Evangelism and Mission, The Whole Story

By The Rev. A. Wayne Schwab

Proclaim the good news that God is here (Mark 1:14-15) on mission to make the world more loving and more just.

Call to join God’s mission in Jesus Christ (Mark 1:16-29) to make the world more loving and more just.

Proclamation draws people into the church. There are joyous times of sharing the good things happening in each other’s lives. Times of frustration and failure are met with encouragement to try again. Study groups and meals together deepen community. Worship brings guidance for living and power to live the life God asks of us.

The call to mission is easily overlooked. The call to costly mission – to deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24) and to save your life by losing it (Luke 9:24) – can fall on deaf ears in a community too centered on support and encouragement. Many leaders admit to little teaching about mission until “they are ready” – a time that seldom comes.

Unhappily, few get beyond church participation to working for love and justice Monday to Saturday – the promise in the baptismal covenant.

Each of the baptized needs to join the mission to work for each part of daily life to be more loving and more just. Martin Luther understood these parts of life as home, work, community, and church. Life today adds the wider world (from social norms to business and government), leisure time, and the quest for spiritual health.

Beware being weak on the call to mission. We live in perilous times. We need more Christians who have heard and heeded both the proclamation and the call to mission. Ears and hearts should meet both at points of entry. Welcoming newcomers, preparing adults and godparents for baptism, preparing for confirmation and reaffirmation are key entry points. Vestries, leaders, the groups they lead, the whole congregation need to meet and to keep meeting both proclamation and the call to mission. Tell not half but the whole story.
(Words 328)

What is evangelism? It’s our response to ‘Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). How did Jesus do it? Mark 1:15-20 tells of two steps: proclaim God’s presence and call to mission, “Follow me” (Mark 1:17).

Our Episcopal evangelism seems to do only the first part. Google “what is the evangelism program of the episcopal church;” click on “Evangelism Initiatives/Episcopal Church”and you get “We seek, name and celebrate Jesus’ loving presence in the stories of all people – then invite everyone to MORE.”

Where are you when you have gotten the “MORE”? You worship, make friends, share your stories, join study groups, support the church in giving time and treasure – you participate in as many church programs as time and energy allow.

The issue: you are probably still “in the church.” “Church work” is what happens under the roof on Sunday or some social service program sponsored by the church.

But you spend most of your time at work, at home, or in your community. All of it on your own. (173)

Is evangelism enough? From Mark, we proclaim “. . . The kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15).

What is actually happening in our churches? When we evangelize, we talk of God’s love and the Christian community. What is being heard? That God is at work among us, forgives us, and love us. That is good news fro any age. Right now in our time with our special needs (I just heard the suicide rate is rising) the possibility of meaning and purpose, forgiveness, and love are welcome.

Is that enough? Who speaks to newcomers of the call to mission; of the call to make the world around us more loving and just with God’s help?

Our nation is in perilous times. The income gap grows; the social safety net is weakening; the environment is being exploited for easy energy; voters wonder if votes rally matter. (Do you ponder that only one third of eligible voters actually vote?)

Evangelism needs to be followed by the call to mission. Jesus proclaims the good news and, immediately, calls Simon (Peter) and Andrew, James and John (Mark 1:16-20).

Do we call to mission, to costly mission? Or do we settle for a “happy church” full of people getting their own needs met who never quite get to the challenges of the minimum wage, adequate health care, and racism (is it in a new form of “beware of immigrant?”).

When will our newcomer classes ask people to list the ways they are on mission right now at home, at work, in their community, in the wider world (from social norms, to business, to government), in their leisure, in their quest for spiritual health, ans well as in their church life? These areas of life are mission fields are they not? When will newcomers hear that to join Jesus’ people is to join Jesus’ mission to make all the parts of life more loving and more just with God’s help?

When will preparation for baptism and confirmation / reaffirmation explore “what is my mission in each area of daily life?” Do we ever talk about with people at these points of entry about the cost of discipleship. When we ask them to join the baptismal covenant, do they think about the costly missions of making home, the work place, the nation, and play-time more loving and more just – or they hear platitudes about happy homes, about more coffee breaks, about kinder social discourse, and safer vacations?

Evangelize and call to mission, costly mission that really changes the world with God’s help.

We proclaim God is here. That’s good news – Gospel. Do we go on to invite, even call, hearers to authentic living of that good news? (456 words)

We rejoice when hearers find their way into the Jesus Movement. They rejoice as they find God’s love and protection are for them as well. When do they hear they to be part of Jesus’ mission to make the world more loving and more just wherever they are Monday to Saturday. They are missionaries of love and justice – of God’s love and protection for everyone.

When do newcomers, adults asking for baptism, parents and godparents of infants and young children, people seeking confirmation hear about loving and protecting their parts of the world around them wherever they are? They are on their way in; do they hear what they are coming in to?

Authentic living of the baptismal faith is living Jesus’ mission to make all the parts of our own worlds more loving and more just with God’s help. The parts of our daily worlds are: our home and friends; our daily work (paid or volunteer); our neighborhoods (block to city); the wider world of citizenship, voter, and consumer; and our play time, as well as our part in our church’s life and outreach.

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