When Jesus sent out the disciples the term He would likely have used is “missio” (to send), and of course in His case it would have been Missio Dei (mission of God or sending by God). And of course, the Good News of the Kingdom would have been the message carried, couched in love, grace and humility and reflecting the Christ.
Sadly, as with the church’s chequered history, missionaries too often tended toward harshness in their zeal to convert other cultures. Especially sad when we consider that being a messenger was the task, not converting or transforming people (Christ’s work via the Holy Spirit alone.)
Often the self-assigned task (or from the missionary group sending) was too annihilate the existing “pagan” cultures while inculcating the “accepted” norms of the missionary’s own culture. Some people, both secular and Christian, have called this “genocide of the mind”, possibly not too harsh a term for some of the destruction wrought on innocent people by “well-meaning” missionaries.
Fortunately, somewhere along the line folks realized that “success” in mission Dei could only be accomplished in an attitude of humility, love and acceptance. Jesuits, especially those in the late 1800’s and continuing into this century, have sought to validate cultures where appropriate and seek common ground in the stories of their respective cultures. By doing so, they have helped various people groups “see” God and His Christ in their own stories and culture. They have led people “farther up and farther in,” (to steal the phrase from C.S. Lewis in The Last Battle.)
So it is in our time (post-modern, post-Christian 21st century) that Jesus followers from various backgrounds, denominations and churches have recaptured the essence of Christ’s original greatest commandment and commission; to love God, love one another and to go and spread the Good News. So it is that the “Body of Christ” is once not found in buildings, programs and budget meetings, BUT out in the streets and neighborhoods; in coffee houses and pubs with Christ’s (God’s) children, meeting them “where they’re at” and imitating the Savior, even occasionally using His words of love, forgiveness and peace.
Things may begin to look very different, things already are. Status quo is no longer acceptable to Jesus’ followers, pastor/autocrat-driven churches are passing into obsolescence, and the “priesthood of all believers” is becoming a reality again, even as God makes all things new under heaven and on earth. It’s time people, wherever you’re at, whatever you’re doing . . . “will they know we are Christians by our love?”
1 John 4:7-21 . . . (check it out)