Way back in the mid 90’s I listened to a series by Denver pastor James Ryle. He was talking about the great commission, and he used a careful interplay of words. His frame was this: “If we are in sub-mission to Jesus, we will get per-mission to go on co-mission with him.” Looking back, James was connecting discipleship and mission.

What is the relationship between discipleship and mission? In the last generation we didn’t make the connection very well, not in theory or in practice. There are some historical reasons for this, but the biggest reason may simply be that in Christendom our lenses for thinking about church became inward lenses. We thought a lot about programs and services for members, kind of a “Christian club” way of seeing the church. And when we did think about mission, we tended to see it either as something for foreign service or as a program of the church: one spoke on a wheel, and not the hub – not the reason for our existence, not an expression of our identity as a sent people.

But nothing has changed since Abraham. We are blessed to be a blessing. The Church is an organization that exists for the sake of its non-members. In this we reflect the very inner life of the God who is a loving community, and who overflows with love into the world. God is on a mission, as David Bosch wrote: “It is not the Church of God that has a mission in the world; it is the God of mission who has a Church in the world.”


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  1. […] (PDF) This article by Len Hjalmarson first appeared here:  Joining discipleship and mission In […]