Readings for this week's class included When the Members are the Missionaries, by A. Wayne Schwab. Schwab describes the six areas of mission fields that we each find ourselves in as home, work, the local community, the wider world, leisure, and faith community. We are called by God in each of these realms in mission. Schwab provides narratives of individuals, real-life stories of missionaries, who seem like you or I, normal folks living their lives, trying their best to live as Christians in the world.
I agree with Schwab that it's important for us to realize that the real work of the church is what people do from Monday to Monday. It's how they live their lives and how they interact with others. The number of people in the pews is not what matters. What matters is how they live their lives. So often we focus on the size of the church. In the year 2000, the Episcopal Church even set a goal of doubling its membership by the year 2020. It's now 2011 and we are not anywhere close to achieving that goal.
Schwab quotes his colleague, Jim Anderson, who says, "God is dismantling the church." I'm not so sure that's a bad thing, actually. We are so often focused on status quo, maintaining the structure, the building, the budget. It is scary to think that the institution of church is being dismantled, but what Schwab says is inspiring and so true: "What God dismantles, God re-mantles."
We are called to be God's partners in the rebuilding. "Where might we get the help?" we may ask. The good news is that people are looking for a purpose and meaning to life. They want to be changed, and want to work for justice. Schwab says the call to mission is a call to give up the childlike dependence that we have on God. Yes, we are God's beloved children, but as we mature in our faith we are truly called to be God's co-workers for God's dream.