Mission, the church, and grace. I’d argue the order might need to be: grace, mission, and the church. Whatever order you take them in, Darrell Guder offers the following reminder,
“Mission is the result of God’s initiative, rooted in God’s purposes to restore and heal creation. ‘Mission’ means sending and it is the central biblical theme describing the purpose of God’s action in human history.”
When we follow God’s lead, believe God is already at work, and seek to identify the places of shalom we will participate in the mission of God. Pause for a moment before you continue reading. What you are about to read will likely bother you. It bothers me. One of the challenges in living missionally is participation in the church. Hear me out before misquoting me.
Participation in Church
What?! Yes, participation in the church.
Current patterns of worship attendance are moving toward individuals and families being considered regular attendees if they participate in worship two Sundays per month. The challenge is both the shaping of a new normal and the mindset of “going to church.”
The shaping of the new normal has everything to do with the secularization of our contexts. As more and more activities, events, and programs are offered as a place to connect in community, as travel continues to be a regular part of the work week, and as families are moving away from the community where they grew up, life patterns change.
The mindset challenge appears in the way many of us talk about “going to church.” These words show up in conversation as a simple question like, “Where are you going to church?” The challenge is, we are the church. The church is the body of Christ.
Where did we get the church is a building? Yeah, I remember that little cliche hand/word song that tells us, “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the doors and see all the people.” I’d like to invite all those people inside the church building to look at their calendars and simply remember, we do not go to church. We are the church.
We may go to a church building to worship. And, this is often what is meant by this question. We think it is harmless. But, the phrase has reoriented our thinking to believe that there is a sacred/secular divide in our world.
If I could give you magic tape, a magic wand, or a magic mindset, I’d challenge you to erase the sacred / secular divide.
When we follow God’s lead, believe God is already at work, and seek to identify the places of shalom we will participate in the mission of God. One of the barriers to living missionally is an entrenched mindset. When we are able to stop thinking the church is only about my preferences and needs we will recognize an important shift needed in many local churches. While you and I need a local congregation that helps facilitate our growth, we also need to live our lives of faith and start experiencing God’s unfolding purpose involves us. This is a grace-filled action.
Grace is at the center of our Wesleyan theological heritage. The movement of God before we are aware is described by Wesley as God’s prevenient grace. That grace that goes before is at work in your life, your neighborhood, and our world. You begin to participate in being grace-filled followers of Jesus by paying attention to God’s movement. The awareness helps us embody God’s grace and grow to be more like Jesus. Wesley describes this as sanctifying and justifying grace.
What would happen if we started paying attention to grace moments in our daily life? Those small signs and large billboards that God is present and moving in our lives? Just like creativity and imagination, I fear we have programmed adults to disregard grace moments. But, it is the movement of God working in you and me that guides us to claim our faith. It is the movement of God that invites us to participate in God’s unfolding story. It’s the power of God at work in our lives that leads us to be frustrated when a child is hurt, when an injustice occurs, or when violence unfolds near us. When
Grace is a beginning, a middle, and the end. Before you know it, God is with you. When you know it, God is with you. Because you know it, God is with you. Don’t play small by hiding behind the walls of the church. There is too much going on in this world that needs the human touch brought about by divine grace.
When you grasp the incomprehensible nature of God’s grace, you’re beginning to break the great divide between the sacred and secular. More importantly, you are becoming aware of how God is sending you. And that, dear ones, is the greatest mission you’ll ever have to embrace in your life.
Mission, the church, and grace. Take your pick on where to begin. Simply, begin!
 Darrell L. Guder, ed., Missional Church: A Vision for Sending of the Church in North America (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 4.