The mission of Rosebank Union Church (RUC) is clear. We exist to call, equip and send disciples for the glory of God.
We derive this divine mandate from Jesus’ own words in Matthew 28: 18-20:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Making disciples was Jesus’ mission; it was the mission of His disciples and it should be our mission as a church. This is important because it means that everything we do as a church should be designed towards that end.
From time to time, it’s important to locate every ministry of the church within this mission to make sure that we are still on track and not guilty of mission drift. This is easier for some ministries than others. For example, worship ministry, where it is more evident how this ministry is calling, equipping or even sending disciples.
For a ministry like Rays of Hope (RoH), it’s a little harder to place. That is, firstly, because of its location: most of our work happens in Alexandra township, and we have our own offices. Secondly, structure: it has its own brand, its own board and a governance structure – which resembles a business more than a church ministry. Thirdly, because of its core work: we use terms like projects and beneficiaries, we are geared towards meeting practical needs and bringing about social change – which is quite different from being a “word” ministry. In fact, we sound more like a government welfare department!
Leaders at RUC and RoH have been attempting to define more clearly what RoH is: a ministry of RUC or a separate NPO? We have concluded that it is both. It is a full ministry of the church, like missions and counselling, but for the purposes of fundraising and outreach, it is housed in an NPO.
If RoH is a full ministry of the church, to what extent does it participate in the church’s vision of calling, equipping and sending disciples for the glory of God? RoH falls more obviously under the sending aspect.
The RoH mission is ‘to partner with Alex to create lasting change’. How does this fit into the broader RUC vision?
Once Zoë (a disciple) has been called (heard and received the Gospel) and after she has been equipped through church sermons and participation in discipling ministries, she is sent into the world to live and love like Christ. Namely, to be a redemptive influence and an agent of transformation in the lives of many.
She realises that she lives in a racially divided city defined by extremes in inequality, wealth and opportunities, where many of her neighbours live on less than R15 a day. She remembers 1 John 3:16-18:
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
She then volunteers at RoH to get to know people from Alex and to form cross-cultural relationships: she mentors a varsity student through the Ignition project, and gives generously so that children who grow up in child-headed households can be nurtured and fed properly.
Therefore, she is sent via RoH to become this redemptive influence. She works hands-on at repairing the torn fabric of our society by effecting reconciliation and justice.
RoH provides an ideal context for calling disciples
Jesus himself described his ministry as “… the good news is preached to the poor” (Matt 11:5).
Luke summarised Jesus’ ministry simply: “… He went around doing good…” (Acts 10:38)
Jesus told his disciples to “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:16).
Jesus went among the neediest people of his day, doing two things: good works and sharing the Good News. It is no wonder that so many of his followers came from this demographic. His good works among the poor created the ideal context for hearing the Good News. The good works were a picture/ illustration of the Good News. People saw and experienced God’s love practically as they heard about it.
I have found that it is in these contexts that sharing the Good News about Jesus is not forced but becomes as natural as breathing. When I follow Jesus into these broken contexts, I find myself crying out to God often because the needs are so great and the only possible hope is Jesus. People often ask for prayer and when they don’t I offer it. I do not ever remember my offer to pray being turned down.
People in these contexts are often puzzled as to why I have bothered to be among them, and that I would give them the time of day. I often have to explain that is not about me “giving back” it’s about the fact that I myself was once destitute and Jesus came to ME and laid down his life for ME.
What could be more central to the mission of RUC?