I’ve been wrestling with a statement by someone I respect immensely and who has influenced my missiology greatly. The statement is:
“When we are all working on mission, community happens naturally. When we’re working on community, mission gets lost somewhere.”
I think this statement challenges the status quo for 95% of churches in America. The reality is that most churches are primarily concerned with their own community and never get their people on mission. I recently tweeted (Yes, I’m on twitter) that I’ve been starting to question whether the statement is reality or a pendulum shift. It resulted in great convos, so the next step is obviously blogging about it. I haven’t come to any conclusion, but here are my ramblings.
Both of these aspects of the gospel (community and mission) are good, godly results of the gospel, but left on their own will ultimately kill the group. The point at question is, “Does mission together automatically build community?” The answer is no. If the group is so focused on serving, doing, and giving, you’re cooking a recipe for burnout, a byproduct of which is individuals feeling used and valued solely based on their contribution to “mission”. If their contributions in mission dwindle, they wonder and question their role in the group they are serving, will they be loved/accepted if they don’t contribute because mission is primary?!? Personal care of those on mission gets lost when mission is held up as ultimate and primary.
To contrast, community alone kills when the group loves each other so much they no longer want to see new people come into the group. They love spending time with each other so much that they refuse to seek out anyone or fully welcome newcomers. The group eventually becomes disgruntled because they aren’t doing anything because community has become primary. Christians were made to be on mission, so they become disgruntled and the group ultimately fades away and dies.
So there’s a problem, what’s the solution?
The statement above has the most gigantic caveat. It is based on the assumption of the gospel being primary in an individual’s life as well as in a group. If this caveat happens, if they understand the gospel, both community and mission flow out of the individual and if the group gets it, both community and mission thrive. If the gospel is primary, it becomes understood that the gospel calls people out of darkness into light, from being a slave to being a family member and being cared for solely because of Christ’s work, not solely their contribution to the group. If the gospel is primary, then it is also understood at the same time that the gospel calls that same loved individual on mission to the world carrying the same message they have just received and been transformed by.
But the gigantic caveat should never be assumed and the gospel must always be primary and should not be replaced by the primacy of mission or community. The problem is each of us is naturally bent towards making one or the other primary and lobbing bombs at the other side because they aren’t doing what we hold as primary. Only when they are seen as results of the gospel in our lives and mutually embraced will mission assist in developing deeper community and a community thrive on mission.
The original statement is absolutely needed for the American church and I need to hear it often. But we must be certain that we don’t forget the gigantic caveat.
When the gospel is being held, valued, proclaimed as primary within a group of people then community and mission happen naturally.
The question remains of how this can be accomplished. How can the gospel stay primary in an individual’s life and primary within a group of people? I’d love to hear your thoughts and hopefully I’ll add mine soon.