Structures, strategies, and spheres of ministry may have changed but OMF’s essential objectives have remained consistent for 150 years.
Every so often we need to re-examine how we express those objectives. What certain vocabulary and terminology meant to one generation can miss the mark or mean something quite different to another, and for that reason OMF has adopted a new Mission Statement to communicate afresh what it is we believe we’re called to do…
We share the good news of Jesus Christ in all its fullness with East Asia’s peoples to the glory of God.
As it stands, this is a clear and straightforward Statement but a brief exposition may help unpack what, 150 years on, OMF understands its mission to be.
‘We’ encompasses the community of OMF in its widest sense, including the churches from which mission partners are sent, those who stand with us in prayer, together with our brothers and sisters in the churches of East Asia with whom we partner for the sake of the gospel. Statements and strategies have their place but the effectiveness of what we do in mission often boils down to the quality and extent of our relationships.
A unique, saving message
Our central focus is to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to a sinful and broken world. And central to the good news is the unique, saving message of the cross and resurrection
of Jesus Christ, the announcement of God’s radical and complete answer to the full effects of sin. Whatever the starting point for our sharing of the good news, our ultimate goal is to see men, women and young people become disciples of Jesus Christ and living for the glory of God.
A comprehensive mission
Good news finds its roots in Isaiah 40-66. Isaiah 52:7 is foundational for the New Testament’s understanding of the gospel. The Bible’s themes of peace, salvation and kingdom are brought to fulfilment in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The good news is that God reigns and that his purposes for the whole of creation are centred in Jesus – Saviour and Lord of the world. We exist to make all of this known.
The phrase “we share the good news of Jesus in all its fulness” is a replacement for the word “evangelization”. Historically, the CIM talked about the mission’s “full-orbed ministry”, and understood ‘evangelization’ in wholistic terms, encompassing medical care, education, famine relief, confronting the opium trade, working for the liberation of women and the care of orphans, and all the while, and in every context, sharing the gospel, planting churches and seeing lives and communities transformed.
(For further study see Mark 1, Luke 4, Romans 10, Ephesians 2).
The verb euangelizomai (to announce the good news) is used by the Apostle Paul to describe a range of evangelistic and teaching ministries – from initial proclamation, through to discipleship and the grounding of believers in the faith. He wrote that his calling was to present “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8) – a “wide ranging expression”, writes Peter O’Brien, who then helpfully comments:
“It is difficult to envisage how Paul or his colleagues could present to Gentiles this ‘good news of Christ’s unfathomable wealth’ in a brief or summary fashion. This comprehensive phrase suggests that time for careful teaching, instruction and application was called for – if the content of these riches in Christ were to be understood and appropriated by the Gentiles for whom they were intended.”
[Peter O’Brien, Gospel and Mission in the Writings of Paul: An Exegetical and Theological Analysis, Carlisle: Paternoster, 1995:63].
This means that we have a comprehensive mission, and the gospel we proclaim is not a brief ‘formula’ but the message of the whole biblical story of what God has done to bring redemption to the whole creation.
We seek to follow the New Testament example of a way of mission that fully proclaims the gospel of Christ by word and deed, in the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:17-18). Our aim in ministry, like that of the Apostle Paul, is for the obedience of faith, not for conversion only, but for the life of obedience that flows from faith in Jesus (Romans 1:5; 16:26).
Appreciating the broader dimensions of the gospel is crucial for a proper understanding of the church’s mission. The extent of what we envisage by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in all its fulness is captured in David Bosch’s summary of evangelism as…
that dimension and activity of the church’s mission which, by word and deed and in the light of particular conditions and a particular context, offers every person and community, everywhere, a valid opportunity to be directly challenged to a radical reorientation of their lives, a reorientation which involves such things as deliverance from slavery to the world and its powers; embracing Christ as Saviour and Lord; becoming a living member of his community, the church; being enlisted into his service of reconciliation, peace, and justice on earth; and being committed to God’s
purpose of placing all things under the Lordship of Christ.
[David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, Maryknoll: Orbis, 1991:420].
A supreme motivation
Our new statement reaches a climax with to the glory God. This crescendo underlines our motivation and passion for the mission we believe God has given us. All we seek to be and do springs from the gospel itself and flows from a desire to live and serve for the glory of God. Our supreme motivation is that the one true and living God should be known and glorified among the peoples of East Asia.
An authentic messenger
Finally, statements and words only go so far. As a Fellowship we are committed to communicating the good news of Jesus by our saying, doing and being; by word, deed and character. As Howard Peskett wrote in One Passionate Purpose, although the good news is always presented in a context and through a diversity of ways, the most powerful and effective way of making the good news known “is through lives which are themselves characterised and transformed by it.”
[Howard Peskett, One Passionate Purpose, Overseas Missionary Fellowship, 1990:27-28].
In the preface to his New Testament in English, William Tyndale explains how the word gospel “signifies good, merry, glad and joyful tidings that makes a person’s heart glad, and makes them sing, dance and leap for joy.” As a Fellowship we want to be characterised by the gospel we proclaim. It’s an incredibly joyful yet serious task. Tyndale himself gave his life for the sake of this gospel, and the history of the CIM/OMF, as well as the experience of East Asian Christians in many places today, testify to the fact that this good news is so
important that it is worth dying for.
Our Mission Statement seeks to express that OMF remains committed to sharing the gospel – speaking it, preaching it, living it, demonstrating it, in all its biblical breadth and richness, and to allowing this good news to have its full effect in us as a Fellowship and amongst East Asia’s peoples.
Dr Peter Rowan
OMF UK National Director & Member of the Mission Statement review Task Force