Rector's Reflections - 10 April

Rector’s Reflections   

Wednesday 10th April 2024

21st Century Church:  Mission, Evangelism, Discipleship


Over the last couple of days, we have been looking at the word “mission” as it is used in the contemporary church. Virtually everyone in Church circles proclaims the importance of “mission”, but the word is used in many different ways to mean many different things. Indeed, in some situations it is arguable that the word is almost totally devoid of any meaning whatsoever.  However, the fact that the word “mission” can mean virtually anything you want it to mean can have great advantages, not least because it means that it is very rare indeed that anyone will object to its use. It is a linguistic flag around which the disparate troops of the Church can gather.


Another key word for the contemporary Church is the word “Evangelism”.  This is quite different from the word “mission” in that there is general agreement as to what the word “evangelism” actually means: it means sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 


There are a thousand and one ways in which we can share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One of my favourite quotes is traditionally ascribed to St Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel and if necessary use words”.  We may indeed share the good news of Jesus Christ through spoken or written words. But we also share the gospel through our actions, and it is often said that actions speak louder than words. We can share the gospel powerfully and effectively through the way we relate to one another, and by the care and thoughtfulness we show to others. And in our modern world, we also proclaim the values of the gospel by the way we care for the environment.


Indeed, we share the gospel not only through what we do to try and make the world a better place, but also by the sort of person we are, or at least try to be.  When we remember the Christians who have inspired and encouraged us, I think more often than not we remember them not for what they said or did, but for the sort of person they were, and for the way they made us feel. It is hard to find satisfactory words to describe such a person. One of the phrases which I find myself using is “good and godly”: I describe such and such a person as a “good and godly” person.  This phrase means something to me, but I am aware that it will not resonate with others.


I think it is good to remind ourselves of the value of what I shall call the Evangelism of Being. We live in a noisy, busy world. We can easily think that the only way to share the gospel with others by words or actions. Words and actions certainly have their place.  But we also share the gospel simply by trying to be faithful followers of Jesus in the unique circumstances of particular lives, and this is fundamentally about who are as individuals. I think part of this is trying to see our lives as rooted in the love of God in Jesus Christ, knowing that God loves us and cares for us, and that despite the many challenges we face, in the end All Shall be Well.  (If the final sounds familiar, it comes from Julian of Norwich).


Of course there is much more to be said on the subject of being faithful followers of Jesus Christ. This brings us to a consideration of “discipleship”, and we will look at this in tomorrow’s reflections.

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