Missional Pattern 1: Discerning Missional Vocation
How is God calling and sending your particular congregation? A missional congregation knows its vocation. It knows why God has called it into being. It knows the tasks that God has given it. Missional vocation is not just an annual plan of action. A missional vocation is lived out over many years.
Many congregations practice the discernment of the gifts of individual members, and this is a good practice. The Pattern of missional vocation goes beyond individual gift discernment, to discerning the gifts of the congregation as a whole. How has God gifted this congregation in particular? How is God asking the congregation to use its gifts?
Congregations that know their missional vocation have spent significant time in discernment.
• Time. A process of discernment may take several months—and continue as the congregation understands more about its missional vocation.
• Prayer. Discernment means listening to God as well as speaking to God. The congregation prays with an attitude of openness to whatever God will ask of them. In prayer, the congregation asks for God’s will to be done through them.
• Discussion. Discernment means learning from other members of the congregation and testing whether what one person may have heard from God is of God’s Spirit or not.
• Understanding the congregation’s context—in its neighborhood, city, nation, ethnic group, etc.
• Action. The congregation can try out the actions implied by its missional vocation. After acting on the missional vocation, the congregation may understand more about that calling.
Congregations that know their missional vocation decide what to do—and what not to do—and what not to do—based on their missional vocation. Discovering a missional vocation does not necessarily add to the activities of the congregation. Some new activities may be added. Some old activities may be dropped. All the congregation’s activities and programs should be evaluated in light of its missional vocation.
Often a missional vocation can be stated very simply. Holy Ghost Full Gospel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, understands that their job is to “love everybody.” Transfiguration Roman Catholic Parish in Brooklyn, New York, has stated their missional vocation thus: to be present with Christ in the Eucharist, and present with the poorest of the poor. Spring Garden Baptist Church, York, Ontario, understands their vocation as presenting and representing Christ in the city. Boulder Mennonite Church in Colorado is shaped around a ministry of peace and reconciliation, both locally and globally.
A missional congregation is discovering together its missional vocation as a community. It is redefining “success” in terms of faithfulness to God’s calling and sending. It is seeking to discern God’s specific missional vocation for the entire community, as well as for all of its members.