God is the centre of mission
The title of Wednesday morning’s plenary session began with “Clarifying…,” which speaker Arthur Dück of Brazil managed to do very thoroughly in his interesting presentation on Missio Dei. Missions is “His idea,” and should really be “mission” with all our plural efforts arising from the centre, which is singular. Arthur pointed out that too often our attempts at strategizing are not rooted in a deep sense of being “in sync” with God’s revealed mission.
Perhaps the one critique of this session would be that its thoroughness was more suited to a full-day seminar. Of the many quotes, Arthur presented, Wilbert R. Shenk’s words stand out: “Our efforts and actions must be submitted to the priority of God’s missional purpose.” Sin broke our relationships in four areas: between God and human, between human and others, between human and nature, and finally between human and self.
Then, centring on Jesus, who is the incarnation of God among us, Arthur enjoined us to live out the results of the incarnation: the Church is the Incarnation of Jesus among mankind. Duck spent some time on what happens when we forget that it is God’s mission, and take the ownership of that away from God. He was particularly harsh (well deserved) about the modern movement toward apostolic leadership that seeks power.
On that point, Arthur enjoined us about one area in which we stumble: to be careful about any positional hierarchy in our churches. “Anything that doesn’t help us be more like Jesus,” he said, “let’s throw it out.” Humility is at the centre of having the mind of Christ (Philippians 2).
Echoing part of David Wiebe’s talk from yesterday, Arthur challenged the “white” parts of ICOMB to be careful, and aware, of their privilege. He threw out a “bomb,” questioning the luxuriousness of our surroundings in this very nice hotel, that is well out of the range of everyday life for the majority of attenders. Perhaps we could meet someday in much humbler surroundings?
Arthur’s repeated enjoinder deeply resonated with many of us: “Be the church in the world for the sake of the world.”
—Robert Thiessen works alongside Mixtec indigenous leaders in Mexico with MB Mission.