When the Members are the Missionaries
Reader Reviews (from Amazon.com)
- Val Hillsdon-Hutton
- A William Cooper
- Robert Cromey
- Bob Wyatt
- Richard A. Bamforth
- The Rev. James L. Gill
A New Challenge to Structures and Methodologies, January 24, 2003
Reviewer: Val Hillsdon-Hutton
Vancouver, Washington USA
I am always dismayed when church bulletins declare every member to be a minister when nothing is being done to offer training and support for what they are already doing. This book is about the way ordinary Christians live Monday to Saturday and it is long overdue. It shifts the focus from congregational maintenance in which churches struggle to survive while maintaining all the institutional trappings. It moves us from the seductive power of numbers towards vibrant mission in the daily arenas in which we laity find ourselves. It sounds a call to grow the mission and not the church. While providing a glimpse into the daily lives of fifteen ordinary people, Schwab grounds his missiology by demonstrating how mission transforms life as the power of God's love and justice works through them. The second part of the book takes the form of a manual to reorganize a congregation to support its members as missionaries, and describes what such a church would look like when the daily missions of its members come before maintenance of the status quo.
The call to match our private spirituality with a public spirituality is long overdue and goes hand in hand with a call to move from a relationship with God and the church based upon submission, to one of partnership with God in mission. If I'm treated like a sheep by the church, I'll act like a sheep. Conversely, when mission becomes central, the laity become central. This book offers a way for churches to stop ignoring the way members live. Those called to be clergy in the institutional church are seen as support for those who go out of the church doors each Sunday to their own mission arenas, where they work to transform the world through love and justice and seek to make Christ known. This is God's sacramental work in the world, not merely one more demand to do one more thing for the church. Now there's a twist that could lead us to a second Reformation!
How we understand the atonement is central to missionary spirituality. I was especially appreciative of his call for a theology of the cross that moves away from substitutionary atonement to that of Christus Victor. Jesus made himself subject to the sins of those around him and died as a result of our sins, not in payment for them. Missionaries join with Jesus in the ongoing struggle against evil in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Having spent some of my life in management roles, I found the chapter on leadership challenging. Drawing upon the work of Abraham Zaleznik, the distinction is made between managers, who make better that which is already working, and leaders, who transform what is working into something new. Such a transformation is central to Schwab's thesis, in which he states that the Mission has a Church, not the Church has a mission. A congregation is designed to get the results it is getting. The culture of the church has made and continues to make the church an end in itself, but God is dismantling the church in order to make it new. Secular organizational development theory helps if we view the church as a system and ask what that system produces. It is not producing members who are missionaries. It is producing compliant, loyal members. I found the following sentence important in clarifying what is the true mission of the church:
"The result of the Christian mission cannot be to bring people into the church. The end has to be the building up of the world by those baptized in Jesus Christ who live as agents of the reign of God - as missionaries." (Chapter 8, Getting Your Head and Heart into the Vision, p. 105)
Mission is at the door of the church. The true mission outpost is each daily arena in which each lay person is found. Such a vision can be realized by any size congregation. To acknowledge this and act upon it means making drastic changes because many congregations are holding on to a belief system upon which they have depended for years.
Good training has always been important to Wayne Schwab, and the starting point is provided in the text. Citing already proven methodologies, he provides practical approaches for members to participate in God's mission, and makes no bones about the fact that this involves redesigning the congregation.
This book challenges structures and ecclesiologies. Long term change takes negotiation and compromise. When the Members are the Missionaries is a guide for the journey towards discovering what God's mission looks like in a post-Christendom, post-modern context. It is an invaluable resource.
Missionaries: A Calling, September 3, 2002
Reviewer: A William Cooper
Glens Falls, NY United States
By the telling of fifteen personal stories of people attempting to participate in God's mission of bringing justice, peace, and compassion into the world Wayne Schwab has challenged Christians to ask the question: "Why am I doing what I am doing in my daily, Monday to Monday, everyday life?" The book summons Christ's followers to have faith that the God of compassion, revealed in Jesus, is today bringing healing and loving justice to a hurting and often brutal world, and that God's mission will be eventually realized because the forces of evil were unable to conquer the Spirit of God alive in Jesus. The author summons Christians to participation with God in this mission of justice and compassionate action. He offers a very pregnant thought: The Church doesn't have a mission; the Mission has a Church.
Wayne Schwab is asking the question: Is God's mission to pluck individual souls of this world of prevalent evil, or is it God's mission to enlist his Church in the resistance of evil by participation in the victory of Jesus who remained faithful in all life's circumstances, and who continues today in the mission of this world's redemption? Schwab would maintain the latter is the Biblical witness.
Schwab acknowledges the cost of the mission. Evil is a reality. Fear of evil will either lead to greater selfishness, individualism, materialism, and eventual self-destruction; or finding spiritual strength through the Church (Biblical Word, Sacramental nourishment, mutual sharing and support) Christ's followers can stand against evil and be in mission with the God of healing, love and compassion in their "everyday" lives.
