Why is the Church missionary? What does ‘mission’ mean?
The Church is missionary because that was the way of Christ. We are told in the Bible that “God so loved the world that he sent his only Son” (John 3:16). Jesus was sent into the world to reveal God’s love. In turn, Jesus said to his apostles, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The mission of Jesus to proclaim the Kingdom of God to all people has been handed onto the Church and individual believers, guided by the Holy Spirit.
The Sacrament of Baptism initiates believers into the life and mission of Christ. All members of the Church are called to share their gifts in faith to build up the Body of Christ and to make the name of Jesus known and loved in our time. The Church continues Jesus’ mission of “bringing good news to the poor, liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom for those who are oppressed and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).
The Church carries its mission out in four fields:
- First, there is the Pastoral Mission which is the ongoing work to build up the members of the Church.
- Second, there is the Mission to the ends of the earth where the Gospel of Jesus is shared. This can mean travelling to remote and troubled areas to bring the Gospel.
- Third, there is the mission field of transforming the world which means contributing toward bringing about God’s kingdom in our time.
- Finally, there is the mission of the new evangelization. This is the attempt to reach out to those who may have faded from the Church or become separated for any number of reasons.
Baptism calls the entire Church into Christ’s mission and there are many ways and opportunities for believers to engage in mission according to individual gifts. Believers can discern those gifts and interests through study, experience and prayer and being open to the Holy Spirit. Some are given a special vocation to leave their home and travel to a new and foreign land to bring Christ. Others engage in shorter trips and carry their experiences into their daily lives. The missionary is one who crosses many borders to carry the Word of the Lord to those still waiting to hear it and those needing encouragement to continue to grow in their faith.
Article by Deacon Mickey Friesen, Director, and Eric Simon, Mission Promotions Manager, Center for Mission, Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis