Reclaiming a Broad Sense of Mission

The Reverend Jeff Potter

In the penultimate chapter of the Revelation to John, the author describes an extraordinary vision of the emergence of a new heaven and a new earth, with a new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven and a voice declaring that the home of God is among mortals. The idyllic garden introduced in Genesis has been fruitful and multiplied into a lush and vibrant city, marked by human flourishing. A river runs through it, and the very Tree of Life has grown and is now present on both sides of the water. Its fruit is for the healing of the nations. Whatever space we might have imagined to exist between the lofty heights of heaven and the base elements of earthly existence have collapsed, and all nations walk by the light of God. Relationships are restored, light abounds, and the city gates are never closed.

This is what mission looks like.

From time to time, we have tried to sell the idea of ‘mission’ as an optional add-on for churchy keeners, or as a pious buzzword that signals best practices to stave off decline, ensure perpetual youthfulness, or lose the elusive, last 10 pounds.

This is nonsense. Even at its best, it is an impoverished understanding of what we mean when we talk about our call to participate in the mission of God.

Mission is nothing less than the unfolding process of God creating, sustaining, and redeeming the world. Nothing less than a way of describing the divine love, joy, and creativity that has captured our hearts and souls, and which propels us outward to share what we have first received. Mission is not so much ours to own as it is an invitation that we have received to join in a celebration already underway. Because God delights in making things that can make more things, and the relational mystery that we know as the Trinity cannot be contained. God creates us in the image of that relationship, that we might find ourselves in our engagement with God and with each other.

In short, the whole story of salvation is the story of God’s mission in and to the world.

My role as Diocesan Missioner is to help us remember this story. To help identify opportunities to more fully engage in the formation and deepening of relationships within our established church communities, and in the neighbourhoods that we serve. To help empower and equip leaders, both lay and ordained, to draw others into the divine flow of this grand story. And to help imagine ways that our common structure can change and adapt as we seek to turn ever outward, and use the gifts that we have inherited for the benefit of our neighbours. 

The truth is that God does indeed dwell in our midst, inviting us to take part in the union of heaven and earth. Together, may we learn to see with fresh eyes, and to respond with renewed faith and hope.

The Reverend Jeff Potter is Diocesan Missioner and Communications Co-ordinator.