Member Mission Orientation for Deacons Leader: The Rev. A. Wayne Schwab 

Seminary Intro. — Berkeley Divinity School
The School for Deacons
Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley, CA, 10/25/03, 6:30 – 8:30 P.M.
Discovering and Supporting the Daily Missions of the Members

What we will do tonight


  1. Remove some roadblocks
  2. Do some theology
  3. Get a feel for daily missions
  4. Look at ways to:

•   focus your work on mission
•   help people to discern their missions
•   help them find helpers
•   put all this to work

Introduction – a vision

God is most interested in how we live from Monday to Saturday.  Sunday – all of church life – is to give us the guidance and the power to do it better.
Congregations, therefore, make their primary purpose – or place among their primary purposes – supporting their members in their daily living as Christians.

Removing some roadblocks

What’s in a word?  “Mission” and “missionary” are good words but they carry a lot of excess baggage.  Let’s clear it up with two lists. Brainstorm:

  • What is bad about mission and missionaries
  • What is good about mission and missionaries

We work from the good list.  This is God’s New Day and it is a new day for mission.

Doing some theology

  • Evil, sin, and earth are painfully real
  • God is on mission everywhere and all the time to make life more loving and more just – justice is the public face of love
  • For Christians, Jesus Christ is the center of God’s mission and the church is the visible instrument of his mission.
  • The church does not have a mission – the mission has a church
  • Churches seem to produce members, not missionaries
  • Make producing missionaries their purpose
  • Deacons animate – “breathe life” – into the missionaries

Getting a feel for daily missions

Our Monday to Saturday living is no simple matter. We have a number of daily arenas. Here, I am indebted to Mark Gibbs, a British layman, author, and church consultant, for the naming of these six daily arenas. Those daily arenas are:

•   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 / recreation
•   church

– own spiritual health (includes physical and emotional health)
– maintenance and outreach (service and evangelism) in the congregation, diocese, or communion – USA or worldwide

We live in all six of these all the time.  Further, we are working all the time to make life better in each of these arenas.  Let’s use the basic Christian ethic of love – and justice, its public face – to identify what we are doing there. [I know many people are not trying to make life better. And, at times, each of us is just plain lazy.  We look at the responsible side of human kind here.]

Let us now identify what we are doing in each of these daily arenas to make life better there.  List the simplest of loving or just actions. [Put the following form on a full page with about an inch for each response.]

What am I doing now to make each of my daily arenas more loving or more just? (Feel free to name the simplest of loving or just actions.)

a. Home (all in the home or closest friends)
b. Work (includes school and volunteer work)
c. Local community (neighborhood, town, or city)
d. Wider world (society, culture, economics, or government in county, state, nation, and world)
e. Leisure / recreation
f. Church
i. Own spiritual health (includes physical and emotional health)
ii. Maintenance and outreach (service and evangelism) in the congregation, diocese, or communion – USA or worldwide

Form trios with those you know less well.  Each shares their responses.

[After sharing] You have probably guessed where we will go next.  Picking up our theology, 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.

And these six arenas are really mission fields.  They are the places in life where you are Christ’s agent, Christ’s missionary.  There are three marks of a mission.

•   First, they are centered in love and justice.  You have already said how that is so.
•   Second, they are costly.  What you are doing costs, does it not?
•   Third, missions are accomplished only with God’s help.  In the actions you just described, have you got the power in yourself to bring off the change you seek?  Or do you need help?  If God’s help is essential to achieve the goal, it’s a mission.

Calling them missions gives them their proper recognition and dignity.  Mission is the grand word.  And it calls for both deeds and words.  “Ministry” can lead us to avoid the word part of mission – of talking of God and Jesus Christ.

Now, let’s hear what you have come up with. [Ask for two from daily work and two from the wider world.]  How does it feel to call these six arenas mission fields?  How comfortable are you with calling what you are seeking to do your – or one of your – present missions?

Member-missions and body-missions:

Now it’s time to look at the difference between body-missions and member-missions.  Body-missions are what the congregation does as a body or through one of its committees or task groups.  Member-missions are what the members do in their daily lives.  The key question for this 21st century is which missions are the most effective agents of God’s mission – body-mission or member-mission.  We know all too well about how the church’s body-missions are on the sidelines when the key decisions are made shaping our daily living.  Here is where member-missions are good news. [See the diagram on Basic Tools 5.]

The church’s body-missions of worship, education, evangelism, pastoral care, and stewardship are centered in the church.  They reach into the world more indirectly than directly.  The church’s service reaches into the world but reaches only the people it actually touches.

The member-missions of home, work, local community, wider world, and leisure / recreation reach all the way to the places where decisions are made.   Outreach – like the church’s service – reaches only those it actually touches.  Only one’s spiritual growth and one’s share in church life are limited to more indirect than direct influence.

