Missional Diaspora Could Make the Difference

September 30, 2011

Yesterday I proposed the possibility that a dispersal of Presbyterians might be the right thing to happen, if such a diaspora scatters the seed of the gospel on new soil (Matthew 13:3-9). But I can hear the complaints of the saints (“saints” in the New Testament refers to anyone who believes and trusts Christ): “I don’t want to be scattered in the world in which I live; it’s not safe out there! I would rather stay in the confines of the church and build it up and bring people to it.” If this actually worked in today’s world, I would be more sympathetic to the argument. But the statistics show that ministry by attraction is not accounting for large numbers of converts. This is certainly the case in the PCUSA, which continues to hemorrhage members even in our most “successful” congregations.  As a result, the church at large is seriously considering the options that are more apostolic in nature; and conservative, evangelical Presbyterians should rejoice and participate in that missional movement.

Perhaps the Lord is allowing our discomfort level to rise high enough that we finally want to do what we should have been doing from the beginning: strike out “on our own” in small missional communities and plant new churches. The fact that this task, wrapped in PCUSA red tape, has become almost impossible in some presbyteries suggests to me that evangelicals should think creatively and courageously about fulfilling the Great Commission without PCUSA props. I can think of nothing more exciting that this as a possible outcome of the troubles we are experiencing.

To the “person in the pew” terrified by the prospect, the admonition of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount applies:

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16).

If nothing else, the challenge encourages every single saint to take a concrete step of discipleship and believe that he or she can make a difference in the world, for the sake of Christ’s Kingdom.

A few years back, I wrote a hymn of encouragement and offer it now as a reminder of our calling and the strength God gives to carry it out. The music can be found under “Pages” in the right hand column.

We Can Make a Difference!

One can make a difference, when another soul is hurting:
Pain enfolding, caring, holding, love of God asserting.
One can make a difference, when the voice of truth is needed:
Speak, proclaim, with love aflame—the Word of God is heeded!
I can make a difference, through Christ who strengthens me!

Some can make a difference, when the darkness disunites us.
Lights in line on lampstands shine, and Christ alone ignites us!
Some can make a difference, as with two or more assembled:
Sin resisted, Christ enlisted, godly life resembled.
You can make a difference, through Christ who strengthens you!

The church can make a difference, when the world around is reaching,
Hoping, asking, fears unmasking, open to her preaching.
The church can make a difference, when our lives we boldly proffer.
We say “yes,” commit no less than all we have to offer!
We can make a difference, through Christ who strengthens us!

© 1995 by Mary Holder Naegeli.  All rights reserved. 


3 Responses to “Missional Diaspora Could Make the Difference”

  1. Mary, this is a thought-provoking post. That’s a big “if” in the first sentence, though. Of all the reasons I have heard people want to disassociate with the PCUSA, I have never known anyone who felt like they were prohibited from being missional enough.

    I recognize that presbytery experiences vary, and there may be many presbyteries not equipped or interested in partnering with congregations for missional ministry, but it’s hard to imagine one saying, “No, you cannot be a missional people” – particularly when missional language and thinking is increasingly prominent across the theological spectrum and at the denominational level.

    I’d be interested in your response… or in hearing from folks in other presbyteries who may have had different experiences than mine.

    • revmary Says:

      Hi Robert, evangelicals in San Francisco Presbytery have had rather frustrating experiences in the last twenty-five years: three aborted attempts at NCDs, one truly went defunct because the presbytery insisted that three very divergent congregations (far left to far right) collaborate and seed the new one, even though the idea was initiated by a conservative church; the other two were “daughter churches” of large evangelical congregations, but ultimately could not get through the objections of (more liberal) PCUSA requirements and hopped over to the EPC to get chartered. One is an 800-member church today. In all these cases of recent memory, the missional impulse and perceived departure from traditional denominationalism frustrated the efforts.

  2. Mary Fields Says:

    Sing! Mary! Sing and shout and blog! 🙂

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