Mission First!

Posts Tagged ‘Mission Gatherings’

A note from the General Minister and President

Romans 15:4-7 and 13 (lectionary text for Dec. 4, 2016)

4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, 6 so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God… 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

sharon-watkins2015Advent is the beginning of the church year, a season which begins focused on hope. This past weekend the Mission Council of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) listened together to the Spirit to discern a shared mission for Disciples. The Council heard God’s call to continue welcoming all God’s children to the Lord’s Table as Christ has welcomed us, going out into the world to care for Jesus in the person of the most vulnerable, working to address the causes of vulnerability in our culture.  We explored how these priorities might be expressed by ministering among children, youth and young adults in our communities.

We rejoiced in the Spirit’s presence in the music of our hearts and the words of our sisters and brothers, particularly those of Dr. Moiseraele Prince Dibeela, PhD, former general secretary of the United Congregational Churches of Southern Africa and now head of Tswang Learning Communities in Botswana. Dibeela’s words of challenge and comfort accompanied us throughout the weekend as we wrestled with the call, focusing on what we heard from the Mission Gatherings and the leading of the Spirit among us.

As we test and share refinements of these priorities with the various boards and ministries of the Church, we are confident God will show us the way to make connections toward wholeness and hope. – Sharon

Capital Area assembly reports on Mission Gathering


by Rev. Allen Harris, regional minister

2016ccca-mgofferingThe rich diversity of the Christian Church Capital Area and the energy of new life and purpose was evident at the Mission Gathering that was a central part of that Region’s Assembly  Oct. 14 and 15, in Shepherdstown, WV.  Representing Haitian immigrants, Hispanic church leaders, young adults and seasoned church members, African Americans, conservative, moderate, and progressive viewpoints, Asian Americans, LGBTQ persons, persons of European descent, charismatic Pentecostals, rural, suburban, and urban congregations over 200 people participated in the Capital Area Regional Assembly.  All who gathered eagerly shared their stories of faithful mission in their local congregations, their hopes and dreams for the future of the church, and their newfound excitement for a Region seeking to make Mission First! a reality for guiding the direction of the staff, board, and volunteers of the Capital Area.

2016ccca-mgtablesThe Rev. Dr. Delores Carpenter was host for the Assembly in the Mission Gathering, assisted by the Rev. Ciara Simonson.  It was especially fitting that Rev. Carpenter lead the two-hour session as she was present at the very beginning when Mission First! was initially imagined.  Both she and the Regional Minister, the Rev. Allen V. Harris, have been chosen to be on the Mission Council which will take all of the data from Mission Gatherings around the life of the Church and help to focus them as they guide the direction of our denomination.  The Mission Council will be meeting in Dallas in early December.

2016ccca-mgreportCommon themes from the reporting session included the need to do more mission outside of our comfortable church buildings, the urgency for more partnerships with other churches and even non-church-related entities, the challenge to rethink how we treat and talk about those with whom we are doing mission, and the firm belief that the mission to which Christ calls us will be the very thing that brings us back together as a church.  A particularly poignant moment during the plenary session from one of the table groups came when Nancy Solomon, member of North Chevy Chase Christian Church, Chevy Chase, MD, and treasurer of the Region, and Ramona Crawford, member of University Christian Church, Hyattsville, MD and member of the personnel committee, shared Ramona’s drawing inspired by the conversation in her group.  The drawing is of a “fragmented world,” and in the midst of the brokenness is the bread and chalice.  Dynamic lines pointing inward show that, “The chalice is knitting/mending the world back together community by community.”

May it be so.

Mission Gatherings roll across U.S., Canada

The process started with an address at General Assembly in Columbus last summer and has grown in scope to encompass nearly all 32 regions in one way or another. Disciples have shared their own ministries and what they have learned from partnering with others. And many shared what direction they believe Disciples as a whole might go with mission.

At this writing, more than 67 mission gatherings have occurred with at least 13 more scheduled before mid November. While not all the response forms have been received from those 67 gatherings, more than 1,600 have been entered into the data base.

Participants have included youth in several settings such as camps and conferences, Disciples Women at their planning meetings, special sessions at regional assemblies as well as National Convocation’s Biennial Session, the Bilingual Asamblea for Obra Hispana and North American Pacific/Asian Disciples’ Convocation. Several regions have had multiple gatherings across their geography.

