Two months ago we considered our “league-ness.” Last month we examined our commitment to prayer. This month we will have a look at the mission that commands us into the world. We are the World Mission Prayer League – a league of praying friends with a mission to all the world. But what sort of mission are we talking about?
It is important to understand, right at the outset, that we are not talking about extraordinary things: our mission to the world is rooted in our ordinary lives. You don’t need to go to the seminary to find it. You don’t need to become a “church professional.” And you don’t need to travel to the other side of the world, either, or learn another language, or immerse yourself in another culture, and so on – though some of you certainly will!
We believe that Christ has called his people to enter into his mission right where they are. After all, the “go” in the Great Commission is not, precisely, an imperative. The famous text at the end of Matthew’s gospel uses a gerund – “going,” or “as you are going.” The central imperative only follows later – “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). So the Commission might be better translated, “As you are going – going about your daily lives – make disciples!” Eugene Peterson’s translation captures the emphasis: you are to make disciples for Jesus of “everyone you meet, far and near” (The Message). Our mission is to make disciples wherever we go and wherever we are in the world.
The New Testament fleshes out this wonderful mission throughout its pages. St. Paul explains that we are called to proclaim the astonishing news of reconciliation, available freely through Jesus Christ. “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation,” he explains. Then he adds the appeal immediately: “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:19, RSV). We are called to live out this good news, too, in lives of service that demonstrate the grace of God. Jesus enjoins the disciples, “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment” (Matthew 10:7-8). “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
This is what we do. This is how we pray, too. We are a community called to pray for disciples – and make them.
It is impossible to say, of course, whether prayer precedes our involvement in mission, or mission is precursor to prayer. It would be better to say that prayer itself involves us in God’s mission: prayer for disciples must involve us in making them. I have been reading recently that old English theologian, William Law (1686-1761). Law describes the relationship between prayer and action as similar to the dynamic relationship between the archer’s bow and his arrow. You cannot pray sincerely without some willingness to be notched into God’s own bow, as an arrow from his quiver. “If our prayers do not lead us to this, they are of no value no matter how wise or heavenly. No, such prayers would be absurdities. They would be like prayers for wings though we never intended to fly” (A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life).
Let us intend to fly. We are indeed, you see, called to pray for disciples among all the tribes and peoples of the world. We called as well to bend every effort to make them.