Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Missional Formation for Transforming Discipleship

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Missional Formation for Transforming Discipleship

Article excerpt


Mission--in the larger sense, beyond the mission of the institutional church--in the 21st century is an urgent and decisive issue. We need to prepare for a transforming mission with transforming discipleship. Together towards Life, along with Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si', offer paradigm shifts to consider as we envision mission formation with other parameters--with a different theological and ministerial education. Participation in the world is necessary for any true transformative mission: it is there that we learn and practise the true challenges to abundant life for everyone and for all. Practice alone is not enough: we must always question our own praxis, reviewing it in the light of the gospel.

First of all, let me express my gratitude for this opportunity to share my thoughts and views on such an urgent and decisive issue as that of mission in the 21st century. I stress here the sense of mission, in a larger scope, and do not confine it to the mission of the church, since I understand that one of the great challenges we face today is to understand that our mission as Christians cannot be separated from our communion with the whole of humanity and with the whole of creation. My personal conviction is that our mission will come to nothing if it cannot speak the language of today's world, with all its achievements and problems, its hopes and perils, the griefs of the millions who suffer, the injustice that reigns in different fields of life, the oppression and violence of empires and fanatics, and the necessary empowerment of the peoples. We will be unable, as Christians, to meet these crucial concerns if we cannot find partners in a way that can coincide, at least in part, with the hopes and practices that sustain our lives, and in our diagnosis of the challenges we face and how to respond in creative and life-giving ways.

The fact that we are to face our theme with this conviction, which I hope most of us share, obliges us to revise the concepts of mission and discipleship. That is, we need to prepare for a transforming mission with a transforming discipleship. The word "transforming" in English, the present continuous, gives us multiple possibilities, including the ability to see simultaneously the present and the future, and also to play with the subject of the sentence. This ambiguity, far from creating a problem, opens us to different interpretations that will enrich our understanding and, I hope, our praxis.

Does "transforming mission" mean that our mission will transform the world? I certainly hope so, for there will be no point in going into a mission if it cannot change the lives of the people and the conditions of our lives. But the other possibility is also true: the mission transforms the missionary, for mission is also encounter: encounter with the other, encountering once again the Christ and the Spirit who preside with us in any mission and are at work in our world, in God's world. If we are not transformed and enriched, if we do not grow and revise our own comprehension of life in this encounter, we will be unable to fulfill our mission. The same should be said about discipleship: the disciples, as persons and as community--for to be a disciple is to be part of a learning community, are transformed in the exercise of their mission, participate in new experiences, open their eyes to new horizons of life, learn to appreciate other realities and cultures, and see new facets of their own faith and new dimensions of their relationship with the divine. The revelation itself becomes more revealing. And as long as that happens in the missionary community, that same transformation inserts itself in a different way in the world and in the church. The disciple becomes an agent of transformation who experiences and spreads the renewing power of the Spirit.

The Actuality of the Missionary Call

Certainly it can be said that the concept of mission has been inseparable from the Christian faith since its origins. …

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