April 2009 - Vol. 29

The Challenge of Mission in Ireland Today, continued

Bishop Good, in his address, agreed that there are now many more strident and forceful voices in Ireland and elsewhere which are critiquing a Christian viewpoint and arguing for a humanistic or even atheistic understanding of life. Religious practice as traditionally understood in Ireland has declined and continues to do so, and there is an increasing moral relativism that regards as unacceptable that Christian ethics and moral standards should have pride of place in the Ireland of today, north or south.

But despite these challenges, Bishop Good affirmed his deep conviction “that this is a good time to be alive, that it is a great time to be a follower of Christ and that it is the right time to have Good News to share.” As much as at any previous period in our history, people are in need of the grace, the love, the forgiveness, the new start and the eternal hope which faith in Christ freely offers us.

conference partidicants

God created mankind for relationship, Bishop Good stated, and God’s acts of creation and of redemption are the expressions of the depth of his love. Mission is the overflow of our transforming encounter with God; it is not so much our work for him but his work in us. Mission is the full breadth of what God is doing in building his Kingdom among us – and evangelism is a key aspect of that, whereby people are invited to allow the power of the Holy Spirit to draw them into a Kingdom way of life, to forsake their old patterns of living and their old values, to be adopted into a new life modelled on Jesus Christ’s example of self-giving love.

Bishop Good recommended a book about evangelism that had challenged him recently. Entitled Just Walk Across the Room by Bill Hybels, the book de-mystifies the whole business of talking to other people about faith and shows that evangelism can be an exciting adventure which doesn’t necessarily require great theological expertise or special social skills. People do really appreciate someone noticing them, taking an interest and wanting to find out more about them – hence, the advice given in the title “Just Walk Across the Room.”

In his concluding remarks Bishop Good urged his listeners to enlarge their sense of what mission is – God’s activity in which he chooses to involve us. If we hold exclusively to the  approach of our own spirituality, whatever it may be, we may well be limiting our ability to be more useful to God in his mission. 

“We can learn a great deal from and be inspired by the evangelistic and mission style and approach of others,” Bishop Good pointed out, “as long as we are willing to adapt and apply the lessons we learn in what I hope will be for you a life that is far from misadventure and much more of a mission-adventure with God.”

During a time of questions and answers following his talk, Bishop Good commended the communities for their willingness to commit time to both live community life and be actively involved in the renewal of their local churches as well.

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[Louis Power is a member of the Community of Nazareth, in Dublin, Ireland.]

Quotes from Bishop Ken Good

When thinking about mission, we constantly need to be brought back to that bigger picture in which God is the focus. He created humankind for relationship, and his acts of creation and of redemption are an expression of the depth of his love. They are his mission. Missio Dei is the Latin phrase which places the emphasis on what God is doing, rather than us mistakenly and presumptuously assuming that mission is entirely our responsibility and that it is all up to us. As Jurgen Moltmann expresses this reality, "It is not the church that has a mission of salvation to fulfill in the world; it is the mission of the Son and the Spirit through the Father that includes the church."

Any theology of mission must be based on God himself. It is only when our lives are centred on God, when we know that we are loved by him and have been forgiven by him, when we are set free from our fears and petty preoccupations and find ourselves swept up in his divine mission of transformation and renewal, then we can engage more holistically and realistically in mission, in his mission.

When we are enabled to see the world more as God sees it, when we sense something of his compassion and love, when we are moved as he is by the signs of injustice, oppression, lostness, alienation, fear and pain in the world, then can we engage more realistically in his mission.

One of the things which impresses me about a large group of people like this is the healthy range of ages, the variety of life experiences, from north and south, and the assortment of church backgrounds and affiliations. All seeking to serve Christ more effectively, you each have something positive and useful to offer to the rest of us today.

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