Sydney Anglicans V: A commitment to world mission
Posted on July 19, 2012
Filed under Sydney Diocese
“A concern to reach the lost with the good news of Jesus, whether they be down the road or across the globe, will transform how we live as Christians in a myriad of ways. Not least it will keep us from elevating to prime importance things of little consequence.”
Read it all here –
“Sydney Anglicanism is a product of the evangelical missionary movement. The same people who were vitally involved in the early days of the Church Missionary Society were involved in ensuring evangelical chaplains were sent to the young colony to preach the gospel to the convicts, settlers and indigenous people of the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit. Mission and ministry were intertwined from these early days and have remained so ever since. To this day one of the most significant annual events in the Diocese of Sydney is the week-long CMS Summer School, held in the Blue Mountains at Katoomba.
This commitment to world mission is shaped by three factors.
First and foremost is the commission of Christ given to his disciples and through them to all of us, to take the gospel to the nations. The great commission (‘go and make disciples of all nations … baptising them … teaching them’) gives concrete expression to the great claim (‘all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’) and rejoices in the great comfort (‘I am with you always to the end of the age’) — Matt. 28:18–20. This is why we do not see taking the gospel to the nations as a special interest of just a few — the mission-minded among us. Instead we see vital engagement with world mission as the common responsibility of us all, whether the primary expression of that engagement is in prayer, in giving, or in going. This common responsibility is not, however, a burden. It is not some kind of legalistic obligation. Rather, it is a privilege to be used by God in this way, as instruments of his mercy taking the message of the gospel to those who desperately need to hear it.
The second factor is the compassion of Christ. ‘Christ’s love compels us’, Paul told the Corinthians, ‘since we have reached this conclusion: If One died for all, then all died.’ I once heard this put very starkly indeed: the Christian life is all about growing like Jesus. Yet it is impossible genuinely to be growing like Jesus without growing in our concern for the salvation of men and women, for this is the concern which generated the incarnation itself. It was Jesus who looked out on the crowds and ‘had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd’ (Mk 6:34). He was once again revealing the Father to us, echoing God’s words to Jonah about the tragedy that was Nineveh, ‘And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?’ (Jon. 4:11). The compassion of God, demonstrated most effectively in his Son, looks on the world, not first and foremost with a thirst for vengeance and judgement, but with the warm and deep compassion of one determined to rescue. It is the love of Christ which animates global mission. Because we have been so loved we too long to see others turn and live.
A third factor shaping our commitment to world mission is lordship of Christ, not just over the church but even over a lost and rebellious world. Christ is the firstborn of all creation. All things were created through him and for him (Col. 1:15, 16). He has a claim over every life and all are accountable to him. Attempts to domesticate him in any way are bound to fail. There is a day coming when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10–11). So there is no virtue at all in leaving people at peace in the darkness of paganism. They, like we, must answer to God’s Son, whom he has appointed to judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31). And we know of the only one who is able to deliver them on that day, ‘for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). Because Jesus is Lord, our Lord and theirs, we must be active in taking his gospel to those facing judgement.
Sydney is by no means alone in this passion for taking the gospel to the nations. In many other parts of the world faithful Anglicans are living out the same commitment to world gospel mission (this is the chief motivation behind the GAFCON/FCA movement). Certainly there are others in other denominations and parachurch groups who could say the same thing. Perhaps Sydney is a little more out of the ordinary by its insistence that you are not in fact taking the gospel to the nations unless the gospel is proclaimed. Works of mercy are certainly worthwhile and should never be devalued. They are expressions of a concern for the welfare of each other which takes seriously the conditions under which we pass through this life as well the eternal issues of judgement and life with God. They are reflections of the compassion of Jesus, who reached out to those burdened with disease and other consequences of the Fall. However, the gospel is the message about Jesus and it needs to be articulated rather than merely assumed as the motivation for what we do. ‘How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard …?’ (Rom. 10:14). Providing clean water is a good and right thing to do and we should do it where we can out of genuine concern for our fellow human beings. But its benefits only last a little while in the scheme of things and there is a living water that is only given by Jesus (Jn 4:10).
It is this global vision that takes us beyond merely institutional or sectarian thinking. Millions of people in our world are dying without Christ. That is a most profound tragedy of monumental proportions. It puts other petty preoccupations into their proper perspective. A concern to reach the lost with the good news of Jesus, whether they be down the road or across the globe, will transform how we live as Christians in a myriad of ways. Not least it will keep us from elevating to prime importance things of little consequence. Our own particular cultural and ecclesiastical peculiarities matter little when the earth is teeming with people who need to hear that the God who made all things has acted out of love to rescue us from the mess we have made of our lives and the world. We have a message and a summons which we have received from him: ‘repent and believe the gospel’ (Mark 1:15).
No doubt we could be better at all of this. No doubt in our sinfulness we sometimes let this priority slip from our attention as the local and the immediate loom large in our minds and our imaginations. But Sydney Anglicanism is at its best when other things are put in their proper place and the most important thing in our hearts and minds is a concern for the salvation of men and women all over the world.”
– First published at Theological Theology, 19 July 2012.
Dr Mark Thompson is the President of the Anglican Church League.
(Image: NASA’s Blue Marble project.)