Living the Gospel: for Small Groups
A New Look at Being a Christian
If you’re like most people, you’ve faced three fundamental questions in your life:
- Do I matter?
- How can I make a difference in this world?
- How can I have a closer relationship with God?
You’ve probably heard that philosophers and theologians have wrestled with these questions since the beginning of time. That’s true. However, what you may not have heard is that there are answers to these questions. Yes, there are. And these answers can guide the rest of your life. That’s what the Workbook is all about. It’s to help you to answer those questions and so find your place in the world and do what you are called to do. More importantly, you’ll see that this is work that, often, only you can do and that you are uniquely qualified for it. But the Workbook is also for your church. Those three questions also apply on a larger scale to every church. The church can help you find your way with the Workbook and also find its own way as it redefines what it means to be a church and how best to do that. And finally, the Workbook is about God—about how the church and church members working together can get the Lord’s work done in the world.
Member mission sees you, the church member, as the fundamental agent of change for God in this world. And, member mission sees the primary role of the church to be supporting you in your daily life as an agent of God’s mission in Jesus Christ. The church, as an institution, is really limited in what it can do to make real and lasting change in this world. Think about it. The church can advocate that the poor be given more food stamps in tough economic times but it is individual lawmakers that have to vote to make it happen. If we want the poor to have more food stamps, we have to reach the lawmakers to get it done. That’s what member mission is about. We want to help lawmakers see the connection between what they hear on Sunday in church and what they do on Monday in the state and national capitals. It’s called making “the Sunday to Monday connection.”
When legislators make that Sunday to Monday connection, they become more than just lawmakers trying to get some good legislation passed. They become God’s missionaries in the world and that good legislation is bigger than it seems. It’s about caring for the poor as Jesus asked us to do. The role of legislator is bigger and more important than many legislators may realize. Their work can be part of God’s work to build a more just world and is worthy of their care, their commitment, and their passion. Many legislators live this way already. Let us pray that many more who are Christians would connect their Sunday worship with Monday’s world.
We illustrate with legislators because they need to see the enormous possibilities of their work. They need our encouragement to put God’s reign and the public good ahead of the agendas of pressure groups and ahead of their own desire for the prestige of re-election. What is true for the legislator is true for every one of us in every part of daily life—from industry and commerce to the home. As more and more of us join in God’s mission, the world around us is transformed. We do not seek transformation for ourselves alone. We seek transformation of the world around us in the direction of God’s reign of love and justice.
As we take this fresh look at our lives, we realize what a daunting task this really is. How does one find out just what God expects from each of us? Should you sell the clothes off your back and move to the Third World? Or is Christianity what we “do” in church on Sunday and then go on about our lives on Monday assuming we checked off the “religion” box the day before? You may have read Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life, the co-author’s When the Members are the Missionaries, or any other book on Christian living and still you don’t know what to do next. Wouldn’t it be great if there was some way to find out what you should be doing? And wouldn’t it be great if your congregation could help you to do it?
Perhaps you’re a pastor and it’s your congregation that needs help. You want to bring members closer together and meet their needs on a deeper level. You’ve tried Bible studies and seminars but something is missing and people are not getting all that they need. Bored and anxious faces in the congregation tell the tale. Where are the joy and excitement we’ve all heard about? Just how does a congregation become a community filled with God’s purpose, peace, and joy and able to support its members every day?
Whether you’re a church member or a pastor, you are not alone if you’ve ever wondered about these issues. These are the fundamental questions that face us all as Christians. What we all need is to know how to proceed; how do we figure out what God wants us to do so we can lead the lives and have the congregations the Lord calls us to?
What we all need are plans, “road maps,” for the way ahead. A map is important for any trip you’re going to take. The kind of map we’re talking about helps us to lay out our lives as Christians. This map is made with prayer for God’s guidance. Just as with any map, there are many routes to travel. Each person’s map will guide that person’s own individual journey. Your congregation can also have a road map that will be unique to its mission and will support each member in doing God’s work every day. How do we make these maps to start our journey?
Change how you see yourself and the role of the church in your life. You are not just a church member sitting silently in a pew week after week; or a working mother perpetually feeling she does not have enough to give either at the office or at home; or someone too old to be of any use to anyone. You are a missionary; a Christian missionary. You have critical work to do for the Lord’s reign on Earth and your contribution cannot be replaced. You cannot be replaced.
Likewise, your church is not there simply to pay its mortgage. Nor does it exist just to be a pretty venue for weddings and baptisms. It is there to prepare and support its members as missionaries seven days a week, 365 days a year!
Mission doesn’t end for church members with the closing hymn on Sunday; it is just beginning. This is the premise behind When the Members are the Missionaries. Mission is all day, every day. Christianity is not about life on Sunday; it’s about life each and every day. It’s about how you see the world and all you do in it. If you happen to feel lost in life, then you can be sure of just one thing—it’s time to take a second look to be sure you’re living out your part in God’s mission. This Workbook is about doing just that—starting now. And, if you already are in a relationship with God, this book is about expanding that relationship and taking it to the next level.
The Workbook follows the principles laid out in When the Members are the Missionaries. It will help you and your church to uncover just what you both are really here for and what to do right now. It is designed in two parts. Part I is for individuals who want to take a deeper look into their lives so they can bring them in line with what God wants and, then, start living much more purposefully. There are four steps in Part I with a total of six activities that will help you define where you are and where you’re going. Part II is for churches that want to prepare their members to go out into the world to do God’s work and to support them as they do it. Together, these two parts will help you understand what God is trying to do in your life as well as in your church and how both can do better work for the Lord.
As you reach the end of the Workbook, expect to be empowered by a better understanding of the road you’re on and the journey ahead as you share in God’s mission every day. That is, indeed, a new look at being a Christian!