Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Five Marks of Mission

When one has a job, one agrees objectives, against which one performs and against which one is annually assessed. When one becomes a Christian, one is not assessed as such, for one's basic salvation is secure in Christ, through faith. Nevertheless faith must issue in positives for the New Testament teaches that "faith without works is dead". 

Christians are called  to perform:  it may be that God can use our performance to point people to Christ.  Jesus talks about rewards for performance in Heaven and for these, there are guiding "objectives" summed up in the word "mission". For almost a century, theologians have been arguing over whether Christians should be concentrating on:
  • just preaching the Gospel, the message of salvation or 
  • doing good works of social change, justice and development.  
Generally speaking, the liberal Church supports the latter and the reformed church supports the former (but without neglecting the latter).

What marks out Christian mission, from humanistic endeavours?   One clear difference is that everything a Christian does is to be undertaken in, through and for Christ, in line with the will of God. The Anglican Consultative Council has sought to solve the issue, by defining Christian mission.  In its most recent format, the five marks of mission are listed as:

1) proclaiming the Gospel, the Good News of the Kingdom.  This relates to sharing the truth of Scripture, being faithful to the teaching of Christ and His Apostles, as set out in the New Testament.

2) teaching, baptising and nurturing new believers.  This directly relates to the duties of those called to be ordained teachers and ministers but teaching gifts are also given to informal evangelists and teachers. All Christians have a duty to share Christ, if there is an opportunity, and to give a reason for their faith, when asked, to regularly invite friends to church.

3) responding to human need by loving service.  This relates to public service, acts of compassion, fulfilling family duties and duties to the needy, hungry, sick and prisoner.  This is because all mankind is made in the image of God. Jesus Himself identified with prisoners, the sick and the hungry and service to them is a clear witness to a loving God.

4) seeking to transform unjust structures of society to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.  This relates to being 'salt and light' in the world, a city on a hill. But pacifism, in all situations, is not commended in our view, in relation to the doctrine of the "just war".  Apart from war, the principle of non-violence  is commanded.  We are also to be peacemakers -  but without blindly condoning sin.

5) striving to safeguard the integrity of Creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth. This is in line with the principle of stewardship set out in Genesis -  man is told to work and to rule over Creation benevolently. This does not mean that we must all be vegans, though we may choose that option.  It means that we should fight the inhumane treatment of all God's creatures. We should try to protect the animal and natural world and support its sustainability.

Sustainability is the principle that what we consume must be taken in such a way that it can be regenerated and therefore not diminish the resources of future generations. So we should work to increase our use of renewable resources in food, energy and fuel.  In line with this principle is fair trade -  which is not taking from the poor the fruits of their labour without giving back what is fair, right and just.

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