The word ‘mission’ or ‘missio’ in Latin means sending, and sending implies the crossing of barriers. So, what are the barriers that God calls us to cross? I would suggest that the barriers are: personal, religious, cultural, political, ethnic, linguistic, and at times, but not necessarily geographical. Likewise, mission could be described as crossing the barriers of faith to non-faith and church to non-church.
Mission is not the task of a few specially called out people. Rather it is the task of the whole church, the people of God. Johannes Blauw speaks of the “missionary nature of the church”, while Emile Brunner states, “The church exists by mission as a fire exists by burning.” Thus mission is not an option for God’s people. Instead, it is the essence of what it means to be the people of God. Archbishop William Temple said that the church is the one organisation in the world that exists, not for its own benefit, but the benefit of others.
However, being sent out into the world necessitates that mission largely takes place beyond the doors of the church. Yet, most congregations in Australia focus more than 90 per cent of their effort and activity within the confines of the church building. We need to learn afresh what it means to live out the gospel in all its fullness out there in the world—loving our neighbour, caring for those in need and relational sharing the gospel in an appropriate, sensitive and meaningful fashion. Suppose we are to do that, we must build strong, meaningful relationship within our neighbourhoods, social networks and workplaces, etc. It means spending less time and effort on church-related activities and more time out in the local community creatively establishing life-giving relationships. It does not mean we neglect church activities but that we seek to develop a healthier balance.