If you have attended a mission gathering, thank you! If you are looking forward to one in the next 6 weeks or so, you can get ready in a variety of ways from re-familiarizing yourself with the Disciples identity statement to reading Global Ministries’ book of essays on mission.

Whether you participate in an actual Mission Gathering or not, you can join other Disciples praying weekly for the process, particularly as we approach the Mission Council’s meeting the first weekend in December.

For more information or to see the tweets about what participants have learned from mission partners, go to missionfirst.disciples.org or search this set of hashtags: #ccdoc #missionfirst #learningfrompartners

September 16 Call to Prayer

by Mission Gathering participants from across the life of the Church


 If you missed these gems, these are just a few of the many tweets of Mission Gathering participants that have gone out under the #ccdoc #missionfirst #learningfrompartners tag. A feed of them is also available on the Mission First! website.

  • We need to identify and talk about the difficult issues and problems in our communities.
  • People are the same even though backgrounds are different.
  • Serving from compassion rather than pity honors Christ’s call to love unconditionally.
  • There is a crying need for the church to take the good news outside the church building.
  • Everyone has hurt. Everyone has need for love, understanding, acceptance, and God’s love.
  • I am the student & the servant & they are the teacher & the provider of grace & hope.
  • Plant seeds for the outside world to see what Christianity is all about.
  • Walk slowly through a crowd to see and hear those overlooked.
  • God wants to be in a relationship with people- needs us to be conduits.
  • To be inclusive and non-judgmental.
  • All are God’s children and should be treated as such.
  • Even darkness cannot separate us from God’s unconditional love.
  • Embrace God’s living presence by coming near our neighbors.
  • A little hands on (work) goes a long way. Don’t overdo the planning.
  • We are all in need some times.
  • Woundedness wounds, so grace is key to good mission.
  • When you show love, you share God.
  • To have faith in God is to learn to love.
  • Value all as we build community.
  • Everyone doesn’t KNOW God’s love is for them. God’s love is communicated through our love.
  • There is enough for all when we work together. God is a god of abundance.
  • Dignity for every child of God. Look for unintended consequences by listening first.
  • People are hurting and we all need each other.
  • Everybody needs help whether they ask for it or not. We welcome all to the table.
  • Relationship is most important- loving God and neighbor requires getting to know each other.
  • Brokenness comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, nationalities and economic groups.
  • We all need something and we all need and deserve God’s love. Mission is an equalizer.
  • Provide empowerment, not “help”. Love everyone. Everyone has shareable gifts.
  • Band-aids aren’t good enough. People are strong, resourceful, and desire love/respect.
  • The more we involve ourselves in our community, the clearer our work becomes.
  • Actions speak louder than words.
  • “All” means all, even when you don’t like them.
  • I had to get outside the church building.
  • As we help others, we become a more loving community.
  • Don’t always realize how many others have needs that may not be obvious. Take off the blinders!

Prayer: We hear your call, O Creator God. May we answer with action.  Amen

February update

The list

Gatherings-dark-bgThe list of Mission Gatherings has grown a bit since it was last updated in November 2015. Take a look! And there are still several in process, so return to the page often to see if there is one near you.

Though each Mission Gathering will be a little different, generally each one will open with worship followed by small group discussions of three questions. The results of those discussions will be shared with the larger group present. All of the feedback, individual and group, will be added to the data given to the Mission Council in early December for the Mission Council to use in discerning a shared mission focus for Disciples of Christ.

The first gathering

2016MFJanFriendsThe Disciples Women Leadership Council hosted the first Mission Gathering in Daytona, FL, as part of their regular meeting. During the discussion themes of care, compassion, connection and welcome came shining through.

The next gatherings will be the weekend of March 11 & 12. Disciples Women will have a gathering as part of their interregional event, and the Montana Region is having a special meeting to accommodate the Mission Gathering.

The Mission Council

The general ministries and regions have named their representatives for the Mission Council. The next step is for the General Nominating Committee to identify members from congregations that will include two from the Governance Board, one from each racial/ethnic ministry and two under the age of 25.

