Every Member a Missionary: An Interview with The Rev. A. Wayne Schwab

Posted on October 26, 2010 by Bruce Laverman

We’ve all read about it and heard it in a sermon…but here’s someone who is actually training people to do it, not only here in North America but as far away as Tanzania.

Here Bruce Laverman interviews Wayne Schwab, formerly evangelism staff person for the Episcopal Church in America.  Wayne now directs Member Mission, a non-profit organization that is actively training members of congregations in many different denominations to identify and fulfill their mission in life:

Bruce: Wayne, What is Member Mission and what does it have to do with ecumenical evangelism?

Wayne: “In a nutshell, member mission is a way for every church to help each member in their day-to-day living as Christians.  And it works! I like to put evangelism inside “missional” framework; not “missional” churches, but “missional” members.  I work with a number of different churches, beginning with two staff persons in the Southern Baptist churches in South Carolina.  Everything necessary for the implementation of this plan is available on the Member Mission website, or by phone.   A big step in the training is for each person to go through the work sheets on the website which ask each person to identify a point at which he/she would make the world more loving and more just.  The pastor in the Methodist Church in Plattsburg says she’s “Sliding it in” as an emphasis in their church.  It’s just about learning to live as a Christian in the world.  My son, a Lutheran in Northfield, Illinois is writing “member mission” into their church’s mission and vision.”

Bruce: How does a local congregation connect Member Mission with their church’s vision and mission?

Wayne: “Several ways.  First of all, through preaching and teaching, that is, learning how to live the faith where you are.  We seek to help each person spell out in specific deeds of love and mercy how they can make their world more loving and just.  Also, by word of witness, to talk of the God of love and justice who comes to us in Jesus Christ.”

Secondly we have work sheets on the website which people can implement through one mission field at a time.  There are seven “spheres of mission” in each person’s life.  The church is just one of those seven mission fields.  People work together in a group which builds into a team, and they all get bitten by the bug.

Finally, we bring the official board into the member mission, and that’s specifically laid out on the website.  All the basic tools are there at membermission.org.”

B: How is the concept of “every member a missionary” best introduced to a congregation?

W: “We want church members to move from “missional church” to “missional member.”  We’re talking about ministry in daily life.  During the announcements at worship someone can share an experience from one mission field in their daily living.  During the coffee hour people can ask each other, “How did it go this week in your particular mission field?  Sunday worship prayers are opportune times to pray for a specific mission field experience.  These references all get people thinking and talking about what God is doing in their life experiences.”

B: How many churches are currently seriously involved in the “member mission” project and where are those congregations located?

W: “About sixty to seventy congregations are participating in different places throughout the United States, including northern California, Jacksonville, Florida, and Maine, as well as right here in Plattsburgh, New York, where I live.  Through preaching, small groups and bible studies the notion of daily mission is being practiced in more and more places.  Also, recently pastors representing ten congregations gathered together in Tanzania, and were coached by two of my best trainers.  They represented Roman Catholic on one end of the spectrum and Pentecostal charismatic on the other end.  Thirty-two clergy said they had been doing it all wrong, i.e., preaching, while really it’s all about making homes of our people more loving and working with the nation to be part of that work, both privately and publicly.”

B: How can local churches plan to do a workshop on Member Mission?

W: “They can do it themselves by using my book and the workbook on the website.  However, person-to-person is better!  A workshop can be scheduled for 9 AM till 4PM with a lunch dividing the sessions.  The pastor can lead and it is good when she/he does!  Four topics are covered: 1) Share what I am doing right now to make my world more loving and just.  2) Utilize the seven worksheets covering the seven mission field of our daily lives. Each person picks just one mission field to share with the others in their group.  3) Others in the group name the particular gifts (today’s language) they observed with each person in the group.  4) The group identifies a team mate for each work sheet, using role play.”

B: In addition to the book and the website, how can interested churches “keep up” with learnings of Member Mission activities?

W: “Anyone can sign up on our website (link) for the monthly newsletter which is emailed to them directly.  Also, we’ll be running a webinar which can be viewed on a person’s computer in November.  For details go to our website.”

B: How many different denominations are involved in the project?

W: “At present I have worked with the United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Covenant Church, the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church.”

B: How can Member Mission and Evangelism Connections work together to promote ecumenical evangelism?

W: “The goal of evangelism is to enlist people in Jesus’ mission through baptism, to join Jesus in His mission.  In John 20:21-22 Jesus breathes on the disciples, saying, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit!’  That’s the gospel.  Jesus will help you live out the mission.”

B: Do you have any fresh stories of personal success applying the principles of Member Mission?

W: “One of my favorite stories is about Jeff, who was producing parts for automatic door openers.  He was not satisfied with the parts being used and complained to the manufacturer, with the end result being that the specs for the parts were changed, producing a safer door opener.  This eliminated Jeff’s due concern about a possible accident.  I have many more stories, but you can find them on our website.”

B: Thanks, Wayne, and Blessings in your life and work.