Basic Tools 16: Introduction for Planners

Getting Acquainted with the Vision of
When the Members are the Missionaries

– An experiential introduction for congregational and diocesan planning groups

[NOTE:  the vision and approach of this book are so radically opposite to most visions and approaches to mission that special care needs to be taken when introducing it for serious consideration as a resource for mission and church life.]

Something is amiss!

Christians seem to be indistinguishable from non-Christians.  Why?

Is it because congregations have not really connected with the daily lives of their members?  Has this led to laity risking little to make a difference in their daily arenas?

Some back ground theology

Three assumptions:
1. God is most concerned about how we live from Monday to Saturday.
2. Therefore, congregations wisely make supporting the members in their daily living their basic purpose – or, at least, among their basic purposes.
3. The “delivery point” of all congregational life is the daily living of the members.

Some initial theological positions:
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 increase love and justice.
2. God’s mission has a church. The church does not have a mission.
3. We join God’s mission in baptism.
4. Today, what the members do in their daily places transforms the world more than what they do together as some outreach of the congregation.

Recall our theology of sacraments:
1. We need to relearn our Anglican sense of the “real presence of Jesus Christ” in the Eucharist.
2. Jesus is here to give us the power we need Sunday and every day to live as he teaches us to live.

Let’s look at what we are doing right now

Each of us lives in seven daily arenas:
home (includes family or close friends)
work (includes school and volunteer work)
local community (neighborhood, town, or city)
wider world (society, culture, economics, or government in county, state, nation, and world)
leisure / re-creation
my own spiritual health (includes physical and emotional health)
my share in church life and outreach (service and evangelism) in the congregation,
diocese, or communion – USA or worldwide

Let’s write down what we are doing right now in each part of our daily lives to make life there better

Take about 5-8 minutes to note what you are doing in each of these parts of daily life to make life better there. Don’t strain to write down big things.  Feel free to name the smallest thing – just so you are really doing it.

What am I doing now to make life better – more loving or more just – in each part of my daily life? (Feel free to name the simplest of loving or just things you do or say.)

1. Home (all in the home or closest friends)
2. Work (includes school and volunteer work)
3. Local community (neighborhood, town, or city)
4. Wider world (society, culture, economics, government, or environment in county, state, nation, and world)
5. Leisure / re-creation
6. Church
a. My own spiritual health (includes physical and emotional health)
b. My share in church life and outreach (service and / or evangelism) in the congregation,  diocese, or communion – USA or worldwide

Sharing what we are doing right now

1. Form into pairs or trios with someone you do not know or know less well.  Now, each shares their responses.   Either hear from one person at a time and with each telling of all seven arenas of daily life; or all share an arena before moving on to the next.  Listeners feel free to ask questions to be sure they understand what is being described.
2. In a plenary session:  sample the tough arenas of work with one example from a woman and one from a man.  Repeat for the wider world. Work for specific actions being taken.

Reflect on these daily arenas as mission fields and what we are doing there now are our missions

1. God in Christ is at work everywhere all the time to make life more loving and more just. This means that whatever you and I are doing to make life more loving and more just, we are already part of God’s mission. We just may not have seen it so. So you have just described your current missions – what you are doing that is part of God’s mission!
2. These daily arenas are really mission fields. They are the places in life where you are Christ’s agent, Christ’s missionary. Are we taking ourselves too seriously? Not if each of our missions bears these three marks of mission.
– First, they are centered in love and justice.
– Second, they are costly.  What you are doing costs, does it not?
– Third, missions are carried only with God’s help.
3. Incidentally, the customary connotation of “ministry” is simply “service.”  The “ministers” are not expected to include God-talk about what they are doing.  The customary connotation of “mission” is both deed and word.  The “missionaries” are ready to talk of God while carrying out their service.
4. For reflection:
a. Do you know your partner / trio better? How did it feel to share this way?
b. What are some of your feelings or thoughts about being a missionary right now?

Explore “member-missions” and “body-missions”

Christians need to be where the world makes its decisions – all the way from the nursery to the Oval Office and the UN – from the local union and the local grocery store to GE and the Red Cross.  The daily missions of the members get the Christians to those places.  The outreach mission of a member reaches for but is seldom in the places of decision-making.  The spiritual growth and the church life of the member affect the world beyond the church only indirectly.

Most of the body missions of the congregation are centered in the body and affect the world beyond the church only indirectly.  The service missions of the body reach for but are seldom in the places of decision-making.

Therefore, in today’s world, God’s mission is best served when a congregation does its best to support the daily living of each member in each of their daily mission fields.

[Refer to the diagram on Basic Tools 5 — Congregational missions and member missions]

An illustration:

We (Wayne and Betty Schwab) settled in upstate Essex, New York on retirement.  We found the local school board was being sued by the superintendent they had just fired.  I began to investigate.  I had become the priest-in-charge of our small congregation when the priest accepted a call elsewhere.  A retired vice president of General Electric pulled me aside.  “Rev. Schwab, why don’t you get the clergy to do something?  You should get the board and the superintendent together and tell them to work this thing out!”  He really thought that would work!

This is the constant error of so many today.  The church does not have that power today.  That would have worked in 1203.  It might have worked as late as 1903.  But it will not work in 2003.  The real missionaries in that situation were the baptized among the school board members and the state agencies advising them on the one hand and the superintendent and his lawyers on the other hand.  They had the member-missions.  The body missions of the clergy as representatives of their congregations were powerless.  We could pray.  But others made the decisions – with or without prayer.

Maslow on our daily missions

[Some observations about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how member mission actualizes the peak Maslow hoped all people might reach are found on Basic Tools 6 Maslow on our daily missions.