Bible Study: The Biblical Basis for Mission
by Genie Bank, Women's Division President
Presented at Leadership Training Event, St. Louis, Mo.
November 23, 2002
“Mission: Impossible” was a popular television program in the 60’s. Maybe you can remember it. I can. It was on Saturday night and provided an hour’s worth of entertainment for those of us who didn’t have anything better to do. The program would begin with a problem or a situation that, at the time, looked impossible to solve. At the end of the hour, however, it was no longer “Mission: Impossible”, but “Mission: Accomplished.”
We have been given a period of time this morning to examine our “Biblical and Theological Basis for Mission” and what that means when we look at the organization of United Methodist Women. And we’re going to do that in less than an hour.
And so—in keeping with the theme of that program we watched in the 60’s, let us begin.
“Good morning, United Methodist Women. Some of you have assumed the responsibility of a new conference office. Others are becoming a member of the committee on nominations. You have been chosen to lead. Your responsibilities are great and varied. Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to learn all you can about your office. Most importantly, however, is for you to know why United Methodist Women are organized for mission and what the Bible says to us about mission. Your term will end, but God’s call for you to participate in God’s mission will never end.”
Micah 6:8 states: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
United Methodist Women have taken this mandate from Micah very seriously. God is a God of justice. God hears the cry of the oppressed and welcomes the stranger. God loves the poor, and those who are on the margins of society. Our organization has been committed to relieving suffering and improving the quality of life for all of God’s children, most especially women, children and youth. We see ourselves as participants in God’s mission.
Throughout the years, mission has been the focus of United Methodist Women and its predecessor organizations. Its members have been and are women organized for mission.
Women in the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren tradition organized for mission at a time in the United States when women and children were legally classified as non-persons. In the early decades of the 20th century “women’s work” in the church grew. Women supported programs all around the world aimed at providing basic education and health care.
Today our PURPOSE has four mission emphases: spiritual growth, social action, education and interpretation, and membership nurture and outreach. They help us see the wholeness of our mission task as United Methodist Women. Because we have an excellent mission education program, and a strong emphasis on Christian social relations, and an advocacy for peace and justice, we are often seen as the strongest mission force in the church. Spiritual growth continues to empower all our work.
But—we need to examine what the Bible says about mission, and by doing that, better understand for ourselves why we are in mission.
First—what does the Bible say about mission?
Perhaps the verse that best answers that question is found in the Gospel of Matthew.
Let’s read Matthew 28: 18-20 and as we read, look for the key words and phrases.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Now, in your table groups, discuss the key words and phrases in this passage and what they mean for us in mission as Christians in mission.
First, we see the word: Authority. This is God’s mission, not ours. It is God that gives us the power to accomplish the mission.
Go: We often ask people to “come” and join us, but Jesus says Go! We need to get out of our churches and move out to people.
Teach: Teaching is critical.
Make disciples: That’s what we’re about—making disciples.
Observe Jesus’ commandments: Namely, to love God with all our heart, soul and mind and our neighbor as ourselves.
Christ is with us always: This is the best news of all!
Continuing in the Gospel of Matthew—Chapter 25—verses 34-40
Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me’
“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’
The next question, then, is “What is OUR mission?” First of all, mission is a gift, not a task. God has given us this gift—to share in God’s mission to the world by witnessing to God’s acts in the past and in the present. Through the Holy Spirit, God directs the mission. Matthew and Luke both show us that Christian mission:
· Fulfills the scriptures;
· Continues Jesus’ ministry after his death and resurrection;
· Acts out of and offers repentance and forgiveness of sins;
· Is brought to everyone, beginning in Jerusalem;
· Is carried out by witnesses under the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let’s compare two passages:
First, Luke 24:44-49
Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witness of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
And, Acts 1:6-8
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
As you compare these two scriptures, discuss what they tell us about our roles as witnesses. How do these passages tell us that the mission is God’s, not ours?
Luke 6: 20-26
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.
For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
Discuss in groups of two or three what God expects of us, and what gifts women have to give.
Write your answer to the question: “What gifts do I, (my name), have to give?
Mission in the scriptures is God’s mission, empowered by the Holy Spirit and carried out following the pattern of Jesus’ ministry. It involves preaching, healing, calling to commitment, feeding the hungry, changing corrupt systems, teaching, liberating the captives, witnessing. It is our responsibility today as followers of Christ to participate in God’s mission.
But, above all else, the scriptures tell of Jesus’ message of transformation—not just change, but a newness, a freshness and a fullness of life he makes possible. We are to be transformed women, followers of Christ. But we also are to participate in God’s mission to become transformers of anything that stands in opposition to the abundant life for all God’s children. We want to transform relationships between peoples and encourage new relationships between individuals and God. We see transformation of systems that oppress and exploit marginalized women, children and youth in the church and society.
We are women organized for mission.
· Women in mission are communicators of love in action.
· Women’s approach to mission stresses partnership, mutuality and interdependence.
· Women in mission see themselves as commissioned by the Holy Spirit; as following the will of God, which they sometimes see as different from the will of the authorities, that rules the church.
· Women name the demons that plague the world, confront them, and cast them out as instructed by Jesus.
· Women have a passion for justice.
· Being in mission unites women across barriers; they acknowledge their diversities but also the source of their unity in Christ.
What is your response to these statements in relation to the vision of United Methodist Women?
As we conclude, think of ways you are going to prepare yourself to be involved in God’s mission when you leave here.
It is from the scriptures that we gain the courage necessary to continue in mission. By saying “yes” to your Conference and accepting a position on the team, you have committed yourselves to be participants in God’s mission.