Part Three - For the Life of the World: Chapter 8 - Mission - A People Sent by God
Equipping for Mission
In the final section of Chapter 8, Stevens writes that, “Our mission work is not to get people to ‘come to church’ but to go with the Son of Man into the world.” Stevens identifies five principles that are essential to effective equipping.
“First, the reality of the sovereign divine placement of ordinary Christians in workplaces, neighborhoods and spheres of influence must be recognized and supported in the communal life of the church.” (210-211) Steven’s draws us back again to the concepts of gathered (ekklesia) and dispersion (diaspora). He compares it to the heart and lungs. The blood is oxygenated and sent out to fight diseases and to energize. The blood returns to by oxygenated and is sent out again. The primary locus of the work of the blood is not in the heart and lungs but in its travel through the body. Similarly, the primary locus of mission is not in the gathering but in the disciples dispersed throughout the world in their daily lives. He writes that Dutch theologian J. C. Hoekendijk proposes that “…if a church’s structures thwart the possibility of its members serving relevantly in the world, we are to regard these structures as heretical.
Second, ‘go’ structures must be developed alongside the ‘come’ structures. Nearly all of our institutional structures are oriented around “come and hear” and “come and see.” (211) These are valid expressions of the church’s mission but what is needed ever bit as much is interest in the structures that send people out in mission.
“Third, we need to ordain/commission people with a proven mission in society with as much seriousness as we ordain people to the pastoral ministry of the church: politicians, stockbroker, homemakers, schoolteachers, craftspersons, artists and musicians.” (212).
This takes me back to a movie made forty years ago starring Andy Griffith called “Angel in my Pocket.” He moves his family to a small town in Kansas to become the pastor of a church. His three children are talking to one of the neighbor kids they have just met. Griffith’s daughter says “Our father is a minister.” Her brother chimes in “Ordained!” The daughter then asks the neighbor boy, “What does your father do?” To which he replies, “My dad is in the hardware business.” One of Griffth’s sons inquires, “Ordained?” The boy responds, “Naturally.”
What is it about this exchange that should seem so funny to us? Steven’s quotes Alan Roxburgh saying, “the priesthood of all believers is continually undermined by the practices of ordination.”
“Fourth, … by encouraging people to see the workplace, the primary place where people meet, as a natural place for evangelism (Acts 16:16-19; 17:17, 19:9-10, 23-9)” (212-213)
Fifth, Stevens suggests finding ways to help creatively bridge the physical distance between churches and the workplace. One suggestion he makes in quoting Gordon Preece is that “Where possible church buildings should be located near the commercial centre rather than be lost in suburban back streets.” (213)
In summary, Stevens says, “The goal is the whole people of God engaging in the whole mission of God in the whole world.” (213) What do you think of Steven’s principles?