April/May 2019 - Vol. 103
On Mission: Part 2
                  of community outreaches
A Life That Wants to Share Itself.

by Steve Clark

Now let’s return for a moment to that sentence that describes our call in the Sword of the Spirit:
“We are called to live, work and strive, by the power of the Holy Spirit,
 so that others might have true life in Christ, now and forever.”

Note that there is a purpose to our calling for others to have true life in Christ, now and for all eternity. We have a treasure:  we have discovered what true life is really about life with God, life God’s way. We are called to be coworkers with God, to use the Apostle Paul’s phrase, to bring others to that life. This is foundational to all that we do in mission.  We are not always expressly evangelistic, of course. We do not start every day by preaching the gospel or spend it calling people up on the telephone to talk about Christ. We may do that sometimes, but all that we do, the very way we live our lives, is so that others might have true life in Christ, now and forever.

To be sure, community is for us as well. Most people in Ft. Detroit probably came there to gain a better life for themselves. Someone probably pointed out to them, “You know, you are not living as well in France or in Quebec as you could in the new settlement. You can get a big farm pretty much free or you can make more money trading.”  And why are we in the community?  Well, to most of us, people had probably said, “You can have a better life. You can know the Lord, you can have some people to support you, you can get some help with your family.”  But that does not mean that community life is for our benefit alone.

When people start living this life, they soon discover that it is an expression of God’s own life of generosity. God could have lived in heaven in total bliss all by himself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for all eternity, in perfect relationship.  He could have said, “Why should we bother with all those sinful, ungrateful people?  They are only trouble!” 

But that is not what God is like. He is by nature oriented to sharing his own life with others, even with insignificant creatures like us.

 When we enter into God’s life, even if we enter into it just seeking something for ourselves, what we receive is a life that wants to share itself. As the life of God begins to work in us, through the action of the Holy Spirit, the same desire that God has, begins to come into our lives, the desire to say, “I have got something good and I want to share it.”  We discover that there is something about this seed of new life inside us that wants to give itself away, and each of us gradually realizes, “I am becoming the kind of person who wants to share it with other people.”  This is the life of the kingdom of God.  As we generously live the “ordinary” life the Lord has given us in the Sword of the Spirit, we become, like Ft. Detroit, centers to radiate new life and bases for reaching out to those around us. We are foundationally, fundamentally a group of people who, as a part of our mission, live a certain life together in the Lord.

But of course we called not just to be something, but also to do things in order to fulfill our mission.  These are summarized in four words in the second half of “Our Mission”:  we are called to proclaim, leaven, gather, and defend.

An “Ordinary” Life on Mission
In order to give a feel for an “ordinary” life of mission that accomplishes these, I would like to begin with a personal testimony about serving the Lord in the workplace, given at a men’s breakfast by a man in one of our communities who is on the managerial team of a medium-sized business. He is a successful businessman, a very good community man and has a Christian community home life.

He also has a community service.  Right now his community service is being on the music team.  Once a week he goes to music practice and then leads a music team in community gatherings.  A few years back he was a pastoral leader.  Because of a development in his job at that point, he had a very hard time fulfilling any service responsibilities in the community that were not strictly limited in their time demands.  His community did not need him to be a pastoral leader at the time and he was good at music.  So he was assigned to the music team for a while, as community service.

 In addition to that, he also does the normal service that most of us have come to recognize as part of living life in Christian community People drop by, you invite your neighbors over to share, you bring a work colleague home for dinner, you welcome as overnight guests members of other communities or those who come to learn about community.  As in the French fort we talked about, the gates are open.  People come in and out and experience the life we have together.

Strategically Evangelistic
This brother described his approach at work by saying, “I'm somewhat open about Christianity.” As you probably know, there are various approaches to being a Christian in the workplace.  Some are more “out there” and aggressive and some are more laid back, with various approaches in between. This brother is clearly on the laid-back side, although everybody in his workplace eventually realized that he was a convinced Christian.
He said he also did some selective evangelism at work. He did not go systematically through the whole work force, giving them the Four Spiritual Laws, the way certain evangelism courses seem to encourage.  Instead, he would wait until he saw an opening and then talk to somebody, but rarely did he speak directly about the gospel. Many times he would just invite people to something that he thought they would respond positively to a community meeting or a presentation on how to raise children.  Sometimes he would invite them home and then they would see his was a Christian house. He would, for instance, make sure to say grace before the meal as a way of indicating how he and his family approached life.

