May is “Mission Month” of Global Interaction (GIA) the cross-cultural mission of Australian Baptists. For many years Baptist churches across Australia have joined together during the month of May in celebration of global mission.
GIA (or Australian Baptist Missionary Society as it used to be known) came into existence because a group of people had concern for those who are the poorest, most marginalised, and least-reached overseas communities. This passion led them to work in communities across Asia, Africa and outback Australia where people not only struggle with poverty, social issues and injustice, but most importantly, do not know about Jesus and are spiritually powerless and lost.
Such passion is born in the heart of God. Not only is God a god of justice, mercy and compassion, God is also a “sending” God who ventures into the world because of that compassion. Sending is as much a part of the nature, character and essence of God as love and peace. In other words, God is a “missionary” God.
The Bible explains that in the beginning God “sent forth” breath and it created; firstly the universe, and ultimately humanity. Humanity, we are told, is made in the image of God, so it is not surprising to read that as soon as man and woman were created God “sends” them into the world to care (rule) over it. What we discover here is that not only is God a “sending (missioning)” God, we are to be a “missioning” people
Even after the rebellion of Adam and Eve, (often called ‘the fall’) God continues to “send” himself into the world. Despite the effects of sin, God interacts with the people he has made and embarks on a rescue mission. This mission culminates with the sending of the Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to save it.
The obedience that led Jesus to die on a Roman cross, releases humanity from the curse of the fall and calls men and women back to their original purpose. In John 20, Jesus states, “Just as the father sent me, I send you.” The outcome of the sending of Jesus to restore humanity is the creation of a “sent” people. The church of Jesus Christ is a “sent” people; sent into the world to continue the mission of Jesus. And this is at the heart of what it is to be God’s church.
“God calls us to be salt and light and witnesses to his grace”
Sadly, however, the church can sometimes lose its “sentness.” Frequently, we are known for our congregating rather than our sending. We can get comfortable and begin to “settle” rather than move on. We make “sending” or “mission” . . . into one of our programs and leave it for others to do, rather than embrace the reality that it is meant to be at the very core of our reason and purpose for being.
But things are changing. The challenges of our contemporary world are causing us to review our understanding of church and what it is that God calls us to be. We are (re)discovering that God calls each one of us to be “missionaries,” sometimes even in our own families.
Being salt and light
So as we celebrate all God is doing through his people as part of GIA, and stop to honour those who have responded to God’s sending and have ventured out, let us remember that each one of us is sent by God. As part of God’s church we are included in those Jesus sent into the world to continue the work of Jesus. While most of us won’t go overseas, we are still sent – whether that is into our families, our communities, our workplaces, our schools. It is here that God calls us to be salt and light and witnesses to his grace.
May God help each one of us individually, and as the Church as a whole, to continue to embrace what it means to be the “sent” people of God.
I’d love to know where God has sent you. Can you tell me in a few words where you have been sent?
Stephen L Baxter