Basic Tools 1A: Some First Steps in a Theology for Member Mission

Some form of the following needs to be an early part of every presentation of Member Mission.

Begin with four assumptions:

1. God is most concerned about how we live from Monday to Saturday. Sunday — all of church life — provides guidance and power for Monday to Saturday living. The delivery point for all that clergy and laity do acting individually or together in church life is how the members live from Monday to Saturday.

2. Therefore, congregations make supporting the members in their daily living their basic purpose. Do not legislate this purpose by a vestry resolution. Rather, clergy and vestry agree to live it. It will take time. It will look difficult but as parish life moves toward this goal, the leaders indeed, all leaders and members will feel their loads lessen their yokes become easy and their burdens become light.

3. Today, the churches are “sidelined” when critical decisions are made.

4. Spirituality needs to “go public.” Our spirituality is focused on our private life; our public life is overlooked in most spirituality.

Some initial theological positions:

1. God is on mission. God is at work in the world everywhere every moment to overcome evil whatever blocks love and justice; and to bring and to increase love and justice. This is the mission of God the missio Dei among us. For Christians, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are the center of God’s work among us. Remember that justice equality, genuine equality in all things is the public face of love. You can love people face-to-face but in a crowd you love by being just.

2. Wherever you find love and justice or the need for them, you find God. Wherever you look, God is at work. Wherever love and justice are needed, you will find God at work to bring or to increase them. Just look around for what needs to be more loving or more just and that is where you find God at work. And, wherever you meet love and justice, you are meeting God.

3. God’s mission has a church. The church does not have a mission. The church is the visible instrument of God’s mission. The church collaborates with any who work for greater love and justice

4. We join God’s mission in baptism. We commit ourselves to make Jesus Christ known in deed and word; to love our neighbors as ourselves; and to strive for peace and justice and to respect the dignity of every human being. Therefore, mission is “in reach”  “reaching into” God.s mission rather than “outreach.”

5. Today, “member missions” do what “body missions” cannot in everything from child care to foreign policy. “Member mission” is what the members do daily. “Body missions” are done by the congregation as a whole or by one of its committees.

6. A missionary spirituality affirms that: we are coworkers with God; Jesus Christ is the victor over evil; and Jesus shares his power over evil with us. John’s great commission is “As the Father has sent me, so I send you. . . Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:21-22). John Stott, from the mid 1970’s on, called it the “crucial form of the Great Commission.” It points to Christian mission as service (no structures or attitudes of dominance) and incarnational (being with others and being vulnerable).

7. Our mission is to live the gospel which we might put this way in this 21st century: “God has overcome evil, sin, and death and works among us now to bring the whole creation to fulfillment in the Holy Spirit. Our share in that mission is to love and to seek justice for all and to talk with all of what God is doing in Jesus Christ. Join the mission through baptism and find the power to live it at Jesus’ table.”

Our theology of sacraments

Our Anglican way is to say “sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace” and Jesus is really present to feed us at the Eucharist. It seems to many that a lot of Episcopalians need to learn about Jesus’ real presence. It’s as though Ulrich Zwingli, a Swiss reformer (1484-1531) has won. Zwingli held that the Lord’s supper is more memorial than time with the risen Lord really present among us. Today, perhaps our technological world has robbed us of mystery here, the mystery of eating together. So we miss taking in the power of the risen Lord when we receive the bread and the cup together at his table. Missing that, we miss seeing his power available to us as we face the struggles of Monday to Saturday and Sunday even living. Jesus is here to give us the power we need on Sunday and on every day.