2 March 2024

Belonging and Believing: Belonging and mission

Major Kerry Coke

Eight photos show different people connected to The Salvation Army.

Major Kerry Coke talks to Salvationist about her session at Belonging and Believing: The Big Conversation on discipleship and calling.

What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus today? And how does that tie in with belonging to, and serving, the Kingdom of God through The Salvation Army? As part of Belonging and Believing: The Big Conversation this weekend, Assistant Secretary for Mission Major Kerry Coke is leading a session exploring mission and discipleship in a radical, exciting way.

What are you doing in your session?

I’ve assembled a diverse panel of people who belong to the Army and are leaders in one way, shape or form. I’m going to ask them about their understanding of belonging with reference to the UKI Territory’s five mission priorities and vision statement. I’ll invite questions from the audience too. We’ll be open to the Spirit in all that. And if we have difficult or challenging conversations, and we need to just pause and pray, then we will.

So how is belonging connected with mission?

We’re all called to belong: to be disciples of Jesus. What I’m interested in is the uniqueness of that journey for each of us. Our mission priorities are: share the good news, serve others without discrimination, nurture disciples of Jesus, care for creation, and seek justice and reconciliation. Is there one of those that you’re particularly drawn to? How does that shape your discipleship and how you view belonging?

You might be called to live a simple life and reach the poor, for example. You might be called to seek justice and reconciliation. But you are different to the person next to you. They might be called, for example, to be a politician and live out their faith in that way. Some people are really called to nurture disciples. They’re getting stuck into doing that, and that’s what belonging means to them.

We are each called to God’s mission in a way that is unique to us – and how great it is that, together, we all make up this whole thing that is The Salvation Army! We all make up this big picture of what it means to belong.

Let’s break that down a bit, starting with belonging and discipleship.

If we think about belonging as about our calling, then we’re all called to character formation. We’re saying: ‘I want to belong because I want to be different. I want to belong because my character needs changing so that I become more like Christ.’

That’s the covenant we each make when we join – whether that’s signing the Soldier’s Covenant, for example, or your personal covenant with God as a committed member of a congregation. You walk through the door and you’re walking closer to Jesus.

You’re gathering with a group of like-minded people of God and you know that your fellow believers are supporting you and praying for you as you live out your faith in your everyday. And so your belonging sustains your calling: to discipleship and to God’s mission.

Which brings us back to mission.

Maybe we often think about belonging as: ‘Who do I have to be to be in?’ I want to flip that thinking on its head in this session. Belonging isn’t just about being in: it’s about being out in the world. We’re called to live out our faith within the fellowship of believers and we’re also called to live out mission.

It’s not one or the other. So belonging isn’t just about Sundays: belonging is about what you do on Wednesday at 2.30pm or Thursday at 8am. The more we belong, the more we’re out there engaging in God’s mission. The more missionally active we are, the more discipled we are. That’s what it means to belong to the Kingdom of God: radical lifestyle change.

Living out our mission and values makes it visible to others that we belong, doesn’t it?

If you only think about belonging as when you gather for worship, there is no integrity in that. There is no boldness in that. I could say the same about all our values. Imagine if you had a whole bunch of people connected to the Army who said: ‘I’m in, and I’m going to live that out every day.’ Through us authentically living out our faith and sharing the good news, other people will come to belong to God’s Kingdom.

Because mission is about belonging! It’s growing membership of God’s Kingdom!

Yes! Picture a parkrun where they didn’t want to try and get more people involved. What would be the point? Our territory’s vision statement is fullness of life for all with Jesus. The more we share that, the better disciples we are. The more you live that out, the closer you get to Jesus. The more you can say: ‘I belong to Jesus’ team.’

Discover more

A weekend for all ages to explore belonging, discipleship and membership within the Kingdom of God and The Salvation Army UK and Ireland Territory.

Commissioner Paul Main invites us to join in The Big Conversation this weekend.

Tatiane Del Campo (Sutton) shares how she is part of the body of Christ through the Army.

Salvationist shares the headline findings of the Membership Working Group’s survey and conversations.