May years ago, I stepped away from working in college ministry. In some ways it was devastating for me. My sense of purpose, my mission, had become so tied up in that ministry. In the 15+ years since, I’ve faced similar challenges multiple times over. And each time that big question of purpose raises its head.
What is my purpose or mission, what am I called to do?
So much of that confusion starts with the very word mission. It’s a word that surrounds us. There are mission trips, the mission field, sometimes catchy and sometimes just plain bad mission statements. Every church and business has a stated mission. You may also hear things like “my mission is the Hilltop neighborhood of Tacoma” or “I’m called to work with youth.”
While those aren’t bad things to say, they are actually descriptors of context rather than mission.
One of the challenges that we face is that context and mission have become so blurred that they have become functionally interchangeable for most Christians. At some point we’ve made a switch and come to understand our context as being our mission. And in doing so we’ve created a lot of confusion about mission.
Once we can bring clarity to what mission means, then we can really delve into missional living. I’ve found that the easiest way to help people understand it is to break it down into three basic parts. What is the mission, what is the context, and what do you do in that context.
So what do we mean by mission?
When Jesus called Peter, James and the rest of his disciples, all he called them to was to “come follow me.” He didn’t call them to Capernaum or Jerusalem, though they spent plenty of time in each location or context.
God is in the business of calling people to himself so that they can be taught, grow in equipping and understanding, and then be sent out as his voice to call other people to him. That is what Jesus did, he called people to follow him, and then after equipping them, he sent them out with a mission.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
And they were told to live out this wherever they went, in whatever context, wherever the Spirit He would send to them might take them.
As followers of Christ we are each and everyone called by God as his children to his mission, to be disciples who make disciples, all for the glory of God. No matter who you are, what church body you are a part of, where ever in the world you may be… that is the mission you are called to.
Paul reminded the Ephesian church of this when he wrote,
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:-16
This is something we are all a part of and all called to do. It is so critically important that we understand and embrace this mission as children of God.
What I needed to learn was this simple fact that my mission is to make disciples wherever I am. The reality is that contexts change but our identity in Christ and his purpose does not. While it took time for me to learn this it has made all the difference. For once we firmly grasp that we are called to be disciples who make disciples the question of where and how becomes easier to discern.
** image by SethtotheBrown