It’s Mission Jim, but not as we know it
It’s mission, Jim, but not as we know it.
The minister of a church suggested a catchy title for a talk on Industrial Mission (IM), or Mission in the Economy, could be, “It’s mission, Jim, but not as we know it.” Devotees of Star Trek would recognise the allusion, but was he right? IM and workplace chaplaincy, its principal expression today, don’t conform to the idea of mission which involves gearing up for special evangelistic activities, or inviting friends and neighbours to come to our churches. If the effectiveness of mission is measured by increased church attendance, then this is not a very successful activity for churches to be carrying out or to be funding.
But is there a broader view of what mission is all about? The 2017 Church of England report “Setting God’s People Free” offers:
“Whilst mission has sometimes been conceived as the work of rescuing souls from a degenerate world, a more holistic & inclusive vision understands it as the property and activity of God at work in the world as creator, redeemer and sustainer.”
From beginning to end, our scriptures point to this “holistic and inclusive vision” of “God at work in the world as creator, redeemer and sustainer.” This vision, which includes the reconciliation of all things to God through Christ, is brought out powerfully by Paul in Colossians 1: 15 – 20 (also Ephesians 1: 10), and finds its completion in the new heaven and earth of Revelation.
When the gospel message becomes limited to nothing more than instructions for getting to heaven, it can be constricting. It fails to deal with people’s everyday lives, and cannot find room for their difficulties and doubts. Offered a such small gospel, some Christians drift away from churches, but not necessarily from God.
IM places a high value on human creativity and interaction in the workplace, and sees where people have the potential to share in the provision and sustaining work of God. It helps people to recognise God in their everyday activities. We meet people with real faith, who may have left our churches or never have found a place in them.
IM and chaplaincy play a part in mission in its fullest sense, and should continue as a constant reminder to the church to grasp that “holistic and inclusive vision… of God at work in the world as creator, redeemer and sustainer” – and restorer.