It’s been a while and I didn’t know if I would ever return to blogging, however having just returned from the clergy conference and have decided to dip my toe in the blogging world once more – so here goes.
During the conference there was some discussion over the difference between mission and evangelism and here is my tuppenceworth.
I have always thought of Mission as the work of the church to those outside its own walls (although that includes work that goes on inside church walls for non congregational members). In essence mission is work done not firstly for members of that particular worshiping community. That work might involve providing a service or social event, it might involve donating facilitates or talents to a local community project. The primary point however is that these events are about the mission of the Church, doing Christ’s work, being Christ’s hands, eyes, ear, voice, feet. They are about others first, not tacking on others to something the church would do for itself anyway. That being said events held firstly for the congregation may indeed have a missionary element but they are not in themselves mission. Mission is a visible symbol of God’s unconditional love to those who are unaware of it and it is offered as a gift with no thanks or reward required. It is in such ways that angels very well might be entertained unawares.
Evangelism is something different, evangelism is the proclaiming of the Good News by word as well as deed, it is actions and words that are done and spoken with the single intention of bringing someone to Christ. (That doesn’t means it will always succeed but it does mean it has a different focus to that of mission.) Evangelism might involve mission, might take place at a mission event, or when a mission task is being performed, however Evangelism is different from mission. Evangelism requires a particular set of gifts confidence, resilience, tolerance, understanding and adaptability. There are those for whom evangelism is second nature. However for those for whom it isn’t such things can be taught, nurtured and encouraged through prayer and study not to mention through example and good practice. The most striking difference between evangelism and mission however is that there is an intention beyond demonstrating God’s love and that intention is bringing someone into a living relationship with God.
In addition to Mission and Evangelism to those beyond our congregations there is another part of the churches work. An important part which we devalue when we call it mission, not because it is more important but because we then don’t give it the particular time and effort it too needs. The need to empower, educate, nurture and support for those who are already members of the faith community. These things are not Mission but should give people both the confidence and the tools they need to engage with both mission and evangelism. A Prayer Group for example might give someone the confidence to speak to someone about their faith, however it wont either proclaim God’s love further or bring anyone to Christ without mission and evangelism flowing from it.
To put it another way:
32 ‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
That is Mission.
17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 18Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19You know the commandments: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.” ’ 20He said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.’ 21Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money* to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 22When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
That is evangelism.