I dream of a church that understands its mission to be sending out agents of transformation into the world so that each person understands themselves as “radically sent.” I envision the transformational potential of aiming the congregation’s Sunday gathering toward the challenges and opportunities of living the Christian life. And I see the church equipping believers to be sent into the world to learn and to teach.
We need to do church in a way that will drive home the compelling nature of living the Baptismal Covenant promises daily. This includes continuing in the teaching, resisting evil, proclaiming the Good News, seeking and serving Christ, loving our neighbor, striving for justice, and respecting the dignity of all.
Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Gathering is important – vital – to the Body of Christ. We gather to gain strength, courage and perseverance, and to experience forgiveness, compassion and acceptance so that we may be sent into the world. As Greg Pierce points out in The Mass Is Never Ended (Ave Maria Press, 2007), the dismissal is the focal event of the Eucharist.
At the close of worship, the gathered faithful are dispatched into the world as ambassadors of transformation. Every moment of the Eucharist points us toward the exit doors. The worship is over, the service begins.
To form believers to do the work God has given us to do – the transformational work in the hurly burly of the world – we need to re-think Sunday morning. What if liturgies and sermons celebrated the Gospel work being done by the people of the congregation in their daily lives in homes, classrooms, offices, and courtrooms?
Prayers of the People could name professions and how they imitate Christ’s compassion. Blessing backpacks could reach further to celebrate the teachers, janitors, administrators, and students who proclaim God’s Good News through their life and work. Labor Day could point to the jobs of members. Blessing of the Animals could extend to veterinarians, municipal and county workers, pet owners, and shelter volunteers, making the connection that blessings flow through both people and pets.
- What if Christian formation classes taught people how Jesus is present in the laboratory, in Uber cars, and in boiler rooms? By focusing a Gospel lens on daily life, we can relate contemporary workplace challenges to the Gospel message. Formation events could be designed with the explicit purpose of equipping people for their daily lives.
- What if our pastoral care focused on the life-giving ministry that people do in their everyday lives? What if caregivers intentionally celebrated the acts of faithful connection practiced by the recipients of their care, affirming God’s work in and through their lives? What if we made workplace visits as commonplace as hospital visits, showing the way workers connect to their work?
- What if we used church communications to describe how members of the congregation see God at work in their weekday lives? What if we solicited articles or videos to describe different ways people live out their ministries in their world? What if those transformational stories were a major part of the good news we share?
- What if we took the step of focusing formation outward as well as inward, equipping us to be Christ’s agents of transformation in the world? What if we focused on following Christ as much as worshipping him?
- What if we understood our Baptismal Covenant as our commissioning to be the church scattered, as well as the church gathered?
By focusing Christian formation outward, we might begin to both accept and share God’s radical welcome. We might also begin to recognize and celebrate the many ways God is working to transform the world through us, by sending us on a daily mission into the world.
The first article appeared in Episcopal Teacher:
Winter 2018, Vol. 30, No. 2, Special Issue – Christian Formation in the Church Today, page 11