Fit for mission?

With some recent cases of ill-health among Church of Uganda leaders there is now a province-wide requirement for physical exercise to be integrated into training events. It was encouraging to see this stipulation implemented at a recent BUILD workshop, not least because the wider question being addressed was this: is the Church is fit for mission?

The participants, all relatively young graduates with various responsibilities for mission in their dioceses, embraced the demanding exercise routine at the end of each day: “It is a good culture to build into workshops given the increase in cardio disease among the clergy,” said one. “It boosts our circulation after sitting and refreshes us for the next day’s learning, and it boosts our team work too as we all exercise together,” said another. “We need to keep the body flexible, to burn the fat and develop the muscles – I will practise this at home,” promised one. Quite apart from the physical benefits, it provided a helpful backdrop for our BUILD studies on The Mission of the Church and Missional Leadership, as we looked at the book of Acts together and considered the spiritual fitness levels of our churches.

One learning unit, ‘Mission Shaped Church,’ encourages leaders and churches to get fit for mission, based on indicators of health established early on in the module and in Acts itself. Just as the body needs to be fit in four key areas (endurance, strength, flexibility and composition), so the church must be actively announcing Christ’s message, developing his community, welcoming his presence and obeying his will if it is to effective in its witness to the world.

As a result of this and other studies, one trainee noted that “mission must not just be left in the hands of a mission coordinator – we need to all join hands together in mission.” Others became acutely aware of “our need for teamwork: we need to lead together in mission – like Paul, Timothy and Silas – and be trained for mission – there is a big harvest but very few workers.” Because the trainees came from the different cultures of north, east, south and west Uganda, and learnt from one another, one thought that involvement in mission further afield would encourage engagement locally: “we must encourage cross-cultural witness together within Uganda and participate in inter-diocesan mission, working with others in different contexts.”

It was agreed that this meant that “congregations need to be trained for mission and learn to support mission.” In other words, “the whole Church must be mission oriented, it must equip and send missioners into the world as Christ commands.”