Pursuing Mission

2 07 2011

by Stephen M. Veazey, president of the church

I have been heartened by many responses to my recent address, “The Mission Matters Most!” The address introduced into the church’s life five mission initiatives, arising from our best understanding of Jesus’ mission as presented in scripture.

The five mission initiatives are: Invite People to Christ; Abolish Poverty, End Suffering; Pursue Peace on Earth; Develop Disciples to Serve; and Experience Congregations in Mission.

I am especially encouraged by those who see the evident relationships between:

  • Jesus’ statement of mission in Luke 4:18–19.
  • The focus of the earliest Christian communities described in the Book of Acts.
  • The priorities of early Latter Day Saint communities that strove to be like Jesus and the church in Acts.
  • Community of Christ’s pursuit of Christ’s mission today.

These strong scriptural, historical, and theological connections clearly reveal divine intent and movement through time. They provide a solid foundation for our enthusiastic affirmation that “Christ’s mission is our mission!”

After Jesus stated his mission, he faithfully pursued it through every aspect of his life and ministry. He was the full embodiment of divine Spirit and good news in action. He was the vessel through which God’s love and mercy soothed the wounds of hurting people.

He not only spoke of justice and peace, he was God’s justice and peace living on Earth. And, he stayed true to his mission in the face of misunderstanding, cynicism, betrayal, suffering, and death. That is the power of clear, compelling, divinely inspired mission.

In light of Jesus’ example, how far is Community of Christ willing to go to be faithful to Christ’s mission? Are we willing to embrace the harder teachings of Jesus about how to live in just community as presented in the Sermon on the Mount? Are we willing to absorb the misunderstanding, fear, and hate of others who do not share Jesus’ vision of the worth of persons and the blessings of community? Are we willing to go to the cross for those condemned by cultural and political systems that ignore and then crush the most vulnerable?

Our experience tells us that while it may be disturbing to some, people are blessed whenever the church moves to become more like Jesus by forming congregational communities that radiate his love, compassion, and commitment to just relationships. We see and experience the meaning of God’s revelation in Christ in new and expanded ways as relationships are restored and healed. We become more aware of the Spirit’s presence that is especially associated with faithfulness to Christ’s mission on Earth.

If that is the case, then we need to regularly ask what additional steps we can take to align our congregational experiences with what matters most to Jesus. Some helpful questions for congregational reflection and discussion:

  • In what aspects of congregational ministry would Jesus see his priorities of sharing the good news, healing the brokenhearted, and bringing release to captives through ministries of justice and peacemaking?
  • If Jesus examined the congregational budget, how would he see his mission identified and supported? Would he agree with the priorities?
  • If Jesus interviewed congregational members, what would they say about their understanding of his mission and how they support it?
  • If Jesus went into the neighborhood around the congregation, what evidence would he find of the congregation pursuing evangelism, compassionate ministry, and justice and peacemaking?
  • If Jesus attended congregational worship and other activities, to what degree would he sense the congregation cares passionately about his mission in local and worldwide terms?
  • Based on what we know about what “matters most” to Jesus, would he be “at home” in the faith community?

All are important questions that drive to the heart of a more-fundamental one: How much does pursuing the whole mission of Jesus Christ actually matter in congregational life? I hope and pray it matters a lot!

Once, while engaged in a religious discussion, it was strongly suggested I was headed to the “theological place of eternal punishment.” After considering several retorts and quickly dismissing them as inappropriate, I finally responded.

“If I do go there, then I will be found there pursuing the ministry and mission of Jesus Christ!” That is, I will be sharing the hope of the gospel, offering ministries of compassion, and working for better living conditions for all! After a brief pause, the conversation took a different direction.

If being a disciple of Jesus in Community of Christ has taught me anything, it’s that discipleship is much more than agreeing to a list of “right” beliefs. It is about supporting and living to the best of my capacity the whole mission of Jesus Christ wherever I am and whoever I am with.

 


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3 responses

5 07 2011
Leigh Anne

It has been interesting to me in the last week to look at the temptations Jesus faced BEFORE his ministry. I studied them and tried to come up with “the morals of the story”. Maybe WE need to look at these temptations too as a church before jumping into the initiatives. Temptation 1 moral- Trying to meet legitimate needs in illegitimate ways can keep us from listening to the word of God. (Needs for companionship, food, respect can get us in trouble if we try and force meeting them in ways like adultery, gluttony, greed and power) Temptation 2 moral- Do not test God just to bolster your own ego. (None of us is so great we cannot fall.) Temptation 3 moral- Controlling (or ruling) others (or maybe even the “attempt” to do so) can hinder one’s service and worship of God. (We are not called to “lord over” others like the “gentiles” do, but to wash their feet in humble service.) Just thoughts.

5 07 2011
Leigh Anne

While Jesus did not ask his disciples to come to the “theological Christ” William, he DID encourage people to “follow him”. Following him meant to walk in his footsteps and be covered with the dust of his journey. Maybe this is what the leaders meant and are trying to live out.

2 07 2011
William RAISER

What differentiates the “mission initiatives” of the Community of Christ from those of any other Christian church?

You rely on the approach of the author of Luke and Acts. Would one find the same approach in the other gospels? In the Book of Mormon? In the Doctrine and Covenants?

When will you (Church leaders) provide some guidance as to the meaning of these initiatives. For example: What does it mean to “invite people to Christ”? Why is this the first mission initiative when Jesus seemed to make no such call?

The mission initiatives seem to me to be nice “feel-good” words and phrases with little content. How might the Restoration flesh out these initiatives?




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