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Today in the Mission Yearbook

The Great ‘Co-Mission’

 

Sharing our faith to the ends of the Earth

January 12, 2021

Girls in northern Ghana walking to the river for water during the dusty dry season. (Photo by Josh Heikkila)

Proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel and making known to others the teachings of Jesus has been integral to the church since its earliest days. We may ask, why does the church share its faith in Jesus Christ this way? The simple answer: We do it because Jesus commands us to do it (Matthew 28:19–20).

In mission, we share with others how Jesus inspires us to work for justice and reconciliation in the world, and how he gives us a sense of grace and peace in return. We also share with others how Christ’s blessings have transformed our lives, and we express a desire for others to experience the fruit of the Spirit, too: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, humility and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23).

Faith in Jesus Christ touches the deepest parts of our being, so it is not always easy to articulate to others how he touches us and transforms us. But still, by the grace of God, we go out and we try, praying and working for the best, and knowing with certainty we will always fall short. We trust that Jesus himself, the redeemer of the world, can make up for where we fail.

The Bible itself gives an account of early missionary endeavors in Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Paul. In the centuries that followed, missionaries carried the faith to the ends of the earth: to Ethiopia and Egypt, and the rest of Africa; to Armenia and India, and later East Asia; to Rome and the countries of Europe; and eventually to the Americas.

The work of mission has always been shaped by the example of Jesus himself, who loved and valued the people among whom he worked. I am struck by the times when Jesus was conducting his ministry of healing, when after healing people, he speaks those confusing words: “Go; your faith has made you well” (Mark 10:50–52).

For those of us involved in mission — especially in areas like health, development and poverty reduction — the words of Jesus make wonderful sense. Although we may be supporting partners to improve human flourishing, it is ultimately the people themselves who bring about well-being in their lives. Mission at its best only helps push it along.

When working together with mission partners, there are many methodologies that inform what we do. Community organizing lifts up an “iron rule”: Never do for others what they can do for themselves. And it emphasizes that leadership always needs to come from within the community. Participatory Assessment, which is used by the United Nations, involves listening to people and empowering them to organize for societal change.

Community Health Evangelism, a methodology now widely used in Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) World Mission, describes itself this way: “CHE equips communities to identify issues and mobilize resources to achieve positive, sustainable change. Lives and communities are transformed as people come to Christ and work together to address local needs.”

In 1974, the All Africa Council of Churches, in the wake of independence movements that were spreading across the continent, called for a moratorium on the sending of Western mission personnel and financial support. Although the moratorium was never fully implemented, it pushed for the transformation of mission practice around the world. Anti-colonial and anti-racist movements fought for their voices to be heard. And although we still struggle to fully hear and listen to them, these voices have shaped how mission is now done.

Although evangelism is still central, and the health, education and development work remains a vital part of what we do, there’s a new aspect of how we carry out mission together.

We must walk side by side and together with Jesus Christ. We must sit down and break bread together in Jesus’ name. We must get to know each other as siblings, and with the help of the Spirit, love each other as family. As we strive to do these things together, God will set our hearts aflame with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The Rev. Josh Heikkila, Regional Liaison for West Africa, World Mission, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Today’s Focus:  Proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel

Let us join in prayer for: 

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Barbara Betts, Administrative Services Group (A Corp)
Teresa Bidart, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Let us pray:

Dear God, help us to recognize that all the good things we own come from you. Give us the courage to share what we have received from you for the furtherance of your work. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.