A Person of Character
His coworkers also got to know certain things about him. It became clear, for instance, that he would not take part in certain conversations. He did not preach to his work colleagues about improving their language or their view of life; he simply refrained from taking part. They also knew that out of reverence for the Lord he would not work on Sunday. Occasionally he would make an exception for a weekend business trip, but on the whole he avoided working on Sunday and made clear that if it were frequently required of him, sooner or later he would have to leave the company. He also made it clear that because he was a Christian he would not take part in unethical financial practices. As he put it, “They knew that while I was doing the job, those financial practices were not going to go on.”  To be sure, he was in a good position, because he knew that they wanted him.  As a result he was able to take a stronger line without fear of losing his employment.

There were a couple of other things he thought were very important. First, he tried to do a good job. He said he spent more time thinking about how to do a good job than how to evangelizing people, and doing a good job put him in a position to have an evangelistic influence, because it gave him respect. He was also careful to practice Christian courtesy - to be respectful and helpful, to take an interest in people. As he put it, he tried, by the way in which he related to others in the work place, to express the kind of life that the Lord has put inside of us.

“Modest” Results
He described the results of his approach as “modest”.  He felt that the topics of conversation and the language had improved considerably, as well as the general “feel” of the office environment.  He also suspected that there were fewer unethical business practices because of his presence there.  In addition, he thought that at least one person is definitely a Christian because of his influence, and several Christians are  are now living a much better Christian life, apparently because he had been able to connect them with various Christian environments and community events.  One person is now in the community because of contact with him at work.

This testimony would probably never make its way onto the Christian best-seller list. But it  does show how a godly man in the middle of a secular work situation can be a channel of the life of God’s  kingdom.  If each business and government office in a city had one or two people like him, the cumulative effect of Christian presence and witness would be significant. The Lord is not calling all of us to preach to large crowds in stadiums but he is calling us to be a source of life in Christ right where we work and live out our daily lives.

Called to Do
I have used this story as an example because it illustrates what we are called to do, to fulfill our mission. It also illustrates how we can do it in an ordinary life situation.  With this as background, let us look again at the statement “On Mission” and go through the four things we are called to do.
To Proclaim.  We do need to speak the gospel. At some point people need to hear the good news. That is one of the ways in which they can come to the life of the Lord. The brother who gave the testimony did that, although he did not spend most of his time at it. He did it when he judged it would be helpful to move someone along. Proclaiming the good news should have the highest priority in what we do. We do it in various ways sometimes by sponsoring evangelistic events, sometimes by witnessing through our life, often by taking opportunities in the course of daily life as they present themselves.

To Gather. A part of our mission is to gather people into communities and movements.  Why are we concerned about “gathering”?  Is it not enough for people to go to church on Sunday? Well, it may have been at one time, but we know from experience what happens to most people whose only Christian contact is their local church.  If they are not involved in a community, a movement or something similar, they will usually end up being more and more influenced by the environment around them rather than influencing their environment for the Lord.  And rarely do their children turn out to be as Christian as they are. 

So we seek to bring people into community, with a preference for introducing them to the one we are in, since we know it best and are in the best position to welcome them into it.  If that does not seem right, we work to connect them to another environment where they can get help and support to live a more dynamic Christian life. Most frequently we “gather” simply by inviting people we know into closer contact with our “ordinary” community life and activities.

To Leaven.  This is not a common term in modern speech:  Leaven is an older word for yeast. It appears in a parable of the Lord Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel (13:33):  “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”  The parable expresses part of the Lord's strategy for establishing his kingdom. Just as you put a little yeast into dough and gradually it permeates the dough and makes it rise, the Lord puts us into various situations in this world in order to permeate and change them so that more and more of the world can be opened to and changed by the life of the kingdom of God.

We do not have a social-actionist ideology. We do not believe that just trying to improving people and the world will bring about what God wants. We believe very firmly that Christian conversion is essential for people to come into new life and for human society to become what God created it to be. On the other hand, we are supposed to be a Christian influence, and the more we act as Christian leaven in our daily environments, seeking to promote good values, the more our presence disposes people to the kingdom of God and to Christian conversion, and the better their life will be.
To Defend.  Sometimes we have a chance to defend the gospel and Christian morality. In the testimony that I spoke about, the brother found that difficult business decisions became an opportunity to quietly speak on behalf of Christian morality. I heard several of our brothers and sisters say that the recent U.S. presidential morality scandal, unfortunate as it was, had the good side effect of giving them an opportunity to speak to colleagues and friends on behalf of Christian morality.  It is worth noting that we sometimes need to speak up, not just in society in general but in our churches, as well.  During the recent wave of aggressive homosexual propaganda in American society, many of our members were the only ones in their churches willing to speak up in defense of traditional scriptural moral values.  Once they did, however, they found they had a great deal of support from others around them, including from many non-Christians.

