Study Guide for “When the Members are the Missionaries”

By The Rev. A. Wayne Schwab

Using this Study Guide

This guide assumes the study group is part of a congregation. Rewrite the questions as needed for other groups. Further, it assumes six sessions of about 90 minutes as a reasonable expectation of participants. The assigned readings are of approximately equal length. The “choices for discussion” can be made by the participants as each session begins. Probably three or four of the options are the most a group can cover in a single session. The questions do cover almost all of the book’s main concepts. Their order is set by their connection to the sequence of the parts of the book, not by their importance. Agree to keep one another in prayer throughout the session.

A brief preliminary meeting of the group is useful: to be sure the meeting times and length are convenient; where you will meet; refreshments as desired; rotating or fixed leadership; the format of sessions and if the length of the assigned reading is workable. Give out the books at this preliminary session and the handouts which accompany them. The handouts both point to the network list and introduce readers to the text.

At this meeting, agree to follow the leaders as they hold up these standards for group discussion:

– no “bogging” – do not let discussion bog down on single issues unless they are substantive and most are involved in them.

– no “hogging” – see that all get a chance to speak; speakers who become wordy can be interrupted with a friendly “Excuse my interruption. We need to hear from others. Who is next?”

– no “frogging” – do not skip from topic to topic; stay with an issue until all or most are ready to move on together.

Congregational groups receive the bookstore discount of 40% on their orders. Once the sessions are completed, send in comments or suggestions to Member Mission Press at: membermission@aol.com; P. O. Box 628, Hinesburg, VT 05461 or Phone/Fax (802) 482-7743

Primary goals hoped for from the study are:

– see that God’s mission has a church; the church does not have a mission

– wrestle with just who are today’s primary missionaries – the institution in its programs and actions or the individual members in their daily places

– understand that we join God’s mission in baptism

– acquire a clear distinction between “body mission” and “member mission”

– understand calling one’s present works for love and justice in one’s daily places one’s “missions”

– grasp the six fields of mission shared by every one of the baptized and freely identifying one or two of those fields as most central in one’s living

– discover ways to begin to make supporting the members in their daily living as Christians the primary purpose of a congregation

– recognize the need to live into this sense of purpose over the long-term rather than simply to “vote it in”

Some of the Theology Underlying this Vision for Mission

God is on mission.

– God is at work in the world to overcome evil and to make it a better place.

– Justice is the public face of love.

– Where love and justice are blocked, God is there working for change.

– Where you meet love and justice, God is there.

God’s mission has a church.

– The church does not have a mission; the mission has a church.

– The church is the visible instrument of God’s mission.

– The church collaborates with any who work for greater love and justice.

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.

So, mission is “inreach” – “reaching into” God’s mission – rather than “outreach.”

Jesus is most concerned about how we live from Monday to Saturday.

Sunday is for direction and power to live that way.

Each of us has six mission fields: home – work – local community – wider world – leisure / re-creation – church

A spirituality for missionaries believes:

– we are coworkers with God;

– Jesus Christ is the victor over evil; and

– Jesus Christ shares his power over evil with us – “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).

When a congregation wants to implement this approach, it needs:

a vision that draws you on – every member on mission wherever they are all the time;

a structure – its basic purpose is to support the members in their daily living as Christians; and

– an action – the members discerning their daily missions in their mission fields.

It also needs patience. Be ready to live into the decision. Do not expect to legislate it. Live it for ten years and, then, enjoy assessing the results.

About the book

The book itself begins with the stories of fifteen people on mission. The world is the delivery point of the church’s mission and its members are the primary missionaries of today. Therefore, the stories of the missionaries come first lest readers be drawn back to congregational life as “where it happens.” How the congregation organizes to support missionaries, properly, comes second.

Re Part One – Each person’s story has two parts – the specific mission in that “mission field” and, then, the journey in faith that led each person to be ready to be a missionary. Each person’s answers to the seven questions (from Appendix A) for discerning one’s mission in a mission field can be found in each story.

Re Part Two – The rationale for the order of chapters is on pp. 103 – 4. Leadership comes after the major elements of the reorganization the leaders work to accomplish have been described.

* * *

Session 1

Preparation:

Read Dedication, Table of Contents, Foreword, Acknowledgments, Preface, Prologue, Chapter One, Chapter 2 through Kit and Jim, and Appendix A.

Choices for discussion:

1. What did you like in what you read? What do you want to question?

2. How “comfortable” are you with calling our specific works in God’s name “missions” (see pp. 5-7)?

3. What are some of your queries about the rationale for the seven questions on pp. 10-11?

4. Have you a story to share of asking another to join you in a specific mission?

5. What are some of your comments or feelings about the stories of Kit and Jim?

6. Do these two stories suggest any missions you are carrying on now or sense you are being called to take up?

Session 2

Preparation:

Read from Leila in Chapter 2 through Kevin in Chapter 4.

Choices for discussion:

1. Which story did you like the most and why? Which story interested you the least and why?

2. What missions are you carrying on now or sense you are being called to carry on:

– at home?

– in your daily work?

