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Mission or Maintenance?

Mission or Maintenance? Acts 14:1-28


planting and growingMuch has been said of late about whether the Church should be in mission mode instead of maintenance mode. This issue has been raised out of concern for the decline in church attendance over the past several decades coupled with the increasing secularization of our society which is continually pushing Christianity to the margins.

Even within our own diocese the importance of mission is being emphasised by our new diocesan mission statement (see front page of the Bulletin) and by the recent commissioning of Mission Archdeacons and Mission Support Officers.

Now whilst I fully support these new mission initiatives, I think a word of caution is in order. Often, in an attempt to correct an imbalance, the tendency is to swing the pendulum to the other extreme. Whilst the church may be guilty of resting on its laurels in maintenance mode in recent times, the answer is not to be in mission mode at the expense of maintenance. It is not a matter of one or the other but both simultaneously.

This becomes abundantly obvious as we observe Barnabas and Paul’s mission strategy in today’s focus passage from Acts 14. Not only did they travel from place to place, preaching the Gospel and seeking converts, they also established Churches and raised up leaders to carry on with the ministry of pastoral oversight to these new found faith communities. Paul and Barnabas were to be on mission whilst the appointed elders were to maintain and nurture the churches which had been planted, as God in his grace, caused them to grow and flourish.

Mission without maintenance, is like planting a delicate shrub but not watering or nurturing its growth. Maintenance without mission is like watering and nurturing this delicate shrub, but never planting any others. Both these approaches, sooner or later will have dire results. May we keep this in mind as we set out on mission, by also maintaining that which God has already blessed us with.