Followers of Jesus have existed for 2,000 years.
CMS has been around for about a tenth of that time…
With Jesus. With each other. To the edges.
When we look at the life of Jesus, we see that he spent time with people at the edges, often to the astonishment of the establishment. Sick people, poor people, tax collectors, those who were often avoided due to their “sinner” status – Jesus welcomes them. He offers grace, healing, restoration, love – and he invites them to be part of his story.
Church Mission Society is likewise called to connect with people at the edges: the edges of church, the edges of society, the edges of our comfort zones. And we’re always looking for others who will join us at edges near and far, to help share God’s love in creative ways, knowing that person-by-person, community-by-community, this is how we will see our world made new.
Who are we?
First and foremost, we are followers of Jesus.
When we look at Jesus, we see he intentionally welcomed people on the edges.
His first followers, or disciples, didn’t always get why, at least not right away.
Yet by spending time with people on the fringes, Jesus was showing that his healing, liberating, peacebuilding way is for everyone.
We see repeatedly in the gospels that Jesus invites the previously-avoided into his story. And then he gives them work to do: to become storytellers themselves, carriers of the good news of Jesus’ life-giving, life-changing love to those around them.
The first disciples of Jesus eventually got the idea. And we are simply the latest generation in a long line of Jesus-followers who long for people at the edges to encounter Jesus, to discover the new life he brings and to share it with others. That’s our basic model for mission.
We exist to make disciples of Jesus at the edges, but crucially, we are also disciples ourselves. As we seek transformation for those who might have presumed Jesus wasn’t for them, we – and those who accompany us through prayer, giving and taking action – are also being continuously transformed.
CMS is made up of disciples of Jesus from various countries, cultural backgrounds and walks of life. When we say “we” we are talking about a vibrant mix of people in mission from the UK, Africa, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia – all following Jesus to the edges together.
(The behaviours we aspire to in all that we do.)
We are constantly seeking and moving to the edges of church, society and ourselves, and calling others to do the same: to try new things, ask questions, cross boundaries and not get too comfortable.
We share Jesus in word and action with people at the edges and invite them to be part of his story.
We get alongside people, becoming a genuine part of the edge-based communities where we find ourselves, recognising that often we are guests not hosts.
We remain true to our calling and don’t get discouraged easily. We recognise that mission at the edges takes time, that God is our leading partner in all we do and can be trusted to bring needed change.
The Church Mission Society story began more than 200 years ago with a group of Christians whose hearts were stirred to go to the edges.
The Society was founded in Aldersgate Street in the City of London on 12 April 1799. The group included people like William Wilberforce, John Venn and John Newton. Together, they worked to abolish the slave trade, they fought for the rights of oppressed people at home and they launched out onto dangerous seas to share Jesus with the world.
The spiritual background to the emergence of CMS was the great outpouring of energy in Western Europe now called The Great Awakening. As the Church of England struggled to step out to the edges of the modern world, this new membership society sought to find laymen and women who were willing to go. While always maintaining their roots in the Anglican Communion, the earliest missionaries were actually German Lutherans and for more than a century, CMS enjoyed a rich relationship with the Churches and seminaries of Western Europe.
The overseas mission work of CMS began in Sierra Leone in 1804 but spread rapidly to India, Canada, New Zealand and the area around the Mediterranean. Its main areas of work in Africa have been in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Congo, Rwanda and Sudan; in Asia, CMS’s involvement has principally been in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, China and Japan; and in the Middle East, it has worked in Palestine, Jordan, Iran and Egypt.
From that initial meeting in Aldersgate at the close of the 18th century, Church Mission Society moved quickly to larger offices in Salisbury Square, remaining there for more than 150 years. In 1966, it moved to premises in Waterloo Road before reaching our current home in Oxford in 2007, where we now follow God’s call to the edges as part of a network of mission hubs all over the world.
In CMS’s vast history, thousands of people have crossed geographical, cultural and societal boundaries to make disciples of Jesus. Through their efforts, missteps and all, we have seen the gospel of Jesus make itself at home in a variety of contexts all over the world. Sometimes in ways we could never have foreseen.
South American Mission Society (SAMS)
After 166 years of mission in South America and Iberia, SAMS united with CMS in 2010.
Mid-Africa Ministry (MAM)
The story of Mid-Africa Ministry (MAM), which fully integrated with Church Mission Society in 2002
Your gifts and prayers are making a difference at the edges
Following Jesus to edges near and far and equipping others to do so, too
Get to know some ordinary folks taking part in an extraordinary story