The Congregation Vitality committee approved by a vote of 44 - 0 a recommendation from the General Assembly Mission Agency titled "Living Missionally." I was at the Committee discussion and vote on this recommendation. There was a remarkable, positive spirit and enthusiasm. After the comments from the staff of the Mission Agency, various committee members expressed support. It is this spirit of unity and vision which is another important aspect of this General Assembly. All the publicity and media attention, including mention in the New York Times yesterday, is focused on our divisions and conflict. But there is also conversation, including this recommendation to Live Missionally, around which the General Assembly conversation is united and energized. As I wrote earlier, I believe this is the most important recommendation coming out of this year's General Assembly. This is not a top-down, mandated, new program. This is simply an invitation to a conversation about what Jesus is calling us to be and do together.
The recommendation is:
1. Acknowledge the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s historic commitment to joining Christ’s mission in local and global communities.
2. Encourage congregations, mid councils, and the Presbyterian Mission Agency to join intentionally in God’s mission to transform our world and address root causes of societal injustices by following Christ’s example of service through faith, hope, love, and witness.
3. Launch a churchwide initiative that will inspire, equip, and connect Presbyterians to continue to go beyond the walls of their congregations and increase their engagement in service to their communities and the world.
4. Direct the Presbyterian Mission Agency to develop tangible metrics to determine success and impact and report back to the 222nd General Assembly (2016), sharing progress made and identifying strategies for deeper engagement in 2016–18.
The Committee's comment on this recommendation is copied here:
|The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a historical commitment to joining Christ’s mission in local and global communities and many have discussed and written about the concept of the missional church in recent years. The Presbyterian Mission Agency, in its 2013–2016 Mission Work Plan, has made engaging young adults through mission and volunteer service a priority and believes shaping multigenerational, faith-based relationships dedicated to service in local communities and the world will help the church better follow Christ’s mission. For nearly 200 years, the Presbyterian church has served as one of the greatest forces for mission in the world. The church is called to minister to the immediate needs and hurts of people. The Book of Order states: “In the life of the congregation, individual believers are equipped for the ministry of witness to the love and grace of God in and for the world. The congregation reaches out to people, communities, and the world to share the good news of Jesus Christ, to gather for worship to offer care and nurture to God’s children, to speak for social justice and righteousness, and to bear witness to the truth and to the reign of God that is coming into the world” (G-1.0101). Presbyterians have sought to be a mission-centered church from their inception and have a strong, unwavering belief that there is no other way truly to be the church. Many have discussed and written about the concept of the missional church in recent years. One Presbyterian scholar, Darrell Guder, has written on this vital topic for the church today. In his book, Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America, Guder and his colleagues provide key insights into the recent missional church movement. Guder and his colleagues discuss three themes that are important to this proposal: the shift the church must make, the purpose of the church, and the role of denominational structures. Guder argues that to be missional the church must “move from church with mission to missional church.” Most churches articulate a commitment to mission and have a mission program. If they are large enough, they likely will have a specific pastor devoted to mission. Many churches support several overseas missionaries and are probably contributing money and service to a local mission, homeless shelter, or food bank. In this construct, mission is seen as one of the many activities and programs of the church. The purpose of the local church is not to be what Guder calls “vendors of religious services and goods,” with mission merely being one of a myriad of programs. Rather, doing mission is central to what it means to be the church. This is the shift that the church must make. The second major theme in Guder’s work challenges the very definition of what it means to be the church. Guder argues that it is “a new understanding of the church as a body of people sent on a mission.” The church is thus not only a body that gathers for a worship service. The church is also a group of people organizing together so they can serve the community around them most effectively. The purpose of gathering is to be sent. Guder states, “The public worship of the mission community always leads to the pivotal act of sending. The community that is called together is the community that is sent. Every occasion of public worship is a sending event.” To a missional church, worship is driven more by what must happen after the service. What it truly means to be the church, according to Guder, is “the people of God who are called and sent to re-present the reign of God. This vocation is rooted in the good news, the gospel: in Jesus Christ the reign of God is at hand and is now breaking in.” For Guder, the focus of the staff and the commitment of the resources are directed toward helping people to re-present Christ to their neighbors in their everyday lives.|