One of my all-time favourite movies is The Blues Brothers. Starring John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd, it tells the story of brothers Jake and Elwood Blues and their unlikely mission to save the Catholic orphanage they grew up in. They do so as they reassemble their legendary blues band for a big benefit concert. Featuring an amazing cast, killer soundtrack and some of the most memorable lines in cinema history (“What music do you play?” “We got both kinds, Country and Western.”), and I would argue the best car chase ever filmed, The Blues Brothers is one of those rare films you can watch again and again. I have!
The most memorable and recurring line in the film is when Elwood (Dan Ackroyd), with his deadpan style, declares to those whose support he and Jake are trying to enlist, “We’re on a mission from God”. This sense of divine mandate propels Jake and Elwood through many wild challenges and to ultimate triumph. I love that line – but I also have (tongue in cheek) a problem with it.
Here at Wesley Mission, we could easily say that across our 210-year history, we have been on a ‘mission from God’. Our mission statement is to ‘continue the work of Jesus Christ in Word and deed’ as we live into our vision to ‘do all the good we can…because every life matters’. And I would say that’s partly right. Let me explain.
The story of the Bible makes clear that mission isn’t something we so much do FOR God, as it is an adventure we live WITH God. God is always at work in the world, seeking its renewal, and invites us to participate with him, empowered by him, in that work – the work of love, mercy and justice.
At Wesley Mission, we are on a mission WITH God. That mission is hard, demanding, and sometimes, the setbacks we can experience can be heartbreaking. I was reminded of this last week when I heard how one of our teams received some devastating news about one of their client families. That evening their team leader reached out to Jo, our lead chaplain, who, 12 hours later the following day with Rick, our Senior Minister, hosted a short online prayer gathering for his team. That prayer gathering vividly expresses our conviction that when God calls us into mission, especially to the hard places, he is always with us by his Spirit – never leaving or forsaking us. We are on a mission WITH God.
Like every well-governed organisation, Wesley Mission has a Risk Appetite Statement that actively guides our decision-making and is regularly reviewed by the Wesley Community Services Board. In fact, we will be reviewing it again at the end of this month. Amongst the risks you would expect to be named in a large, complex community services organisation, one that’s working with some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in our community, is a risk that I’m guessing isn’t in most corporate documents like this:
Word and Deed risk:
The risk of drift in relation to strategic decisions that may separate Word and deed ministries.
Alongside this statement, our Board has recorded its appetite as ‘Very Low’, a resounding declaration that we will not, in any circumstances, drift from our Jesus-centered mission.
Australia is littered with organisations that have a long history that started with an urgent sense of being on ‘mission with God’, but for whom now the Jesus story is an echo that faintly pings from the past. Wesley Mission will cease to be true to our calling should we ever resile from our primary calling to ‘continue the work of Jesus Christ in Word and deed’ – knowing we live into the mission, not on our own, but WITH the God who always equips and empowers those whom he calls.
At Wesley Mission, we are on a mission WITH God. Ours is a mission that matters, a mission that changes lives, where every staff member, church member and volunteer plays a part in stories of transformation that unfold every single day across this wonderfully diverse organisation.
Rev Stu Cameron
CEO and Superintendent, Wesley Mission