Which Came First?

Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

When we reflect on the life and mission of Jesus, do we think that He came to found a church on the twelve apostles, and that then they were to go out on mission throughout the world, preaching about Him? Or do we think that His primary purpose was to send the apostles throughout the world, on mission, of which the outcome would be that churches would spring up as a result across the world? Or, in other words, which came first: church or mission? Did Jesus want to get the church underway first, and then have it go out on mission throughout the world? Or was He first of all intent on sending the apostles out on mission to various places, so that local churches would then spring up as a result of their preaching? This is a variation on the chicken and the egg quandary: which came first, the chicken or the egg? On the one hand, we see Jesus, early on, sending out His disciples to preach, expel demons and handle deadly vipers, but on the other hand, on Pentecost Sunday, we find the Apostles all gathered together in the upper room where they received the Holy Spirit and then went out on mission onto the streets of Jerusalem. Are we to first get our own act together before we try to help others, or do we first try to help others, and in the process find that we get our act together? Did Jesus establish His own community first, before going out on mission? Or did He first go out on mission and in the process gather followers? When missionaries go out on mission, do they first gather a church together, or do they first find other helpers to send out on mission?