When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christ followers who lived in Philippi, he told them that, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:3-6).
Paul had founded the church and worked alongside the Christians in Philippi for a while (Acts 16:11-15), after which and he continued to hear reports about how (and what) they were doing. And Paul was encouraged by what he heard God was doing among them — to the point he even bragged about them to other believers! (see 2Corinthians 8:1-5)
Like Paul celebrated the Philippians’ “participation in the gospel,” as we think about all of the different things we did over the last ministry year at Greenfield, we too should celebrate God’s faithfulness in our midst. This includes all of the amazing people at Greenfield who use their God-given gifts and talents by faithfully serving in kid’s and youth ministry, hospitality, worship, teaching and leading groups, caring for one another, prayer ministry, and everything else we do together (including cleaning and maintaining the building and helping with renovations!).
That being said, we have to remember that what we do when we are gathered together at Greenfield is only a small part of what God is doing in our midst — the tip of the iceberg, so to speak! One of the great privileges of being a pastor is getting to hear about all of the great things that people are doing day in and day out as they follow Christ into their neighbourhoods, workplaces, and schools. We try to share these stories as much as we can, but we can never share enough of what God is doing as we follow him on mission.
One of the challenges with the missional movement is that it makes it difficult to describe and evaluate “success” because it isn’t just a matter of counting people in the pews or evaluating the success of programs offered in a year. If anything, faithfully following Christ on mission may mean we need to do less in and around the church building, so that we have the time to be missionaries in our communities.
Being missional includes all of the different ways we are being salt and light in our communities and workplaces. Whether we are loving our (actual) neighbours in practical ways, being involved in our community league, volunteering at different service agencies like The Mustard Seed or The Neighbour Centre, advocating for local justice issues (such as the new EndPovertyEdmonton initiative), helping out at a neighbourhood school, coaching a sports team, all of this is part of what it means to follow Christ’s teaching to love our neighbours as ourselves.
Reggie McNeal, in his book, Missional Renaissance (2009), suggests that “to think and to live missionally means seeing all of life as a way to be engaged with the mission of God in the world.” And if this is what the church is supposed to be all about, then the church needs to develop a new “scorecard” to measure success. He notes, “the typical church scorecard (how many, how often, how much) doesn’t mesh with the missional view of what the church should be monitoring in light of its mission in the world.” We must develop a scorecard that supports externally focused ministry, encourages people to engage their neighbourhoods and networks, and that is oriented to joining God on mission in the world.
It is exciting and encouraging to hear stories about how people are growing in their faith and stepping out as missionaries in their neighbourhoods and networks. And we can be sure of this: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ” (Phil 1:6).
— Pastor Tyler