Get ready

You can do your part to help the Mission First initiative by: 1) joining the Mission First prayer effort. Receive prompts on Fridays direct to your in box; and 2) refresh your knowledge of the Disciples identity statement using the videos and study materials available online.


A short history – and future – of Mission First!

updated 12/18/15

2013: The Cabinet of general ministry presidents realized two things: the work required of the General Board was very broad including both visioning and administration and that Disciples needed to revisit our sense of calling and mission since it had been some time since the 20/20 vision was introduced. They took a proposal to the General Board asking for some thought to be given to a modified governance structure that would allow for corporate visioning and a way to reorganize ourselves to support that vision.

2014: The General Board appointed a Mission Council Task Force to imagine how that might work. A key recommendation was for a widely consultative process. In order to involve congregations in the visioning, the Mission Gathering concept was born.

2015: The General Board accepted the recommendations and authorized a two year pilot program. Called Mission First, the program calls for a Mission Council for the ministry of vision and focus and a governing board for the ministry of administration.

To experience the model and to fund the pilot, the board suspended their regular 2016 meeting. The Administrative Committee is functioning as the governing board during the pilot period. The pilot is to last until 2017.

At the summer 2015 General Assembly, the pilot was launched with the Administrative Committee meeting as a governing board in the fall. Meanwhile, the implementation team ramped up for Mission Gatherings, inviting regions and other ministries to host them across the U.S. and Canada.

2016: Mission Gatherings will occur across the U.S. and Canada in regional assemblies and other places Disciples gather.

Around the first week of December 2016 a Mission Council of over 40 people will meet to discern God’s call for Disciples.

2017: Disciples from all expressions of the Church will collaborate to implement God’s call to share in mission together.

The General Board will review the successes of the pilot and recommend any permanent changes to the General Assembly.


Mission First! Basics

“…new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

Matthew 9:17

What is Mission First!?

Mission First! calls Disciples to name a church-wide, shared mission focus. It’s about Disciples making a difference by putting God’s mission first. It’s also a 2-year pilot of a framework to help Disciples work in partnership to fulfill that common call. Mission First! is about new wine of the Spirit and new wineskins.

Desired Impact


Mission First! begins with Mission Gatherings, throughout 2016, where all Disciples will be invited to share their congregation’s particular passion within God’s larger mission. In settings such as (but not limited to) regional and racial/ethnic assemblies, participants will be inspired by the stories of others. Input from these gatherings will help identify a shared mission focus for our whole Church.


Input, stories and suggestions from the Mission Gatherings will go to a Mission Council, representing the diversity of the church. The Mission Council will prayerfully identify shared areas of mission which are God’s call to Disciples for the next period. The Mission Council will meet in the late fall of 2016. The General Board will not meet in 2016.


Disciples ministries in all expressions – general, regional, local, education – will create strategies for partnering in the shared areas of mission. The Mission First! framework calls Disciples to be accountable to each other in covenant. According to the Mission First! framework, voluntary accountability for mission implementation will take place through the Administrative Committee functioning as a prototype for a representative Governance Board.

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A call to prayer for Mission First!

Prayer will be a major part of our preparation for a mighty movement of God. So …

Disciples, let us pray! Let’s open our spirits to the Spirit of God as we seek to make a difference through Mission First!

Mission First! prompts Disciples to listen for God’s call to mission in the 21st century world. It is also a 2-year pilot of a model for identifying shared mission for our entire Church and working in partnership to fulfill it. At the heart of Mission First! are Mission Gatherings which will take place in 2016. All Disciples are invited to participate and share their congregation’s particular passion within God’s larger mission as well as be inspired to action by the stories of others.

As we prepare and implement Mission Gatherings, let’s listen to the Spirit. Let’s pray for a shared sense of call within God’s larger mission; that we will identify ways to work together that we may never have dreamed of before. Let’s seek God’s inspiration and leadership as we put God’s Mission First! among Disciples. Let us bathe Mission First! in intentional prayer and action.

Beginning in October, you will receive a weekly e-mail prompt for prayer and action. Thank you in advance for your participation through prayer.

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Pray for Mission First!

  • If you want to support Mission First! by committing to pray for our Church and its mission then let us know! Provide your name and email address and we'll send you occasional prayer updates and resources.