Some background on the “member mission” vision and what it can do for pastors
Why “member mission?” —
First, a clarification of the issues that have led to our vision. In today’s world, the laity are, potentially, the most effective agents of God’s mission. They are in the places where the decisions that shape our common life are made — from the home to the hourly work‑place to the board room to the legislature. Our churches with our programs and our resolutions are not in these places. Hence, our vision: a church where all the members see themselves as agents of Jesus’ mission to make every part of their daily lives more loving and more just; and their congregations guiding and empowering them for mission through their common life and worship. In brief, we are taking the next step beyond our promises at Baptism; we are discerning the specific ways we will live out those promises in our daily lives.
What member mission can do for pastors —
Here are some of the ways that member mission activities enhance the work of the clergy.
- They reduce unrealistic expectations of the clergy by the laity — now clergy and laity are “on the same street” in that, basically, each has the same mission fields of home, work, community, the wider world, leisure, spiritual health, and church life.
- They enable the laity to know more clearly what help to look for in church and how to find it.
- They increase what the clergy hear from the laity about how their church life is actually helping them to be more loving and more just in their daily living; consequently.
- These member mission activities help the clergy to see ways to increase what the church offers to support its members in their daily living as Christians; and, finally,
- These activities put evangelism inside of mission — its most effective place.
What member mission can do for members —
Here is a bit of reflection done for one of our participants recently. What does all this activity do for the members? Here are some of the riches the member mission vision and resources can bring into the lives of members.
In their own spirituality:
- Since seeking to be loving and just are down‑to‑earth values, Christian living ceases to be hard to describe and, therefore, seemingly hard to achieve.
- They discover the rich spirituality of being in dialog with God about what to do in each area of daily life; and of doing what they do with a sense of God helping them to do it; in brief, their spirituality has a unique richness of its own.
In their life in the church:
- Church life now becomes the place where they find guidance and power for better living in each area of life.
- Church life, which may have seemed external form and ritual, now becomes the vibrant center that gives the rest of the week meaning.
- Church members now become colleagues and supporters for the whole week, not just for Sunday.
- The clergy and other church leaders are friends and allies for daily life rather than experts and managers who seem distant from the concerns of the members; now all are “on the same street.”
In their life in the world:
- Believing that the church does not have a mission but that God’s mission has a church, they work easily with people of other faiths for any goals that are centered in love and justice.
- Believing that God’s mission is to make the world more loving and just, they can work with anyone for whom love and justice are primary values.
- They find they can talk about God with non-church people easily; since their daily missions are centered in love and justice, they talk easily about God whose characteristic works are love and justice.
- When they find the non-church person interested in their talk about God and God’s work, it is natural to invite him or her to join in the mission B in brief, evangelism (now understood as calling people to join Jesus’ mission) becomes “second nature.”
What member mission can do for the world —
Since the world is the subject of God’s mission (John 3:16), rejoice that the world will be more loving and more just because.
- There are people working steadily to make their personal relationships more loving and just.
- There are people who will bear the cost of working for and speaking up for justice in every area of life — public and private.
- There are people who, while having their own views on issues public and private, are able to enter genuine dialogue about them and even ready to change their views on the basis of new insight and information.
- There are people who know human imperfections and yet are willing to work with anyone to make situations more loving and just.
- There are people for whom violence is not the way to settle conflict; and
- There are people who know that justice is the way to peace.
Where it works —
The member mission vision and resources work in any congregation of any size and any budget. Actually, the research, funded by Trinity Church Grants, was done in 1999‑2000 with twenty‑five small churches — each had to be one with fewer than fifty worshipers on Sunday — from New Jersey to Alaska. The results established the hypothesis that small churches can help their members to live better Monday to Saturday as agents of God’s mission in Jesus Christ. Further, the approach works in all communions. So far, we have significant work going on with Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, and United Church of Christ congregations. Finally, one of our basic resources is being translated into Spanish for use by Hispanic congregations in May in the USA and into Swahili for use by Evangelical and Anglican congregations in Tanzania.
How it works —
To draw out more of how “member mission” as we call it works, it begins with understanding that God is at work in every part of daily life to make life there more loving and more just. The help we offer has these steps:
- A church’s preaching and teaching guides the members to look for where God is at work in their own lives; and its sacramental life empowers the members to follow God ever more closely in their day to day life.
- Discern what God is doing in each area of your life B your home, your work, your community, the wider world, your leisure, your spiritual health, and your part in your church’s life and its outreach
- List the ways you see to join what God is already doing in each area of life.
- Choose one way to join what God is doing in each area of life — what you choose becomes your mission in that area of life; offer it to the Lord in prayer; with God’s help, seek and find a teammate to work with you on that mission.
- Your church keeps shaping its common life to support all its members in living out their daily missions.
Can all this be done? Yes, various churches are at various stages of working it out by using the training and resources we offer. For our resources, visit our web site at www.membermission.org.
Once there, go to https://www.membermission.org and check out Basic Tools 1‑ 5, 10, 11, 19, and 20‑23.
How to get started —
Are there ways for each church to help its members to discover specific ways to increase their effectiveness as agents of God’s mission in each of their daily places? Are there ways for each church to provide ongoing support for their members as they carry on their daily missions?
Yes, there are! One helpful format for starting a church or cluster of churches (one church or several, one denomination or ecumenical) is a Friday and a Saturday on site. Presentations and practice are given for.
- The crucial place in God’s mission of what the members do on their own Monday to Saturday and a theology for it.
- Discerning what they are doing right now to make the areas of their daily lives more loving and more just and how these are missions.
- Sharing discernment of three or so daily missions choosing from their home, their work, their community, the wider world, or their leisure.
- Their gifts for mission discerned in their sharing; and
- Practice in finding a teammate — and sharing how they see it as part of God’s mission and how the church helps them to do it (if the teammate is a not a church member, inviting him or her to join Jesus’ mission — this puts evangelism inside of mission).
Another way is, with the encouragement of the clergy, to introduce member mission through the Christian education offerings of a congregation. Under the guidance of committed Christian education leaders, these offerings can grow into wider and wider acceptance of the member mission vision by the congregation as a whole.
Some closing reassurances —
Does member mission increase the load of already busy people? No, it lightens their load by using their time and energy where they want most to expend it and, thereby, increases their sense of accomplishment at the end of a day.
Does member mission mean the end of church activities? No, it sharpens the impact and effectiveness of both church centered and of community service activities.
If you want to explore this possibility further, let us know.
May the Lord’s peace and power be with you,
A. Wayne Schwab, Coordinator
Member Mission Network, Inc.; Member Mission Press
P.O. Box 294, Hinesburg, VT 05461; 802-482-7743 or 518‑524‑6012 (cell)
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