On < In

CrossWhat if we stopped being on mission and instead were in mission?

This thought has been baking in my head since Sunday. Over the weekend, I received a support letter from a good friend. I firmly stand behind what he and his family are doing. The one thing that struck an off chord with me was the use of the phrase, “on mission.” It’s not that this is a bad phrase. It is one that is used in many church/Christian groups to describe a mindset and life style that is intentional about what God wants to do in cities, neighborhoods, and personal lives. “On mission” is an identifying phrase, a rally cry, a way of being church.

I’m all for what I hear people talking about when they kick around “on mission.” I’m not against it at all; I just think there is a better phrase, a better vocabulary, a better way to describe and imagine working with God. I want to replace “on mission” with “in mission.”

On mission implies something we are doing. On mission implies something we are sent to carry out. On mission charges us with a responsibility. All of this might be good, but it also places us outside of those we are “on mission” towards. On mission paints us a picture of being sent to those in need. While that is a great thought, it’s not the reality of life. We are not the holy body of servants sent to work at what God is accomplishing. We are the broken who are being made whole. Our story is part of Gods mission: making all things right and well again.

That is why “In mission” makes more sense to me. Our redemption is part of God’s mission. Our stories are wrapped up in what he is doing. We are not sent from a perch of “good enough” to help others achieve a level of good so that they can finally get with the program and do mission. We are all busted and broken. We are all in need of restoration and reconciliation. We are all in need of salvation. Inside or outside the church walls and community, we are all part of the focus of God’s mission. So when we begin to believe, we find ourselves in the middle of the mission of God. We get to do good and show people that God is at work in us, them, and the whole of creation.

This might seem like a pointless change or splitting hairs. Maybe it is… but I think this shift can to help us all dream better about what it means to be involved in what God is already doing.

  • Graham

    I absolutely agree. One cool quote sometimes attributed to Rowan Williams (Archbishop of Canterbury)  “It’s not the church of God that has a mission, but the God of mission who has a church” 

    • I think that is more than a rhetorical statement. The mission of God is the very thing that gave birth to the church. It’s not just God has a mission and a pocket full of people to go about doing it. God is doing/has done what he has planned from the very beginning; we get to experience and be apart of his refining recreation of shalom.

  • Powerful thought, Aaron. I guess I’ve never thought of the difference between going on a mission trip and being in mission. I think the intent is the same, but what is communicated is as you said, more of an idea that we are these holy awesome people trying to fix what is broken.

    We are in mission with God. I like that.

    • We are wrapped up in his mission. We don’t go to do his purpose; his purpose is for us to be reconciled in him and to invite others into that reconciliation. We may “go” and serve people in other places, but we do it because God’s mission is working in us to transform us into the image of Jesus.

  • Very good point, its time to change my vocabulary when it comes to this topic. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    • Good to meet you Dan. I would love to see more people change their words on this topic. Words shape how we think about things.

      • Arron,

        Its good to meet you also. Looking forward to learning from each other. Words are powerful, looking forward to the change of wording on this topic.

  • That’s a great thought. It frees people from feeling like they need to “do something great” and allows them to see that everything in their life is infused with God’s redemptive work. Dishes, diapers . . . and some other D-word that I can’t think of, can all be ways God meets us if we realize that we are a part of his mission. 

    • So true Ben. My wife made the comment, “I don’t like to help people because it never feels like it’s enough or that I’m good enough to make a real change.” (she said it in relation to helping people asking for assistance on the street). After we had talked more about this in vs on idea, something clicked. She gave some muffins that we had to some people that were hungry. They were good muffins too. Home made and yummy. Anyways, that act is exactly what I’m talking about here. We are in the mission with God, not having to be good enough to help others. Just showing them that there is good in the world and that God is working and loving them.

  • Sharad

    Amen.  Time to change my support letters. 

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