"Mission and Service" (Chapter 2)Subscribe
With "Mission and Service" Callahan starts describing eight qualities that he finds present in many small, strong congregations. I can't overstate how absolutely fundamental "Mission and Service" is in any size congregation, but particularly in the smaller context. Without this "theology of service" the other seven qualities of small, strong congregations amount to nothing more than inward-spiraling self-service. What Callahan describes here is exactly what we're trying to stimulate with the Z-4:10 Network - affirming small churches in their missional thinking and practice, not in their survival mentalities. Callahan doesn't use the term "missional," but what he writes is consistent with the concepts wrapped up in that term (see the Missional Primer for the EPC).
A "theology of service" gets to the core of our being as God's people. Whether part of smaller or larger churches, we are part of a people that God is forming, and - no surprise here - the people God is forming bears a strong resemblance to him. God is a missionary God, and he has created a missionary people. He is a sending God and we are a sent people. He is in Christ, reconciling the world to himself and he has chosen his people to participate with him in that mission (2 Cor 5:17ff). "Mission and service" is not an optional add-on, it's part of the core package of being God's church. Without it we betray our nature as his people. Christopher Wright puts it this way: "[It] is not so much that God has a mission for his church in the world, but that God has a church for his mission in the world" (Mission of God, 2006, p. 62).
This is not about small churches picking a good mission/evangelism program so they can get bigger and have more people to pay the bills and make denominational statistics look good. That's nothing more than another self-serving piece of a survival theology. Callahan helps us by giving us a good check for our motiviations. Is our "one, excellent mission" being given as a gift for the community - or as a tool to get more people in our doors and grow our membership? This is personally convicting. As a pastor in a small church I had mixed motives at best. I wanted the success of having more people on the roll and in the sanctuary - and there are ways to do that if that's our goal. Callahan writes, "We think of mission objectives. In the long-ago past, we set membership objectives. Now we think of those we look forward to serving in mission...not the number of new members we plan to get." This is at the core of missional thinking and practice, or, as Callahan puts it, a "mission culture [that] thinks about ‘missionship.'"
Please don't leave this chapter behind without answering a tough question - is it time to have your leadership digest this chapter and have a frank discussion about, "Are we living with a survival or service mindset?" If you conclude you're in a survival mode, what will it take to make the switch? If you need help in that process, let us know.
Add your comments:
--From your observations, how can you tell when a church is in survival mode?
--Have you found "one excellent mission" that you are sharing as a gift with the community? What is it? How did you find it? Did you have a decisive event like Callahan describes? How is it affecting your community?
If you want to start a private conversation on this or other topics, or give me a call at the Assembly office.