Mission Grammar



by Joe Davis, Director of Ministry Operations, Alabama Rural Ministry

Language is powerful. When it comes to being on mission with Christ, the way we talk about people not only reveals what we think about them—it can actually change the way we see them and relate to them. In other words, our language is formative and not just descriptive.

As disciples of Jesus, we must be paying attention to the way we talk about mission if we want to love the way Jesus did. If we’re not careful, our language can lead us to see and relate to ourselves and those we serve in harmful ways that don’t respect our common dignity as God’s image bearers and fellow stewards of creation (see Genesis 1:27-30).

We need a way of talking about mission—a mission grammar—that helps us align our language with God’s purpose for our service.

The key to this mission grammar lies with an often overlooked part of speech: the lowly preposition. The prepositions we use in our language about mission reveal how we think about ourselves and others, and can be either very helpful or very harmful as we serve. Let’s look at three prepositions to see how language can shape our mission:

At Alabama Rural Ministry (ARM), we talk about our mission as “mission with” families and children in rural Alabama. Of course, we also try our best to practice this kind of mission. We don’t always hit the mark, but we’re striving to be intentional about the ways we put “mission with” into practice as we extend the love of Christ with our home repair and kids ministry friends. Our goal is to partner with those we serve in meaningful ways that affirm our dignity as God’s image bearers and fellow stewards of creation.

How are you practicing “mission with?” What do you see as its benefits? How can we keep ourselves from falling into a practice of “mission to” or prematurely taking a “mission for” approach? We’d love to hear your thoughts on social media (links below) or by emailing us at info [at] arm-al.org.

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