The Means
How do we do these four things:  proclaim, gather, leaven and defend?  The last paragraph of “Our Mission” gives a brief description: “We do these things individually both in our daily lives and by serving in the community or its outreaches.  We do these things corporately by opening our life to others, by maintaining outreaches, and by helping to build new communities.”  The example I gave illustrates how we can do these things individually in our daily lives.  Now let’s look at how we do them corporately.
To begin with, we do our mission by opening our lives to others, which of course requires internal community service taking care of the music, providing meals, setting up chairs. If we did not do such things, we would not have a community of disciples on mission.  These support services allow the community to exist and to manifest God’s kingdom so others can see it.  Our doing these services is missionary work, because it allows us to function as a missionary community.

One of the best examples of these essential support services is the work surrounding our mission trips. I recently visited one of our mission trips in Latin America. A group of North American adults and young people working alongside a similar group from Latin America were doing effective Christian service with genuine Christian zeal.  But the trip did not just come together all by itself.

Dozens of adults on both continents, and not just parents of the young people involved, sent out invitations to participate in the mission, helped find ways of raising funds and then provided the participants with transportation to and from the airports.  Although the work of these community members would not be described as literally as “going on a mission trip”, they were essential to the mission’s success.  That is life in a Christian community. The people who stay at home are an integral part of missionary endeavors.
We also do our mission by having community outreaches and, as individual members, serving in them. All of our communities have outreaches of various sorts, and the regions do as well.  I believe a higher percentage of us are actively involved in them than ever before.  Most of our regions send younger people off on mission teams and many of our young people are now taking a year or two off, to work in community outreaches.  Our outreaches are a key way we accomplish our mission.

We also accomplish our mission by starting new communities.  As you know, we have just recently been helping to start a new community in Fiji. The work began when Eroni Sotutu, a Fijian who is part of the Servants of the Word, spent three years doing theological studies in Fiji and provided inspiration and practical know-how about community.  But several others also traveled there to help.  A married couple from the Antioch Community in London, with their two children, went for a summer to give talks and live with the new brothers and sisters.  A young couple from University Christian Outreach (UCO) in Ann Arbor lived and served there for almost two years, and another couple from London with their one-year-old son went to serve in Fiji for four months.  People from the Lamb of God in New Zealand have gone there regularly to help the new community.

 These people did not consider themselves great missionaries.  They were for the most part ordinary members of communities who gave generously of their time and energy at a key moment in the life of the community in Fiji.  Establishing communities is a part of our mission and something that many can personally contribute to.  I hope that in the future many more couples, families and single people will lend a hand in this way, but whether we relocate to serve or we do support services from our home community, we can all participate in the active missionary work the Lord has called us to.

Sometimes our missionary work involves helping an existing community. Just recently the Work of Christ sent a team of people to Monterrey, Mexico, to help them establish a summer youth camp. In that case people did leave their city and country and went to a new location.

But we can all participate in our mission as we go about our normal, daily life.  Whether we are raising children, managing our homes, studying, or working in our profession, we try to be men and women of God, sources of influence for the gospel in the various environments we are in.  We are also “on mission” as a community when we open our life to others, inviting them to our homes and activities, hosting overnight guests, arranging community events to which we can bring neighbors and coworkers in short whenever we share our life together with others.  In large and small ways in our daily life, we seek to proclaim, gather, leaven, and defend.  This is what it means to be a community of disciples on mission.

Volunteering for Mission
Joining a Sword of the Spirit community means volunteering for mission. We are not necessarily volunteering to be sent out to another country, although we might be sent out. We are not necessarily volunteering to spend all our time on a particular community outreach, although we might at some point be asked to.  Rather, we are volunteering to live our whole lives as missionaries.

As communities we are asking the question, Could our life be more missionary? Could we live our life in a way which even more allows the kingdom of God to be advanced?  Have we perhaps let our missionary edge become dulled?  These are good questions for us to ask, as long as we keep the complete vision in mind.  As we appreciate more fully how our whole life can be and is missionary, and as we live it in a true missionary spirit, God will be able to make us even more fruitful and effective for him.

> See Part 1: Being a Bulwark by Steve Clark

This article was originally published in The Mission of The Sword of the Spirit, (c) 2004 Steve Clark

top photo: collage of Sword of the Spirit and Kairos outreach events

Steve Clark
Steve Clark has been a founding leader, author, and teacher for the Catholic charismatic renewal since its inception in 1967. Steve is past president of the Sword of the Spirit, an international ecumenical association of charismatic covenant communities worldwide. He is the founder of the Servants of the Word, an ecumenical international missionary brotherhood of men living single for the Lord.

Steve Clark has authored a number of books, including
Baptized in the Spirit and Spiritual Gifts, Finding New Life in the Spirit, Growing in Faith, and Knowing God’s Will, Building Christian Communities, Man and Woman in Christ, The Old Testament in Light of the New.


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