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20 March 2017: Mission in Contemporary NZ – a discussion paper by Prince Devanandan, President of Methodist Church

We have lost a sense of Mission as traditionally understood in the last 100 years. It’s no longer ‘saving souls’.  It’s something that the church helps, prepares, trains members to do.  We are in a new axial period so there is no clear path as to the future direction of Christianity.  Is ‘being active in the community’ sufficient? No, as it doesn’t address the spiritual aspects of an individual, or answer ‘Give a reason for the faith within you’.  Jesus spoke and taught (while socialising?) much more than doing healing and feeding.

John Wesley and Billy Graham told people they were sinners and needed to repentant to save their souls.  While this had a short term impact of people attending church, it has not been long lasting- perhaps because this interpretation no longer rings true for people today.  Our world view has moved on.  In the paper this is referred to as “inherited mission” contrasted with ‘Emerging mission’ for 21st century.

We were concerned that the church has become a ‘corporation’ that needs to be supported with rules and regulations.  Has become myopic – the organisation and its existence becomes the focus.  Jesus and Wesley stepped out of their corporate church world?

We thought the word ‘God’ is a stumbling block with its image of an old man in the sky determining ones fate after death.

A recent article suggested that the focus of Conservative churches is overseas mission(aries); Liberal churches on social justice. 

What is the motivation for mission? Self-interest (not selfishness), a sense of achievement, attaining something one’s strived for; altruistic because it needs to be done, without expectation of reward

We noted the emphasis on discernment, which always has a component of ‘what I want’; in learning what are the needs in the community, it’s important as to how we react to it – positively/negatively, do something about it/ignore/too big.  Prayer => silence => discernment.  Discernment issues now? – petitions to Parliament on water use/rights/free for commercial exploitation, parking costs at hospital.

Definitions for 21st Century mission:

  • Bringing people into a right relationship with everything in and on the planet
  • Make the world a better place – for all living things
  • The seen and unseen church in action

We will lead the service on 23 April on Mission.