– in your local community?

(Allow a few minutes for individual reflection to mention at least one for each field.)

3. From these stories, what are some of your learnings about how people come to faith in Jesus Christ?

4. What are some of your reflections, questions, or learnings from these stories?

Session 3

Preparation:

Read from Gloria in Chapter 5 through the end of Chapter 7.

Choices for discussion:

1. Which story did you like the most and why? Which story interested you the least and why?

2. As we meet this third time, how have your understandings or feelings about mission, missionaries, and mission fields been changing or growing?

3. As you sense the call to mission in every part of human life, are you seeing your participation in church life any differently?

4. Christians often feel powerless as they face the wider world. A bumper sticker reads: “Can small committed groups of people make a difference? Nothing else ever has!” What missions in the wider world do you see yourselves carrying on or, perhaps, being called to carry on? [Note that, in the author’s view, relief work carried on through some church-related organization is seen as part of one’s mission in the church.]

5. Retreats, daily prayer patterns, spiritual direction and the like are part of leisure / re-creation. What are some of your current or possible missions in your private spirituality?

4. Which is beginning to look like it can achieve the most lasting change in the world out there – what individual Christians do with the help of others in their daily places or what they do together through the organized church (see pp. 97-99)?

Session 4

Preparation:

Read from the Introduction to Part Two through Chapter 10, “Let’s Redesign” and Appendix B.

Choices for discussion (Appendix B about paradigms may be useful in to many of the following topics for discussion):

1. Comment on the sequence of chapters set forth on pp. 103 – 4.

2. Comment on: God’s mission has a church; the church does not have a mission (see pp. 105-6). 3. To what extent, do you now agree that today’s primary missionaries – God’s primary agents to transform the world – are the members in their daily living rather than the programs and resolutions of the congregation or some larger church body (see pp. 107-9)?

4. To what extent are worship and Christian community your source of guidance in how to live and the power to live your daily missions (see pp. 111)? Are there some ways for you to grow in drawing on worship and Christian community for the guidance and power you need?

5. To what extent do you see our congregation producing “compliant, loyal members” rather than missionaries? Perhaps, recall the description of a missionary in the third paragraph on p. 1.

6. What are some of your comments on the distinction between “member-mission” and “body-mission” (see pp. 113-16)?

7. What is the “lived” purpose of our congregation (p.119)?

8. As you see it, how well will the four dimensions of congregational life diagrammed on p. 122 sustain our members in our daily mission fields?

9. How well do the three diagrams on pp. 126-8 summarize the basic dimensions of local, regional, and national church structures?

Session 5

Preparation:

Read Chapters 11, 12, 13, and 14 and Appendix C.

Choices for discussion:

1. Invite each to share how they make important decisions; no one is required to share. Then talk about any new ideas they picked up for decision-making from Chapter 11.

2. Owen Thomas believes that people practice a private spirituality of their inner life with God and their personal relationships but do not believe spirituality should be part of their public life at work, in the local community, and in wider world (culture, institutions, economics, and government). Do you agree or disagree? To what extent does your own spirituality include your public as well as your private life?

3. How do you respond to seeing yourself as God’s coworker joining Jesus Christ in the work of increasing the love and justice – seeing justice is the “public face” of love – of God’s reign in all of life?

4. How do you respond to understanding your baptism as joining the mission of Jesus Christ to bring God’s reign of love and justice into every part of life?

5. To what extent do you believe you need God’s power to overcome evil and to strengthen love and justice wherever you are?

6. Is our congregation more interested in growing the size of the congregation or in growing the mission – i.e., the ability of each member to share in God’s work of overcoming evil and increasing love and justice in each of our daily mission fields?

7. What do you believe should be part of preparation for baptism and confirmation / reaffirmation in this congregation? (See Appendix C.)

8. “Feedback” – hearing from others how they perceive what you say or do is essential to making changes. How ready to accept feedback are:

– the people you know;

– leaders in public life;

– leaders in organizations you belong to;

– leaders in this congregation; and

– you, yourself?

Session 6

Preparation:

Read Chapters 19 through 19 and Appendix D.

Choices for discussion – be sure to save the last 15 minutes for #7:

1. How ready are the members of the congregation to participate in ongoing small groups? If that readiness is weak, how might it be increased?

2. To what extent are the daily missions of the members reflected in the worship of the congregation (see Ch. 16)? If little, how might it be increased?

3. To what extent do the handouts, newsletters, and publicity of our congregation reflect the daily missions of our members? (See Appendix D.)

4. Does our congregation need a “leader” or a “manager” at this point (see Ch. 17)? As you see it, how valid is this distinction between “leaders” and “managers,” anyway?

5. How ready are we to undertake the kind of long-term change described at the bottom of p. 180?

6. If we set about adopting this vision of each member a missionary, where and to whom might we look for support (see Ch.18)?

7. After 9/11, what are some of the things we Christians can do to build a better world (see Ch.19)?

8. What might be some next steps in living out the vision of each of the baptized as missionary of Jesus Christ:

– in our own lives;

– in our congregation?

[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.]