John, a senior warden and computer programmer, finds a colleague, Tim, stealing his innovations. Since he understands his innovations better than Tim, he simply presents them to his supervisor in their fullness. He says to Tim, “Let’s work together. There’s enough in this life for all of us.” Tim begins to collaborate and when he overhears John talk about his church, Tim asks, “Where do you go? Can I go along some time?”
Mary, the parish treasurer, nurses four nights a week. She finds an unhappy climate of argument among the staff. She decides to help people to settle their differences and to be a friendly presence herself. Weeks pass; argument declines; friendliness grows. When asked her secret, she says, “My prayer partner prays for me each day.” A nurse says, “Tell me more.”
John and Mary’s stories say how much they value the church’s growing emphasis on Monday-Friday work as one of their daily mission fields. They are living the mission of Jesus Christ. They joined it in their baptism. They trust Jesus to help them to care and to be fair — to love and to be just. How they live at work is how they begin to “tell” about Jesus. In that context, they can begin to use words about Jesus and his people. And the doors open for others to seek out the church, to be baptized, and to join Jesus’ mission to make the world more loving and just.
As Mary puts it, “Try to care and to be fair. When you do that, what you say about church sounds real.” Live it; then talk it. And be clear about your motive. It is tempting to tell people about Jesus to grow the church. Rather, tell people about Jesus in order to grow the mission. The church does not have a mission; God’s mission has a church. For Christians, Jesus and Jesus’ people are the visible center of God’s mission. Grow the mission and the church can’t help but grow.
A. Wayne Schwab, the national church’s first evangelism staff person, helps congregations to put evangelism inside of mission and to make supporting their members in their daily living as Christians their primary purpose. For more, go to www.membermission.org.