Monday, February 7, 2011
Risk Taking Mission and Service
As we continue our series this week on the Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations we will focus on the practice of Mission and Service. Bishop Schnase adds the adjective “risk-taking” to remind us that mission and service is not easy; the demands are many, the work is hard, and sacrifice is essential. However, the rewards are abundant.
Bishop Schnase reminds us that when we choose to take the risk of moving outside the four walls of our church and engage in mission and service to the “least of these,” lives are changed; and that is precisely why the church exists.
First, Schanse says that “Mission initiatives change the lives of those who receive the help. One woman who lost nearly every earthly possession in a flood said, ‘I didn’t cry when the water destroyed my home. But when I saw people from the church traveling from so far away to help me clean up and rebuild, I couldn’t stop crying.’ Nothing is as hard as a lonely struggle, and discovering that others care enough to help, to give their time and work, and to sacrifice on another’s behalf is a touch of grace. The work that teams complete changes lives.”
Secondly, “Hands-on mission projects change the lives of volunteers. Nobody returns from such service and looks at his or her own life in the same way. Intercultural experiences and genuine engagement with the poor have the effect of a shining light back on one’s own culture, and extravagance, consumerism, materialism and waste of abundance are seen in new ways. Countless pastors have discerned their call to ministry through active engagement with people on service projects. Retired people have returned and rededicated their life work after Volunteers in Mission (VIM) projects, and college students have changed careers because of the impact of face-to-face, hand-in-hand mission work in a culture other than their own.”
Lastly, the Bishop says that “Mission initiatives change churches. Even when a small percentage of the membership immerse themselves in significant mission and service, the texture of church life changes, and the language of service and outreach begins to form conversations and priorities. Ministries of mercy and justice begin to take root. Tolerance increases; youth programs evolve beyond parties, videos, beach trips and amusement parks, and these ministries become focused on changing lives and making a difference for the purpose of Christ. The interweaving of lives across culture, class, color and age boundaries genuinely enriches the congregation and makes Scripture stories come alive in real experience. God strengthens the Body of Christ through mission and service, and God empowers the Body of Christ through witness.”
Jesus sends us out into the world to be His hands and feet. He calls us to offer food and water to those in need, to clothe the naked, house the stranger, care for the sick, and visit the prisoner (see Matthew 25.31-46). Will we be the kind of church that exhibits the fruit of risk-taking mission and service? That question can not really be answered until we answer another, more personal one: Will you be the kind of person that engages in risk-taking mission and service? If we want to be a “fruitful congregation” we must be willing to say yes to this question. The church is made up of individuals; it will take all of us committed to reaching out and allowing God to place a missionary’s heart within us in order to make it happen.