission committee really has to start with a definition of what mission is, and inevitably that begins with the Great Commission the disciples, received from Jesus: Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16.15, NASB).
For a long time, the church appeared to operate on the assumption that there was no need for mission in this country; the ‘mission fields’ were far beyond our shores. It is clear to us now, this understanding of mission is both paternalistic and patronising.
All the statistics now show that the real need for mission is on our own doorstep: Christians in our local communities are a dwindling minority. We have been here before; the difference is, in the days of the apostles, the tiny number of people who believed were anointed by the Spirit, and filled with a passion to spread the gospel to the whole world. They did not believe the energies of the church should be entirely devoted to self-care.
Revd Andrew Willett led an excellent day at St George’s High Heaton recently on the challenge of ‘Making More Disciples’. The day was based around his own experience of planting a church, along with his wife Sally in west Thamesmead, London. The traditional assumption is that a church begins with a hall full of chairs, the missional challenge being to fill them. The Willets began without a building, and looked instead for ways to bless their community by organising community events and actively encouraging people, to come along, sometimes going door to door to do so. They also tried simply to be a presence in the community, going out and about and greeting people where they found them. Instead of trying to make people believe, they helped people feel they belonged. They now have a diverse gathering of 80 people, mainly young families, meeting regularly for worship in a local school.
Mission is transformative, for the people involved just as much as for the people it attempts to reach, often, even more so. Mission is counter-cultural; the church needs to change, at least as much as the world outside. We can hardly set out to change the world if we are neither willing nor able to change ourselves. As such, a committee charged with mission should never promote an ethos of business as usual. To employ a cliché, if you want to see change, be the change.