Press Releases for When The Members Are the Missionaries

PRESS RELEASE 1

When the Members are the Missionaries: An Extraordinary Calling for Ordinary People, A. Wayne Schwab Member Mission Press ISBN 0971755205 September 24, 2002

“It is time for the way Christians live from Monday to Saturday to get the attention it deserves. ‘Body-mission’- what a committee of a congregation or the congregation as a whole does – still gets all of the attention. A book on ‘member-mission’- on what each member does in his or her daily life – is long overdue,” says A. Wayne Schwab, author of When the Members are the Missionaries: An Extraordinary Calling for Ordinary People. The book is his attempt to meet that need. Early comments call the book an “easy read” that reports on things that anyone can do. In the Prologue, world theologian Jurgen Moltmann says, “I am interested especially in the case studies and also in the idea– the member as missionary.  So, I would like to endorse [this] restoration of mission.”  In the Foreword, Ian T. Douglas, a leading U.S. professor of mission comments, “God willing, the book will help Episcopalians and others to own the baptismal call to become missionaries and in so doing move the Church in the United States from ecclesial maintenance to genuine participation in God’s mission. To demonstrate what a church looks like when each member is on mission, fifteen ordinary people tell how they are the church meeting the world. The fifteen cover the six “daily mission fields” of home, work, the local community, the wider world, and leisure as well as the church. Not until Part Two does the book describe how a congregation organizes itself to support its members as missionaries. Among the fifteen missionaries are a working mother, a postman, a city council member, an ethno-mathematician, a teacher of fly tying, and a leader of Indian youth. Among the how-to’s are redesigning the congregation; forming members as missionaries; ways to work for change; spirituality, worship, and preaching that support missionaries; and effective leadership for these congregations. The book is the first publication of newly formed Member Mission Press. A probable next publication is a board game that helps players to think afresh about the shape of their congregation’s life.  On the web, see https://www.membermission.org

 

PRESS RELEASE  2

When the Members are the Missionaries: An Extraordinary Calling for Ordinary People, A. Wayne Schwab Member Mission Press ISBN 0971755205 September 24, 2002

How do you move a congregation from maintenance to mission? Only this book goes all the way to the daily lives of the members as the real delivery point of mission. Consequently, to learn what a church looks like when the daily missions of the members come first, we read the stories of fifteen members in their Monday to Saturday living. In them, the church is meeting the world. The mission is taking on flesh in deed and word in their homes, their work, their local community, the wider world, and their recreation, as well as in their church life. Only then, in Part Two, do we learn how members can plan to form and to support each other through their life together as a congregation.

Among the fifteen missionaries of Part One are a working mother, a postman, a city council member, an ethno-mathematician, a teacher of fly tying, and a leader of Indian youth – ordinary people with extraordinary callings. Among the how-to’s of Part Two are redesigning the congregation; forming the members as missionaries; ways to work for change; spirituality, worship, and preaching that support missionaries; and effective leadership for these congregations.

Along the way, Schwab distinguishes “member-mission” from “body-mission” to achieve this goal. “Body-missions” are missions undertaken by a committee of the congregation or by the congregation as a whole. A food shelf or a refugee resettlement undertaken by a committee or task group of a congregation are body-missions. They still get all the attention. Paying attention to “member-missions” – the missions members undertake in their daily living – is long overdue. The young mother who believes she should involve her husband more deeply in infant care is on a member-mission. The repair garage operator who believes he should seek health coverage for his workers is on a member-mission. Member-missions are the most likely to effect actual, lasting change. Body-missions function more as signs of God’s call for change. This distinction calls for serious reflection.

In the chapter on spirituality, Schwab opens with the  need to match our private spirituality with a public spirituality. Next comes a call to move from a relationship with God based on submission to one of being coworkers or partners with God in mission. While God is the “senior partner,” we junior partners use all of our capacities in the service of the mission. Finally, he calls for a theology of the atonement that moves away from substitutionary atonement toward Christus victor, “In this more primitive meaning of Jesus’ life and death, Jesus is the valiant fighter against evil. His death on the cross makes clear the radical depth of evil. His resurrection makes clear the unconquerable power of God overcoming even death. The baptized share in Jesus’ victory and power through the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Those who join Jesus’ mission in baptism share in his power to struggle against evil. The Holy Spirit brings this power and unites the missionaries with Jesus, God, and the other missionaries,” p. 139. To support this move, Schwab quotes both recent and contemporary theologians.

Clergy and lay leaders will find the chapter on leadership draws on the work of Abraham Zaleznik in 1977. Zaleznik distinguishes between managers who make “what is” work better and leaders who make “what is” into something new. Schwab, then, outlines how this enhances rather than diminishes the role of the ordained in congregational life.

Readers will find some stimulating concepts. “We err to say the church has a mission. Rather, the mission has a church,” (p. 105). “… justice is the public face of love … ,” (p. 123). “The power of numbers to seduce is very strong. Is today’s lure of numbers of members the age-old lure of power in modern dress? One way out is to learn to seek more missionaries, not more members. Grow the mission, not the church,” (p. 147). And from p. 1, “The laity are not central because the mission is not central. We say the church has a mission. We get it wrong when we talk that way. The truth is the mission has a church. When mission becomes central, the laity become central.”