MISSION FROM THE GOSPELS
” What if the gospels were intended to be read as four different handbooks on mission? And what if we used them that way today? “
We believe God is doing some wonderful things in many congregations as the vision of the kingdom of God expands from inside church facilities to the world at the churches’ doorsteps. This resource, Mission From the Gospels, is a peer to peer experience-based learning approach to missional engagement in the community outside of the church. It uses as its core teaching resource the four gospels. Based on the assumption that the Gospels were intended to be read as four different handbooks on mission, this resource will facilitate your journey as a missional team to encounter the community around you. The hope and intention of this journey is to read the gospels through the lens of mission, so that we, in our diverse contexts, might rediscover where and how God is at work today. Like the early faith-communities we hope you will hear God’s invitation to follow Jesus into God’s mission today.
This resource is based on the belief that mission engagement should never be done alone. If you don’t have a mission team, this resource will help you start one that engages your community. If you have an established mission team, this resource will help your team grow deeper in their understanding of discipleship through their engagement in the community and reflection on the Scriptures.
Mission From the Gospels is our attempt to help faith-communities grow in their understanding of the active God that goes before them into their communities. This resource is not for the faint of heart; it will require commitment and a willingness to risk by going deeper into your own faith and into your community.
We have discovered and hope you do too, that the Gospels still speak to faith communities in the 21st Century and that they are filled with helpful insights to the present and active Spirit of God who is at work in our communities
Mission Before the Gospels
In Unit One, Mission before the Gospels, you will learn the power of story and examine the role that oral tradition plays in shaping your journey. You will come away with knowledge of the Kerygma, the earliest form of the Christian story, which like seeds planted by the early church grew into the gospels as we have them today. You will discover the many facets of the gospel and the power it has in the life of individuals and the gathered community. In this unit, you will also begin to create a mission team who together will participate in living out the story of God’s ongoing mission.
Learning Mission from Matthew
Matthew is a great place to begin to lay a biblical foundation for missional engagement in our communities. The faith-community Matthew is addressing is a community forced to face the challenge of faith in a new age…a post-resurrection faith-community no longer grounded in the temple in Jerusalem. Forced to flee Jerusalem during the warring days of the destruction of the temple…this Jewish community finds itself ministering side by side with the very people they had been taught to hate…they find their faith-community filled with people who not long ago were labeled as “unclean” and “sinners”… all kinds of questions arise…
- Who or what is a Christian?
- How are disciples made, what do they do, and who qualifies?
- Can we trust the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of a non-Jew?
- Did Jesus want us to minister to ourselves and shore up the kingdom or has the death and resurrection of Jesus ushered in a new sense of kingdom?
- What does it mean to find Christ present in the lives of the “least of these?”
In Matthew the church faced the challenge that many of us face today…who is included and who is excluded? During the study of this gospel, your team will identify and choose a Matthew 25:32-45 arena in your local context in order to begin or expand your team’s missional engagement. You will have an opportunity to multiply your mission by multiplying disciples through inviting others from your faith-community to join your mission-team.
Learning Mission from Mark
Jesus’ disciples, in Mark’s gospel, are plunged right into God’s mission. In fact, these disciples are invited to participate in Christ’s mission, even before they come to faith. Which has led some scholars to conclude that Mark’s community also doubted, and that Mark teaches doubters that true belief comes only through participating in God’s mission. The disciples are also described as a fearful group of Jesus followers. But when we read Mark’s gospel we discover they have reason to be. Jesus, in Mark, constantly pushes the disciples beyond their comfort zone. Following Jesus, it seems, is risky business. Opposition from within and outside of religious circles is not uncommon. Being engaged in God’s mission might even cost someone his or her life.
The church today once again lives surrounded by people of disbelief. Mark challenges us to invite people of little or no faith to come follow Jesus into God’s mission. During this unit, you will have an opportunity to multiply your mission by multiplying disciples when you invite others from outside of any faith-community to join your mission-team. The church today lives in a culture which discourages risk and lifts up false promises of health, wealth and prosperity to all who believe. Mark’s gospel manages to push us beyond complacency and out of our comfort zone as we follow Christ on mission. You will be challenged to take risks and face opposition for the sake of the good news of Jesus Christ and the mission of God.
Learning Mission from Luke
To understand Luke’s gospel the reader must look back and look forward; for Luke looks back to the Prophets of Israel and looks forward to the Acts of God’s Spirit through the church.
As does each gospel writer, Luke emphasizes the importance of serving others in the name of Jesus. But more than any gospel, Luke takes a further step by going beyond service to advocating on behalf of those we serve, especially the poor and the marginalized. More than the other gospels, Luke calls for justice in the world, the same kind of justice spoken of by the prophets, especially Isaiah. But unlike the Old Covenant hope, God’s justice is now for the poor and the oppressed in all nations. And, the mission of God’s justice comes without retribution.
In your study of this gospel, your mission engagement will go beyond “serving” those in need, to advocating on behalf of those you serve. You will look more closely at God’s mission of Biblical or Prophetic justice and rely on the guidance and power of God’s Spirit to lift people out of oppression and into missional service.
Learning Mission from John
When it comes to John’s gospel, we have a document that reads and feels differently from the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. To many people, John’s gospel is the “spiritual” gospel: and yet as we read this gospel through the lens of missional engagement we will find razor-sharp insights into the nature of God’s mission, a mission which comes from the very heart of God. You will investigate how the nature and mission of God is revealed in Jesus, (“the Word that became flesh”), and how the church, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is sent to embark on this same mission, a mission which calls for reaching out to all of creation in love. The missional challenge for the church was “back then” as it is today; how are we engaging the world in God’s love without condemnation? Through the lens of John’s gospel you will look back at your missional journey thus far and evaluate what in your faith-community still needs to be transformed by God’s love. You will also look at your host-community as a mission field “white unto harvest” and raise the missional questions, “What next?” and “Who and where in the field are the next set of harvesters?”