Over the years I’ve been intrigued by how people describe churches they know of. “It’s a good mission church, so active in their community” or “It’s a wonderful teaching church, great for discipleship” are two of the descriptions that have always mystified me a bit since the subtext is often, “They’re great at mission but not so good at discipleship” or vice versa.

I want to call this out and declare it a harmful and false dichotomy in today’s Church. The authentic Church of Christ that genuinely desires to reflect Jesus to this world simply can’t be just one or the other; Mission & Discipleship have to go hand-in-hand… or maybe foot-in-front-of-foot.

I’m enthused by the metaphor of ‘journeying’ with reference to our individual and corporate experience of being disciples of Jesus. I have an interest in Celtic Christian spirituality and whilst too often this period of our heritage is referenced with too rosy a glow, I have been inspired by the way this missionary movement literally journeyed with the gospel across our land and well beyond. They have been called the Peregrinatio Christi – Wanderers for Christ.

They generally travelled in ones or twos and journeyed alongside other travellers who God had sent across their path until they went their separate ways, their travelling companion taking with them the story of Jesus to tell to others who they came across on their onward journey. And so the gospel spread… When they travelled alone or in pairs they would pray, meditate on Scripture and encourage each other in their faith. Discipleship and Mission combined on an ongoing journey with Jesus.

The reason that early Celtic monasteries were normally built out of wood rather than stone was not just because wood was a readily available and cheap building material but because these missionaries weren’t planning on staying for too long before God called them to journey on.

I love the dynamism of this ‘journeying’ metaphor and I see it centrally in the life and teaching of Jesus. “What is written in the Law?” Jesus asked the expert in the Law in Luke 10, “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” Put very simply, ‘Love God, love people’; develop a deeper relationship with God (discipleship) and sacrificially serve those around you (mission). The following parable of the Good Samaritan perfectly illustrates how one informs the other which in turn informs the other, and so on.

Let’s not be Jesus followers who hop(!) but rather those who walk (or run?) this journey led by him and with our eyes open to those fellow travellers who he brings across our path.

 

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Carl Smethurst

Carl is the Regional Minister for Mission at South West Baptist Association