ImageAs we approach the start of a new academic year it’s good to ask some fundamental questions about what we mean by the term ‘mission’ and why it matters.

It seems that there has been a trend in recent years for fewer people to go into long-term work overseas. While there may be lots of reasons for this, one that is sometimes suggested is the growing conviction that we already have a mission field here in the UK. There is so much to do here so why go elsewhere?

Obviously it is utterly fantastic that we as a Church realise our already-sentness: that God has placed us to be bearers of his good news right where we are. And, of course, ‘where we are’ may be just as intercultural (if not more so) that many places around the world.

But where does that leave the need to send and support people to go overseas?

In an article for Christianity Today (Missions vs. Missional? Why We Really Need Both), US missiologist Ed Stetzer makes a helpful contribution to the discussion, arguing that we need both. Indeed,

The two issues are distinct and yet integrated. They are not mutually exclusive, but thrive best when they are both embraced and implemented in a local church body. Living on mission is not a missions issue, per se. It’s a Christian issue. Part of living on mission, however, must lead to missions…

Mission and missions need to live together. Missional churches—those focused on living on mission where we are—must remember that Jesus called us to reach people where the gospel is not. I want us to be missional, living as agents of God’s mission in context, but you can’t take John 20:21 in isolation without also remembering Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8.

In other words, a passion to reach the lost globally should impact how we live out our faith locally. Similarly, a missional mindset in our local community should shape us in such a way as to invest ourselves in the less-local. They fuel each other.

And as I prepare to teach my classes this semester (A Missional Intro to the OT; Missional Texts: Psalms and Genesis 1-11; Missional Texts: Isaiah; Reading the Bible Missionally) Stetzer’s article is a helpful reminder that a whole-Bible approach is essential. Just because I feel I can justify one course of action as biblical, this doesn’t mean it is the only biblical course of action. It is not that we are being unbiblical; rather we are not being biblical enough.

Roll on the new term!

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