When you look up mission in the dictionary, there are a LOT of definitions listed. A task a group is charged with. A calling or vocation. A group of people organized to carry out a certain task. A ministry. Then, in entry 5, you get the obsolete one: “the act of sending.”

Of course, if we’re looking at the history of a word, we should always start with the obsolete meaning, right? LOL.

Mission comes directly from the Latin missionem, which means “the act of sending, a dispatching; a release, a setting at liberty; discharge from service, dismissal.”

It’s literally a sending-forth. That’s also, obviously, where dismissal comes from. I hadn’t ever really examined the connection between those two until it was explained that the dismissal from a church service is not meant to be the pastor saying, “Okay, we’re done. Have a good day.” It’s literally saying, “You’ve now been filled with the Holy Spirit and the Word of God–go, take it into the world!”

A crucial distinction, isn’t it?

The word mission has been in English since the 1500s as “a sending forth.” By the 1640s, it referred to the organized effort of spreading the Gospel. The word mass is even older and from the same root, being the original word used for the religious service in which you receive communion and then are sent out into the world. Dismiss is from the early 1400s, but dismissal wasn’t created as a form until the 1790s! (Who knew?)

So remember, next time you leave a service, that we’re all sent out on a mission–to spread His light in the world.

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