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"Mission and Service" (Chapter 2)

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.

Ed McCallum

Comments(10) Login to Post Comments

Bill Crawford on Aug 11, 2008 5:56pm

This chapter was an excellent reminder for us. Years ago we discovered that God had gifted us with hospitality. We turned that gift into a mission by housing disaster relief work teams.

But now we do less of this mission. The question is if we are gifted in hospitality how is that our one excellent mission today?

I term this as the need of the small church to be "narrow minded".

I see this chapter as something that strong congregatiosn will need to revisit over and over again.

Wayne Uppendahl on Aug 12, 2008 12:01pm

As a pastor I have grown tired of trying to live up to the images thrust continually before me as what is successful ministry. I am really glad that Callahan stays away from the word "Missional" because of the baggage others have attached to that term in their expectations of what should be taking place. I have been in large churches, but as a senior pastor, all have been small. My ego was tied up into these things of the past, but finally, as God continuest to reshape my heart, out of love for God and HIs kingdom, I am discovering the importance of being the best God has made us to be, and to capitalize on using that one ministry to bridge lives to Jesus Christ, for the glory of God and for the growth of the kingdom. In a sense, I used to be ashamed of being a one horse pastor who played and led worship before he got up to preach...but now I realize that God has gifted us in our congregation towards greater expressions of worship and a realiation that our worship and time in God's word gives us what we need to continue our lives living them out as acts of worship in the community at large. As that one area of ministry grows, God has begun to make other areas evident. His people are becoming more like him and as we grow, we do not live to survive, but we live to bring glory to Christ as together we reach out into our community so that His name might be made known.

Ed, thank you so much for this book that has underscored the necessary of being strong, regardless of size of church!

Dan Krodel on Aug 12, 2008 2:19pm

I used this chapter as part of my message a few weeks ago. I challenged the congregation to try to think of our area of excellence, or even to think of the thing we do well. Then I challenged them to think of ways we could use this as a gift to our community. Some of the strongest folks in the church couldn't think of a strength for our church. We discussed it in session and even the session struggled. They keep saying we need a vision, yet we can't even think of a strength. We decided it was time to contact someone in Presbytery or the EPC Offices that can help us. I think the book is excellent. Perhaps I should try to get my session to read it. Is that what you guys are doing?

Alan Wildsmith on Aug 13, 2008 1:20pm

I agree that every church should find it's one misison. Yet, how do we at the same time also share the gospel in these contexts? I do not want to simply fall into the trap of the social gospel being our sole aim. I beleive we do good works so that we have the right and ability to share the love of Christ. What do you think?

Mary Ann Dean on Aug 14, 2008 8:44am

I want to reinforce Alan’s comment. Our main end has to be to win the unsaved to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The result of our mission should be to bring others into the Kingdom of God.

Josh Cole on Aug 16, 2008 8:23pm

Sure, but does not evangelism have to play into whatever our strength and whatever our one mission is as a small congregation? Even if your strength is discipleship through Bible study, your church has a lot of strong teachers, part of what is being taught is disciples are sent out. Why does it have to be either social gospel or evangelism. Can it not be both? Can you not tutor kids after school and be open to share your faith?

I think evangelism has to be part of whatever your one mission to the community is.

Ed McCallum on Aug 18, 2008 3:21pm

I think pressing question in front of the church is how to do ministry incarnationally in our changing culture - to be both a distinct community, living a life that reflects the reign of Christ, and to be meaningfully engaged with the community in which we're living. Too far to the distinct community side and we build walls that say "keep out." Engagement without living differently isn't any different than a community service club. Incarnation is the model Christ lived and the one he has called us to. It's hard and it's frightening to a lot of us. Thankfully, he gives us the Holy Spirit to empower us. Doing ministry this way means involvement both in practical compassion and service and in being ready to give an answer for the hope within us, inviting people to live a new way, under the Lordship of Christ. It happens as we do mission together, and as we each live as disciples in our own callings in life.

If you have stories of where you see this happening, please post them.

Marc Huebl on Aug 18, 2008 4:12pm

I did enjoy chapter 2, Mission and Service, but did find myself wondering if Callahan leaves room for the dynamics of the fulfillment of "one excellent mission." Does he allow room for the fact that the mission might actually get completed and then the church picks up a new mission, or does that "one excellent mission" continue for a small church indefinitely? I think there might be many small churches in the USA that have been doing one excellent mission for many many years, only to find that their world has changed around them.

I do like his emphasis on getting out into the community and being part of it, whatever that might look like, even though he appears to highlight many "social gospel" categories.

Edward Murrey on Aug 21, 2008 6:26am

Guilty as charged. This was convicting. I have often seen mission and service more as a way to grow the church-not a gift to the community. So, I am undergoing a paradigm shift and in the process of learning to love without a hidden agenda. The session is going to start planning a vision banquet for the fall...pray as we think about the one thing we can give as a gift to our community.

Edward from Valleybrook

Edward Murrey on Aug 21, 2008 6:30am

On more thing...I do appreciate your prayers. God has led me to have two studies...one at the church and one at Starbucks. I go there twice a week and God has given me countless opportunities to share my faith. No conversions yet but many seeds being planted and watered.

Edward from Valleybrook