Rector's Reflections - 15 April

Rector’s Reflections   

Monday 15th April 2024

21st Century Church Mission, Evangelism, Discipleship

Last week, I began a series of reflections on three words which are usually considered to be at the heart of the contemporary Church:  Mission, Evangelism and Discipleship. These three words are often used as  way of assessing whether or not a particular church or church leader is “doing a good job”.  Is such and a such a congregation engaged in Mission?  What is it doing by way of Evangelism? How it is enabling growth in Discipleship?

There is much to be said for this contemporary focus on Mission, Evangelism and Discipleship. But it also comes with some significant draw backs, and I am going to explore some of these in my reflections in the days ahead.

To start with, what about the doctrine of Vocation?  Does the single-minded focus on Mission, Evangelism and Discipleship squeeze out any meaningful consideration of the doctrine of Vocation, as it has been traditionally understood by Christians down the centuries?   What I mean by “the doctrine of Vocation” is the belief that God calls men and women, as individuals and as communities, to particular tasks at particular times. It follows that it is our responsibility to discern what God might be calling us to do – as individual Christians and as congregations.  It’s about allowing God to set the agenda for His Church.

It may well be that not every church congregation is being called by God to focus on Mission, Evangelism and Discipleship.  Every congregation is different and every context is different.  It is God’s Church, and God should be allowed to lead His Church in the way He considers most appropriate. 

Churches have a  wide range of vocations, and vocations may change over the years and with changing opportunities and membership. Of course God may well be calling a particular church community to focus on Mission, Evangelism, or Discipleship, or any combination of these three. But God might have other vocations in mind. For example, God may decide that the vocation of a particular church congregation is simply to be faithful witnesses to the risen Lord Jesus Christ, meeting regularly together for worship and prayer. The powers that be in the ecclesiastical hierarchy may choose to dismiss such a congregation as a failure – where is the Mission Action Plan? Where are the Mission Initiatives? Where is the focus on growing disciples?  But I wonder whether we can be quite so sure that God would be so ready to dismiss such a congregation as a failure.  Is n’t it enough simply to try our best to be a witness to the Resurrection, in a way that makes sense in our particular time and place?

So one of the dangers with the focus on Mission, Evangelism and Discipleship is that it ends up telling God what He is to do with his Church. There are other dangers as well, and we will look at these in the days ahead.

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