Rev Raymond Schultz, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.
ELCIC congregations are welcome to republish this material in their church publications. Please acknowledge its original publication by including the credit line:
Canada Lutheran, June 2005
More of Bishop Ray's writing can be found in From the Bishop including texts from sermons and addresses.
This is the third article in my series on the upcoming Tenth Biennial Convention on the theme:
In Mission for Others.
The mission is not ours–it is God's. God's mission, as it is expressed in John's gospel says:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."
This is the mission God has set out to accomplish. We are invited to be the sign, foretaste and instrument of this mission, but it will come of itself if we decline.
The mission is not for the church, but for the world. The church is the witness to the mission's outcome. The church is a gathering of people who witness to the love, joy and peace that result from God's actions. Worship and praise are activities in which the church engages for no practical purpose, but only because it is what one does when one knows the grace, glory and beauty of God.
The mission is not for recruiting or conquering people, but for giving them gifts. No one is condemned, but is offered release from anxiety and guilt within their own religious environment. God is a free being and expects the world's people to be equally free in being who they are.
Evangelism is the activity in which we engage in making this good news known to others. It is not a program, but a response on our part to our own joy in being God's people through Christ Jesus.
Evangelism is both a public and a private activity; it is both personal and corporate. The National Church engages in evangelism when it addresses the question of debt burden for poor nations and each of you engages in evangelism when you tell your friends and family that life with God is a gift of grace apart from the need to prove your worthiness. The National Church engages in evangelism when it enters into conversation with other churches and religious bodies, you engage in evangelism when you seek to help your community become a more human place to live.
Evangelism and church growth are not the same thing. Jesus used seed planting as the metaphor for evangelism. He told Nicodemus the wind blows where it wills. St. Paul said the only edifice to be built is one made up of human beings.
Whether we are a growing or a declining church is a concern of organization and resource management, but not of evangelism. Evangelism will happen when only one believer remains. The more important question is whether you only hoard your salvation for yourself and like-minded people or whether you want others, believers or not, to have a taste of what life can be when Jesus reveals it.
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
The subjects of God's mission are they. God wants to call them we. Our job is to issue the invitation.
Bishop Raymond Schultz
Canada Lutheran, June 2005