During my time on the staff of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, 1975-93, and in retirement, my interest in what church members were doing to make the world a better place kept growing and growing. I began to ask, “How does your faith connect with what you are doing?” or “Do you see God at work in any way in what you are doing?” I was excited not only by what they were doing but how easily they told me how they saw their faith and God connected with what they were doing.
Reading about missionary spirituality gave me a next step in putting together what church members can do and the need for a better world. I was hearing about missions – about what members were doing with God’s help to make the world a better place. Making the world a better place had become the best way I knew to describe what God was and is doing. The members were telling me how their missions are part of God’s mission.
I started creating various documents to help members to live and tell about their missions. The more I used them, the more excited members became about the connections they were making. Together we were discovering that all of us were on mission without knowing it. We were living a missionary spirituality already. Already we had purpose and power for life. We were already members on mission in every part of daily life.
Already, we are missional members. All church members are missional. Many of us do not see what we are doing as part of God’s mission already. So it is time to write about missional members and to help us all see the big picture of God’s mission in the world and how we are already living it.
My life had prepared me for this discovery and for writing about it. Some of the formative experiences that brought me here are:
- seminary, college, church, and home which made love and justice my primary values;
- a brief year selling door-to-door which introduced me to the business world;
- two years developing 5th and 6th grade church school curriculum as assistant rector collaborating with the Christian education director and two volunteer teachers;
- nineteen years leading a growing church that called for strong teamwork with the members;
- training in human relationships, communication, small group life, and organizational development that continue to enable all I do;
- therapy that enabled growth to make both marriage and family life and church life and leadership better;
- an interfaith community service project and work with the National Council of Churches that brought needed insights and friendships;
- ability to use non-theological language in talking about God and the church which came through reading (2) and through seminars of the World Council of Churches and touring European lay academies;
- nineteen years as the first evangelism staff person for the Episcopal Church which led me into every diocese stateside and seven countries in Central and South America, Europe, and Asia;
- working with lay and clergy consultants around the world that increased flexibility on both church and social issues;
- in retirement, collecting and reporting in a newsletter the experiences of laity making the world a better place;
- being funded by Trinity Church of New York City for research in twenty-five small churches from New Jersey to Alaska which affirmed the ability of congregations to support their members in living their daily missions, in living as the missional members they are; and
- in retirement from 1993 on, I was able to continue developing the insights and procedures of missional membership that inform this book.
The world needs members on missions of love and justice
I believe that our primary purpose in creation is to build a more loving and just world with God’s help. We are well on our way. Humankind has come a long way toward more loving and just living – a long way from tribal chiefs, child sacrifice, and treating illness with spells toward democratic governments, more responsible care for the planet, and the increasing achievements of doctors and their helpers. We still have a long way to go such as coping with climate change, getting wealth out of politics, and ending spouse and child abuse.
We need more members on mission who work to make the world a more loving and just place day in and day out wherever they are. We need people for whom love does not give way to me-first and justice does not give way to our-crowd-first mentalities. Working for love and justice requires committed long-distance runners. Long distance runners need stamina and conviction. Members on mission run the distance and do it with God’s help at every step. The world needs as many members on mission as it can get.
Leaders, clergy and lay, this is the challenge: to connect with and support all church members as part of God’s mission to make the world more loving and more just for us, for future generations, and for our planet – all with God’s help.