An ecumenical neighbour has been in touch about exploring the Anglican Communion’s ‘Five Marks of Mission’.
I suppose, at its best, these would be intended as the equivalent of a ‘Bird Spotter's Guide’: if you see a church with these markings then you can be sure the species you are observing is a missional one.
Here is the official list:
to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom;
to teach, baptise and nurture new believers;
to respond to human need by loving service;
to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation;
to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
All mainstream and worthy, although getting a bit clunky and a bit more like a Committee product as one works through the list.
I’ve always assumed that the structure of the five ‘translates’ something like
we want to attract more people to God's ways
and we want Christians to grow
so that they make a difference to their neighbours,
and to the world.
I’m certainly less fond of the official habit of summarising the ‘Five Marks’ as
because ‘tell’ and ‘teach’ as isolated words seem pretty instructional compared with discovering and being enthused by Good News and by the Kingdom possibilities, ‘tend’ doesn’t sound sacrificial enough, ‘transform’ on its own has a touch of hubris, and ‘treasure’ on its own a touch of self satisfaction.
Attention to what the New Testament encourages might instead mean pulling out from the ‘Five Marks’ something more like:
1. Seek Kingdom
Proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom; tell the stories which so enrapture us we are impelled to go on searching them out; we want other people to be as attracted to God's ways.
2. Grow disciples
Teach, baptise and nurture believers; teach the ways to which God beckons us; we want to grow alongside all Christian people.
3. Love neighbour
Respond to human need by loving service; tend the hurts all around us; we want to make a difference to our neighbours.
4. Pursue justice
To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation; change the places where we live; we want to make a difference to society.
5. Protect creation
To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth; treasure the spoilt environment which God entrusts to us; we want to make a difference to our world.
But even a summary like that doesn’t do proper justice to the Gospel passage we read on Sunday:
take up your cross every day. It would be striking if a church ever adopted that as its public 'mission statement'.