Face the tough issues of mission:

Here is a “dividend.”  Abraham Maslow (about 1907-1970) pulled psychology into a new era in the 1960s.  Almost all know his chart of the levels of human need. [See Basic Tools 6.]   Maslow wanted everyone to get to self-actualization.  He even referred to living at that level as being on a “mission. . . in the priest’s sense” (p. 38, Maslow on Management, Abraham H. Maslow, Wiley & Sons, 1998).  Our daily missions are living at this self-actualizing level.  Some want to “protect” members from the tough issues of being a missionary.  When you hear that talk, don’t let them!

Helping people to discern their missions and to find teammates

Each member deserves a chance to work through some pattern to discern their current daily missions in each of their six mission fields.  Such a pattern needs to include:

– a sense of what God is already doing there;
– a way to think through what needs to be done to make life better
– free choice – among all the alternatives – what he / she will do
– words expressing the vision of the change that is sought
– ways to find (a) teammate(s)
– ways to talk of God with the teammate(s)

Leaders do well to convene a pilot group the first time they use the following forms (Appendix A, Pages 189 – 194, in When the Members are the Missionaries).  Helping people to use them is a new skill for most.

Finding a teammate is often overlooked.  Potential teammates can be non-church as well as church people.  They do need to:

•    to be able and willing to help you;
•    be able to join you in the mission of love or justice you foresee; and
•    to hear you describe the mission in a way that will appeal to them.

Do you see the “evangelism” here?

The following work sheets can help in discerning a mission and finding teammates for it.  Provide them in a format that allows about one inch for each response.

Beginning with a sense of what God is doing or telling me in one of my mission fields.

Discerning my Present Mission at Home (one I am carrying on or will start to carry on)

1. What has God been doing or telling me through my life in my home? [Try a response beginning with: “I believe God is . . . .”]
2. What conditions inhibit reconciliation, justice, and love (peacemaking, fairness, and caring) in my home?
3. What change is needed to increase reconciliation, justice, and love (peacemaking, fairness, and caring) in my home?
4. What, specifically, will I do to achieve this change considering my gifts, limitations, and convictions? [Limit yourself to just one action of mission.]
5. What vision (description of what I will do) will I use to recruit a “team” to work with me to achieve this change? [Answer with words you might actually use with a possible teammate: “….”]
6. As I recruit or work with my “teammate/s,” how will I talk of God while I am sharing my vision (what I plan to do) or following through on it? [Answer with words you might actually use with a possible teammate: “ . . . .”]
7. How will I invite my “teammate/s” to join me at Jesus’ table to be fed and empowered to achieve this vision? (How will I encourage others to seek help in church life?) [Answer with words you might actually use with a possible teammate: “ . . . .”]

Beginning with what I am already doing in one of my mission fields.

An alternate that begins with what people are already doing is often easier to pick up.

Reflecting on a Present Mission at Home

1. At present, what, specifically, am I doing to make life better — more loving and / or more just — in my home? [Limit yourself to just one action.]
2. What is it that I am trying to change in my home so that life here is more loving and / or more just?
3. What seems to be blocking the change I am trying to make in my home?
4. What do I believe God has been doing or telling me in my life in my home? [Try a response beginning with: “I believe God is . . . .”]
5. I will need / have needed some help to make this change.   What vision (description of what I am doing) have I used / will I use to recruit a “team” to work with me to achieve this change? [Answer with words you actually have used / might use to recruit a teammate: “ . . . .”]
6. As I recruit or work with my “teammate/s,” how have I or will describe how I see God connected with the change we are trying to make? [Answer with words you actually have used or might use with a possible teammate: “ . . . .”]
7. How have I or will I invite my “teammate/s” to join me at Jesus’ table to be led and to be empowered in working for this change? (How will I encourage others to seek help in church life?) [Answer with words you might actually use with a possible teammate: “ . . . .”]

Note the pattern: 1 – 4 what you will do / are doing; 5 – 7 how you will find a teammate.

Einstein:  “Perfection of means and confusion of goals seems, in my opinion, to characterize our age.”  Hence, a disciplined discerning of one’s daily missions.  Use this mission discernment with:  candidates for youth or adult baptism and confirmation / reaffirmation / reception; parents bringing their children for baptism even for a single session – Appendix C, Pages 197 – 199 of When The Members Are The Missionaries; and congregational leaders and newcomers to get a taste of the vision .  Surely, all Christians and all inquirers deserve the chance to learn to discern and to live their daily missions.

