The Anglican Church has identified 5 Marks of Mission:
- To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
- To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
- To respond to human need by loving service
- To seek to transform unjust structures of society
- To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
[Source: Bonds of Affection ACC 1984; Mission in a Broken World ACC 1990]
Marks of Mission
- What do you understand of each of these marks? Is there anything missing or in your opinion shouldn’t be there?
- Can you recognise these marks in the mission of your own parish? Please give examples and refer to any relevant involvement and experience of your own?
The five marks of mission give us a framework for what mission ‘should do’ in quite a practical way. They are not ‘instructions’ for mission but are a useful tool for guiding and reflecting on mission. It could be argued that the first mark, ‘To proclaim the good news of the Kingdom’, actually is the key description of everything we do in mission (and indeed in Church). The phrase itself is lifted directly from the gospels where Jesus is described as travelling “from town to town, proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 9:35, Luke 8:1). This is at the heart of mission, we are called to proclaim the good news of the kingdom and to help bring it about, which is where the other four marks come in.
Each of these four marks relates to a particular missional context and so, for something to be mission it doesn’t necessarily have to meet every one of these marks at the same time. The second mark of mission relates to mission among believers, particularly new believers. This is an interesting point as some might say that once someone has made a commitment to follow Christ then it is no longer mission but discipleship. I would argue however that, if God’s mission is to draw all things into a right relationship with him, then mission includes discipleship for all believers, not just new believers. The third mark talks about serving the needy in our community, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked etc. I think this relates not just to the obvious, outward needs for food, clothing, shelter but also the need for friendship, self-esteem, creativity and everything else we need to realise our full potential as humans made in God’s image. The fourth mark, ‘to seek to transform unjust structures of society’, highlights the need for Christians to be influential in every sphere of our society, whether through employment, volunteering, activism, advisory roles or sometimes being a challenging prophetic voice. The final mark reminds us that, as humans, we have a duty of care for the whole creation and all Christians have a missional responsibility to think carefully about how our choices affect God’s world.
I think in our Church in Wellington we see these marks being met in different ways. I would hope that everything we do proclaims the good news of the kingdom of God although I suspect that sometimes we’re too busy proclaiming the bad news of the state of the toilets! We are very good at teaching, nurturing and discipling new believers, even if we wouldn’t always necessarily see that as mission. One of the main aspects of our vision statement as All Saints is to be a Church known for acts of grace and this is something we are trying very hard to increase at the moment. The youth group which I help lead has just started doing some kind of service for others once a month so this month we repaired and repainted a playhouse that the toddler group owns but hasn’t been able to use for some years due to it’s poor condition. Several of the homegroups are taking on similar projects. I also run a monthly Open Mic night for local school/college kids which provides them with an opportunity to perform for their friends, to grow in confidence as musicians and performers and gives them a safe place to be on a Friday night, all of which, I believe, is responding to human need with loving service.
I think as a church we are less good at the final two marks. We usually have FairTrade coffee and tea and we recycle our notice sheets but beyond that I’m not sure how much we do corporately to transform unjust structures of society or safeguard the integrity of creation. On the other hand there are many individuals in our congregations who are heavily involved in these things including our ‘Chaplain to the local economy’ who is a Christian voice in the town council and chamber of commerce amongst other things. As with all things there are areas which we are strong at and areas which we are weaker at. It is always easier to meet the more obvious needs of our community than deal with the bigger issues of society and the environment, however the five marks remind us that God calls us to care for the whole of His creation, not just our little bit!