The Mission in the Middle
He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.
- Mark 3:14-15
From the very beginning Jesus’ small group had a mission. The group didn’t exist only for their own comfort and edification. The group didn’t exist merely so the disciples could develop deep relationships with each other and learn lots about God and his kingdom. The group had a mission. In fact, it might be fair to reverse that concept entirely.
Missiologist Alan Hirsch, in writing about the earliest Christian communities, said: “It’s not so much that the church has a mission, but that the mission has a church.” His argument is that the good work that God’s doing in the world and calling us to join is what pulls us together into communities of faith. The mission comes first and creates our connections with each other.
That’s what Jesus did with his disciples. He pulled them together for a purpose. He was going to send them back out again to preach and drive our demons. They would preach to people who had never heard about Jesus. They would serve and bless people who had never met Jesus. They would come together for the sake of others.
How challenging this is to our comfortable and often-closed communities! We want to know people and be known by them. New people bring new stories, new ideas, and new needs. We’ll only reach out to them and make room to them if our hearts are tuned to God’s great mission in the world, his mission to bless and welcome and save those who have wandered far from him.
Take a look as the communities to which you belong: your small group, your workplace, your family, etc. What would you say is the “mission” that pulls that community together? In what ways does that internal “mission” run contrary to the stated purpose of the community? What do you think would happen if the internal “mission” more closely aligned with what people understood to be the purpose of the community?