Schwab has given the tired western church, worried about its survival and privileges, a challenge to catch the vision which motivated the first followers of Jesus: The world can be remade according to God's intention. Schwab maintains that the victory of Jesus over the powers of evil, even death, is decisive. This victory, confirmed by the resurrection, the author maintains is the Christian's assurance to overcome fear leading to self preoccupation, and the basis for a life of concern for generosity, fairness, beauty and justice.
Schwab has great faith in the sufficiency of the Church to nourish its member missionaries as they daily struggle against evil and find life's meaning in the mission of God within their homes, among their friends, at work or school, in their neighborhoods and local communities, as caretakers of this small planet, at leisure and re-creation, and as members of the Body of Christ.
The book has many practical approaches for Christians seeking to join the mission of God in the world, and for churches which want to assist their members to become missionaries to God's work. Wayne Schwab has spoken a most challenging word to his fellow Christians. It is hoped the Church will listen, hear and heed.
The Rev. William Cooper
Parish Priest: The Church of The Messiah
Each Lay Person a Missionary, September 22, 2002
Reviewer: Robert Cromey
San Francisco, CA United States
The basic work of the Christian Church is not done by the clergy but by the laity. Each Christian layperson is a missionary in his and her daily life and work. The Christian presidents and CEOs of the major corporations of the United States are missionaries. Perhaps if they saw their work life as missionaries rather than work life, there would be far less greed and corruption.
Schwab recounts stories of lay people on mission in their daily lives. George, a letter carrier, speaks up about work conditions at his branch. Bonnie is on mission as she and her husband develop their family camping as a community of love and caring. Gloria is a missionary as she teaches math to children and adults whose math skills are stunted by their cultural conditioning.
This book is to inspire clergy and lay people to see they are already on mission in their daily life and work. Following Jesus Christ is the simple yet costly call to a deepened and active Christian life. It is a call to a life of meaning, purpose and power.
The book is divided into two parts. The first is to inspire people to see they are already missionaries by telling the stories of fifteen missionaries. The second part is to assist in organizing a parish around Schwab?s vision of the work of the church. I wish I had this book before I retired as a parish rector. It would have been invaluable to Trinity, San Francisco in doing God?s work in the city. Practical steps in changing worship patterns to involve lay people more, developing preaching styles and discovering ways of training leaders are offered.
My main criticism is the use of the word missionary. Schwab knows it has the evil connotation of patronizing and patriarchal conversion of people that are poor, marginalized and people in the third world. He boldly uses the word in its true meaning as people sent from God to bring love, peace and justice into the world.
Once the reader gets past the word missionary, the book is a dynamic and powerful call to viewing the work of the church not as a numbers game of church growth but as deepening he commitment of each baptized Christian to follow Jesus Christ in the work of compassion in the world.
Equipping the Mission Centers to send forth, October 18, 2002
Reviewer: Bob Wyatt from Rockville, Maryland
Christendom is dead
Are we moving into a post-Christian age or a pre-Christian age? Can we recapture the excitement of living on the mission frontier? Can we accept the call in Ephesians 4: 11&12 where apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers ... equip the members for the work of the church? Can we understand that those called to be "ministers" in the institution of the church are meant to be support for the ministers who go forth each Sunday into the local mission field?
These are not new questions --- we have wrestled with them for years. We have lifted up the ministry of the baptized, the ministry of the laity, every member ministry, the ministry of the saints and any other name we could come up with for the ministry of the people. We held up the vision and said GO.
Slowly a few brave souls began to think of themselves, to think of their identity, as being ministers in the world. They came back excited. They proclaimed to all who would listen: the bible was right --- the people are hungry --- the fields are ripe --- the harvest is ready. Best of all, this ministry stuff is fun, exciting, exhilarating! God's not only letting us work with Him, its His plan. WOW!
But wait. How can it be that the workers are still so few? The answer is painfully simple. For years we have exhorted, pushed and prodded the laity, but how much real training have we provided.
That training --- or the starting point for that training --- is what Wayne Schwab is providing in When the Members are the Missionaries. Not only that, he gives us solid proven methodologies for that training. He starts by holding up models, and not some super human models we can never aspire to, but people just like you and me. People just like those who sit in our pews each week. He then gives us practical easy to follow methodologies. The guidance we need to not only start, but to see the job through.
Thanks Wayne. What a great idea. Nice simple directions for a proven process.
Affirming Lay Vocation, February 20, 2003
Reviewer: Richard A. Bamforth
Reviewer: The Rev. James L. Gill, February 20, 2003
Marriage and Family Counselor
East Winthrop, Maine
As an Episcopal clergyperson who has worked for Total Ministry for three decades, I applaud this book for introducing a paradigm change in the ongoing discussion.It gives practical, step-by-step suggestions of how to re-structure congregational life so as to support each member's "Monday Ministries." This approach gives the reader new energy to try out Schwab's plan.