This past Sunday, I had the privilege of joining a panel of speakers for a Sunday School series on Rethinking Mission. Given the history of how the church has understood what it means to be in mission (from conversion/colonization to international development work), I think it’s important to reflect and consider how we, individually and collectively, hear God’s call for us to be engaged in mission.
Some theologians call this the missio Dei – the mission or sending of God. This is the understanding that mission is not an activity of the church, but rather an attribute of God. The people who make up the church are not the ones who bring people to salvation. Only God can do that. Yet, salvation and the healing of the world is the mission of the Father who sends the Son, who sends the Spirit, who sends the church to be engaged in God’s mission.
During our Sunday school discussion, we were able to take this abstract idea and see it living out in the daily lives of our guest speakers:
Dr. Jeffrey Zsohar grew up at First Presbyterian Church of Dallas and shared how the pastors and teachers who nurtured his faith deeply shaped his call to become a physician. Jeff is now the
Medical Director of the Community Care Clinics of Baylor Scott & White Health. Almost all of the patients of the Community Care Clinics are low income and uninsured.
Alex & Laura Laywell live in an apartment in the Vickery Meadow neighborhood, where refugee students often drop-in after school for help with homework, dealing with issues that many adolescents face, and for having some fun together. Once friends in high school, Alex and Laura reconnected and discovered a passion for working with refugee children and their families. Alex currently works for the International Rescue Committee and Laura teaches 3rd grade ESL at Jack Lowe Elementary.
The two themes that surfaced throughout our discussion were:
- Being in mission is God-centered.
- Being in mission is relational.
Alex shared how they have had to learn the hard way to trust that God alone can change people’s hearts. It has been difficult for Alex to see youth make unhealthy choices, and so he has had to trust in God to be the One who knows the trajectory of their lives. Alex can be faithful in providing a place of safety, love, and warmth. For Jeff, given his profession, going to God in prayer and digging into scripture help him to not feel overwhelmed by tragedies he witnesses at times. He even has a patient who stops and prays with him at the end of their visit.
Jeff spends half of his time directly seeing patients. This informs the ways Jeff is able to shape policies and systems in order to bring about a more just world – a place where your zip code is no longer the largest determinant of your life expectancy. Laura spoke about how they have been able to overcome differences in culture and religion by simply seeking to know one another better as friends. In doing so, conversations about differences become opportunities for growth. She is able to share her faith in God because there is trust and mutual understanding.
So What’s Next?
Now it’s time for us to dig into our own narratives and discover the ways the Spirit is sending us to participate in God’s mission. Throughout this week, we are reading David Lamotte’s Worldchanging 101: Challenging the Myth of Powerlessness. This coming Sunday, October 22 at 9:30am, we will meet to discuss the small steps we can take to be a part of transforming our world.
There are still books available for purchase (and no need to worry if you do not finish reading it before Sunday!). Please contact Rev. Sarah Johnson, to reserve a copy.
To see a bit of what Dr. Zsohar and Alex & Laura do, check out these videos:
- Click here to watch a news feature on one of the initiatives of the Baylor Community Care Clinics.
- Click here to watch a brief video on Alex & Laura’s journey to living in Vickery Meadow.