Putting all this to work

A job description Deacons implementing member mission will need the support that comes from the rest of the congregation being clear about their function.  Imagine that your vestry has asked for you to give them a job description of what you are trying to do.  Beware of being vague.  For example: “To know Christ and to make him known” – just what does that mean?  A workable job description built around developing the members as missionaries will include – or, at least, implied:

•   God’s victory over evil, sin, and death in Jesus Christ
•   Jesus Christ’s ongoing struggle with evil, sin, and death in today’s world
•   Jesus’ call to us to join him in that struggle
•   Join his mission in baptism and be fed for it at Jesus’ table
•   Teaching each member to be a missionary

Each writes out their own.  Then share them in the same trios.  As each shares, the other two listen for specifics and to offer suggestions to sharpen it.

In a plenary session for all, ask for at least two to be shared.  The rest of us act as friends who have been called in by the one who shares for help in sharpening what has been written.  First, we listen for each of each of the five notes listed above to be present – or, at least, implied.  All need to be rigorous in listening for the last of the five about teaching, in particular.   Watch, especially for those centered on “being an example of Christian living to others.”   Hold up, rather, “teaching each member to be a missionary.”

Teach a spirituality that empowers member mission

Beware of kinds of spirituality that can block our missions to bring love and justice.  We are God’s co-workers.

  • collaboration vs. submission
  • God’s co-worker vs. God’s child

Beware especially, a literal substitutionary atonement – it dominates the media so much that we must be intentional about questioning it:

  • Jesus died for your sins
  • just accept what he has done for you

It’s all done for you – little talk of what is expected of you – little talk of joining Jesus in the struggle against evil.  A television preacher last Sunday said, “I am telling you the Gospel.  You listen and you can be set free.”  Free for what?

When we join Jesus in the struggle with evil, we need power.  We cannot overcome evil on our own.  Jesus has overcome evil – in his ministry, in his rising after it looked like evil had triumphed.  He is Christus victor – Christ, the victor over evil, sin, and death.  He alone can help us to carry out the missions we have undertaken in his name.  The bread and the wine of Jesus’ table both impart Jesus’ power over evil and signify his presence and power to help us in every moment.

The Spirit will bestow her gifts to sustain us.  Take a look at one of your crucial daily missions from our exercise.  Look for the special skills and insights you are already using to carry it out.  These are your “spiritual gifts” for this mission.  Do not hesitate to call them spiritual gifts.  Paul’s list from Romans (12:6-8) and First Corinthians (11:4-11) were the gifts he saw at work to preserve and to nurture the Christian community.  And he used the words that fitted to name them – prophecy, leader, wisdom, interpretation of tongues.  We, properly, do the same being free to use the words that fit in our situations. [Richard Broholm has done some pioneering work in this direction.]

Moving member mission further into congregational life

In your own prayers:

– encourage devoting your daily prayer time to a different mission field each day of the week until each field becomes a natural reference in reflection on scripture and prayer
– build you intercession list around your colleagues in each mission field

In church organizations:

– plan some form of mission discernment as part of Advent, Epiphany, and Lenten observance in organizations and groups
– study groups such as EFM end with “On the basis of this session, how will I live differently this coming week in which of my daily mission fields?”  The person on your right prays for you until the next session which begins with each sharing what has happened in that arena.

In church communications:

– make sure that signs, newspaper ads and stories, Sunday bulletins, mailers – all bear the member mission in daily life message.

Leading as well as managing:

Leading and managing are distinct functions:

  •  Managers make what is work better.
  •  Leaders take what is and make it into something new.

It is very easy for church leaders to become stuck in managing. The “new” of God’s New Day in Jesus Christ can become lost in keeping everyone happy.  Easiest to lose is the daily living of the members.

A breakthrough in leadership theory came in 1977 when Abraham Zaleznik published an article in the Harvard Business Review (“Managers and Leaders:  Are They Different?”  Harvard Business Review, May-June 1977).   Zaleznik is Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership Emeritus as Harvard Business School, one of the few certified psychoanalysts in the United States without a medical degree, and the author of fourteen books and numerous articles.  In his article, he distinguished between leaders and managers:  managers make what is work better and leaders make what is into something new.  At the core of his work was the need for a vision for the leader to offer.  His observations shed light on the kind of people congregations need as leaders to organize around the vision of the laity as today’s primary missionaries.

Zaleznik’s work calls for rethinking how deacons function in church life.  Leaders need to manage and managers need to lead.  However, when the deacon seeks to sound the call for member mission, the leader role is needed over the manager role.  Member mission calls for vigorous advocacy by the deacon.  On the one hand, the deacon will override no one. Still, the deacon must not base what he or she does on answers to “What can I do for you?”  Member mission is given in baptism.


In all, remember:

God is most concerned about how we live from Monday to Saturday.

Sunday – and all of church life – give us the guidance and power we need to live better.

People want to know God. What better way can there be to know God than to discover you have already been part of God’s mission without knowing it!

[The Rev. A. Wayne Schwab; Coordinator of Member Mission Network, Inc., President of Member Mission Press, Chair of the Spiritual Formation Committee for the United Church of Hinesburg, VT, Author, and Speaker]