by Elaine Lindridge.
It is now fairly common place to refer to mission as ‘seeing what God is doing and joining in’. This phrase is largely attributed to the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and has often been linked to the work of fresh expressions.
It’s a great phrase, and for those of us encouraging churches to be more missional it can be a helpful discussion starter. But how do we understand it and even more importantly, how do we respond to it? Before we can join in, how do we in reality see what God is doing? Do we look hard around our neighbourhoods, go on prayer walks, engage in listening exercises and conduct community audits? Whilst these are good activities, they must not be allowed to fuel the idea that God is hard to find. Are we really supposed to search for God as if God’s work is hidden from us and difficult to unearth?
I sometimes wonder if we can be blind to the work of God that surely is happening all around us. Perhaps we’re guilty of thinking God’s work is rare and needs discovering in our communities. As if God requires our help to make God’s-self known and appreciated.
Are we ever distracted into thinking that to look for the work of God means we need to seek and search and reveal that which is largely hidden? A bit like searching for the elusive Wally in a complex, busy and chaotic picture. Wally is drawn in such a way as to blend in and to be difficult to find. Is that how we picture the work of God? If so, then it is no wonder we have difficulty joining in!
But what if in this ‘finding Wally’ illustration, seeing what God is doing is the complete opposite to that which we have presumed? So instead of searching and searching for Wally, we discovered that Wally was actually everywhere?
God’s missional work can be seen in so many ways and places. I guess the harder part for us is trying to discern which things God particularly wants us to engage with. Looking at mission this way means that any difficulty we have in discerning what to do is not because there is nothing we can do…but because there is so much.
Then questions asked in passages like Matthew 25 take on a new resonance; ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’
To those who still ask where Christ is, I reply ‘in everyone’. To those who still struggle to see the mission of God, I reply ‘it’s everywhere’. Instead of waiting to see where God might be calling us, why not presume that God is calling us everywhere. Then every encounter, every journey, every day becomes an opportunity to see what God is doing….and join in.