mike -- really enjoyed this episode. i loved the scripture passages and your perspective re: discipleship with respect to both Christ and us wanna be little christs. from there (i submit) we took a rather broad leap and extrapolated church responsibility. i don't know that this, or any other church program, is required or specifically supported by scripture. to be clear, i am *not* suggesting the church is to be "not missional". however, i am questioning how we assign *requirements* to the church. thoughts? pete
Hmm, OK, like I said, really good question. I can see where I might have given the impression that I was talking about an "evangelism program" and a "mission program" that every church needs to have, although I did say that I wasn't talking about "just another church program". In fact, I really didn't mean to imply anything like required programs; I meant to be talking about identity. I do think it's something close to a requirement that every church put some conscious effort toward discerning their missional identity/vocation (you agree that to "be missional" is important, and I could come up with bunches of verses to support that if you wanted me to, starting with these in John and the Great Commission in Matthew 28). And I do think that something like "programs" will flow from that missional discernment, since churches by their nature don't just be, they do. But the shape of those programs/activities will be particular to the discerned vocation of the church, and I agree that there's very little specific that the Bible dictates all churches must do. (Might be fun to try to build such a list some time.)
That said (and here I'm trying to circle in on the point I was trying to make, if it wasn't about specific programs), I think there are certain attitudes regarding missional identity that should cause us to pause and go "hmm." I'm not going to be so presumptuous as to call these attitudes "errors" or "sins", but I really do think that, if you or your church seem to hold these attitudes, it's worthy to stop and consider them carefully. In case it's not obvious, this is just my opinion, informed by scripture, study, and experience. So here we go:
- If you or your church seem to consider ministry and mission to be something reserved for a select few (be they "clergy", "elders", "missionaries", or whatever), go "hmm." I think the New Testament calls all followers of Jesus to ministry and mission.
- If you or your church seem to consider ministry and mission to be primarily individual affairs, with everyone having some vocation but no strong belief in a communal vocation, go "hmm." Jesus always sent his followers on their missions in groups of at least two, and it's hard to read the book of Acts or the letters of Paul and miss the fundamentally collective (and missional) nature of the early Christian communities.
- If you or your church seem to consider ministry to be properly directed more or less exclusively inwardly, toward members of the church and people who come through the front door on their own, go "hmm." Followers of Jesus are, I think, definitely called to outward-directed mission in (but not "of") the world. Someone said that the church is the only human organization that exists primarily for the benefit of non-members. That's not completely true (there are others), but it is completely true that the church exists to bless the world, not just itself.
- If you or your church seem to consider outward-directed mission to be exclusively a matter of proclaiming the Gospel and trying to make more disciples (i.e., evangelism), then go "hmm." Many evangelical/fundamental churches seem to be close to this point of view, but social justice, welcoming the outcast, healing, nonviolence, and speaking truth to power were vitally important parts of Jesus' ministry, and in my opinion should be vitally important to his followers too.
- If you or your church seem to consider outward-directed mission to be exclusively a matter of programs of social justice, hospitality, etc., then go "hmm." Many mainline/liberal churches seem to be close to this point of view, but proclaiming the proximity of the Kingdom of God and calling followers were vitally important parts of Jesus' ministry, and in my opinion should be vitally important to his followers too.
So in discerning a church group's missional vocation, it may well be that there's an emphasis on clergy ministry or lay ministry, or on individual ministry or collective ministry, or on "social mission" or "evangelism". Depending on the discerned identity of the group, any of these might be emphasized or de-emphasized--there's nothing wrong with that! However, in my opinion, if a church group is intentionally excluding some aspect of ministry/mission (such as evangelism or "social mission"), it's worthy to stop and consider the reason(s) for that exclusion. Do they really believe it's something incidental to the Gospel and the mission of the Church? (Was it incidental to Jesus' ministry?) Is it due to discomfort or attachment, and if so, are those things that need to be examined in the life of the church? Or is it just that the activity is not compatible with the gifts of the church group? In any case, it's worth thinking about.
(I realize that by including "clergy vs. lay" in my little list of dualities, the above might be read to imply that I think the idea of ordained clergy is fundamental to Christian ministry and mission. In fact, my point regarding clergy is just the opposite. My understanding is that the establishment of an ordained "religious class" has a lot more to do with the emergence of Christendom than it does with anything in the NT, and in case you didn't get the memo, Christendom is so over. Don't worry Rick+, I'm not saying ordained clergy are a bad thing, just that I don't think they're central to the mission of the Church like disciple-making and social justice.)
So to summarize, I think my point was not that any particular programs/actions are required of a church, but if some activities that were very important to Jesus are being (more or less) intentionally excluded from a church's sense of missional identity, then that's worth a second thought, and maybe some collective prayer and discernment.