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Incarnational Mission

4 June, 2023

Over the next 5 weeks we will be spending some exploring Incarnational Mission as defined by Rev Dr Sam Wells, the minister at St Martin in the Field in the UK. Rev Wells has written a bit on this subject, in particular “Incarnational Ministry – being with the church” and “Incarnational Mission – being with the world”.

Dr Craig Mitchell says this about mission – “Mission is a big word. It means different things to different people. Is it about providing a weekly lunch for people who are lonely? Is it about advocating for social housing to provide for homeless people? Is it about starting an environmental action collective among like-minded groups in our local community? It is about hanging out with gamers at the Games Shop downtown on a Friday night? Or all of these things?”

Rev Dr Sam Wells speaks of four ways of engaging in mission as exemplified in the Incarnation – the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, God-with-us. He emphasises one of them as being God’s primary way of being with humanity in mission.

So, this week we’ll be watching Well’s introduction to this thinking before we begin to explore each group more over the next 4 weeks.

These 4 aspects of mission (and some could say also ministry) are:

· WORKING FOR – “where I do things and they make your life better.” This is about seeing people’s problems and using our resources to try to solve them to make people’s lives better: charity.

· WORKING WITH – “gains energy from problem-solving, identifying targets, overcoming obstacles.” This is about energetic collaboration across organisation to address issues of disadvantage or injustice: partnership.

· BEING FOR – is “concerned with getting the ideas right, using the right language, having the right attitudes.” This is about big ideas, public awareness, public action: advocacy.

· BEING WITH -“believes one can seldom solve people’s problems – doing so disempowers them and reinforces their low social standing.” This is about enjoying and celebrating who people are and journeying with them in life: presence.

The contrasts are about attempting to do good things for needy people without necessarily even consulting them – seeing people as objects of our charity, speaking on other people’s behalf without even needing to get involved, organising collective action that includes those being served, and being with people on their own terms and seeing their strengths, not their deficits. The latter, “being with” doesn’t seek to fix people’s problems but delights in them and accompanies them in finding fullness of life.

Jay Robinson with inspiration from Sam Wells.

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