In my two previous blog posts, Location, Location, Location and Empathic Leadership, I considered questions around ‘where we are’ and ‘who we are’. Our context and our character are key factors which help shape meaningful missional presence and the MA programme at ForMission College righty addresses these. The third element in this mini-series addresses the ‘why?’ and ‘what for?’ questions. Without a clear sense of purpose, we can completely miss the point of mission; to bear hope-filled ‘Good News’.
The result of the recent referendum, has brought our future, personally, nationally and globally into sharp focus. Depending on your political views, you may well sum up the current situation as one of hope, or despair; ‘Great Britain’ or ‘Broken Britain’, or more likely, as something in between! Our identity as a nation is under scrutiny and if we do not know where the journey is leading our hope for the future is critically affected. We live in times of great change and the resurrection narrative, which lies at the heart of the Gospel, orients us as a missional community to bring hope to share in this fast-changing context.
Tom Wright’s important book, Surprised by Hope, addresses the important issues of our destiny, the hope we have and how this impacts the way we live right now. Wright reminds us that our future home is a new heavens and a new earth and that this world is in the process of being refined and restored. We have a hope that is promised in Scripture, glimpsed through the pages of Isaiah and Revelation, and we have been entrusted to be co-participants with God in working that out.
So our hope is not just in the ‘yet to come’, but also in the ‘now’; this is the reality of God’s kingdom which has been ushered in and is active today. Working for the common good of the whole of God’s creation is demonstrated through pro-actively and faithfully beginning to live out this new reality ‘on earth as it is in heaven’. Tom Wright’s insight helps to deepen our understanding of this, and may well bring new revelation to some of us.
So then, the three dimensions of ‘context’, ‘empathy’ and ‘hope’, serve to equip and orientate the community of believers engaged in God’s mission, the missio dei. Shalom, the Old Testament Hebrew term to describe well-being, wholeness and the flourishing of all aspects of life (echoed by the New Testament writers in the word ‘peace’), is a valuable concept which helps focus our vision, and this will be developed in future blogs. God intimately loves His creation and worship of God demonstrates our love for God, the outworking of which forms the essence of missional community.
I finish with a quote from the first chapter of the book, Carnival Kingdom: biblical justice for global communities, referring to the vision of both the present and future hope that Wright describes:
…the Kingdom is described as an ‘upside down Kingdom’ – radically different to the status quo of earthly kingdoms where power and privilege coalesce in the hands of a few, often at the expense of the majority. At the heart of the vision of the reign of God is the belief that this reign will result in shalom; the delightful and convivial energy of a community at one and at peace with itself, in purposeful service to God and the greater good of the rest of creation (Carol Kingston-Smith, 2013, p.4)
Postgraduate Programme Director