Recovering the Daily Missions of Each of the Baptized — for Seminarians

By The Rev. A. Wayne Schwab

Seminary Introduction — Berkeley Divinity School

[Seminary Introduction – one hour. All wording in italics was on newsprint. Wording in regular type is actual wording used — kept brief. Largest block of time was for IV. Notes on actual event are available on request – click on Contact the Author]

First Year Colloquium, Berkeley Divinity School, New Haven CT, 4/15/03

A. Wayne Schwab, Leader; based on When the Members are the Missionaries: An Extraordinary Calling for Ordinary People ISBN 0971755205; Member Mission Press

I. Introduction – four assumptions

II. A glimpse of our own daily missions

III. A theology of member missions

IV. Some practice in our own member missions

V. Reflections / questions / learnings / etc.

I. Introduction – four assumptions

[Good timing – David Hope, Archbishop of York, wrote me to send this book to his Chaplain who works with candidates for ordination. He sees it as of “direct interest to ordinands as they think about the future pattern of their ministry.” Just what we are about today! Reshaping church life around the daily lives of the members is a long and arduous task. If they like it, the sooner leaders begin to reflect on and live into it, the further they will get in implementing it during their ministry.]
Four assumptions: [If you have questions at any point, raise them.]

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.

2. Therefore, make supporting the members in their daily living the basic purpose of the congregation. Do not legislate this purpose by a vestry resolution. Rather, clergy and vestry agree to live into it. It will take time. It will look difficult but as parish life moves towards this goal, the vestry as leaders will feel their load lessen – their yoke becomes easy and their burden becomes 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.

So let’s begin with how we live.

II. A glimpse of our own daily missions

We have six mission fields:

home – whether we live with others or alone

work – includes school and volunteer work

local community – of our “permanent address” or residential school

wider world – society, culture, economics, or government in our county, or our state, or our nation, or our world

leisure – my “own time” for physical, psychological, or spiritual re-creation; play and prayer

church – congregation (at our “permanent address” or residential school), diocese, or communion – USA or worldwide)

What are am I doing right now to make life better – more loving / more just – right now in one of these mission fields? [Might well be the first time you have thought this way in this field.]

write – share with neighbor – sample by category

Do you believe what you are doing is part of God’s mission? “Mission” dignifies what people do.

III. A theology of member missions

Some theology — how the baptized dare to claim to be on “mission:”

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 support 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. Because God is at work in the world, wherever you look God is at work. Where you find love and justice, you find God. Wherever love and justice are needed, you will find God at work. Just look around for what needs to be more loving or more just and that is where you find God at work.

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: to make Jesus Christ known in deed and word; to love your neighbor as yourself; and to strive for peace and justice. Therefore, mission is “inreach” – “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 missions” are 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: 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 “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).

IV. Some practice in our own member missions

Now let’s dig in:

1. Divide into six groups; each gets a specific mission field.

2. Each completes their form. Start from the top (and work thru) or with #4 (then 1-3 and 5-7) – whichever way works for you. In #4, limit yourself to just one action. In #5, 6, and 7 – you are talking with a potential teammate (5 and 6); then an actual teammate (7). Do try some actual words, even God-talk. [E.g. #7: “I hope you know what your faith community is and are part of it.”

3. Share in each section by pairs or 3’s.

4. Sample one from each field.

5. Pick one to role play. Assign roles as writer conceived it. Practice. When discussing role play: cite actual data / happening; others share how they saw it; actors tell how they saw it.

6. Repractice. Same: speak to actual data or event / all speak to the same data / check with how the actors see it.

V. Reflections / questions / learnings / etc.

1. What are some of our insights, point to ponder, etc. from this session?

2. Closing

Congregations need: a vision that draws you on – every member on mission wherever they are all the time; and a structure – a mission statement calling for supporting the members in their daily living as Christians; and an action – the members discerning their daily missions in their mission fields.

Seminary is the time to consider this vision – live with it / into it – not for the timid / calls for assertive leadership. We provide ongoing support – MMP consultants and peer consultants and newsletter.

[The Rev. A. Wayne Schwab; Coordinator of Member Mission Network, Inc., President of Member Mission Press, Chair of the Spiritual Formation Committee for the United Church of Hinesburg, VT, Author, and Speaker.]