I’m always fascinated by what Leonard Sweet has to say, and his comments in this recent interview with Steve Gladen, Pastor of Small Groups at Saddleback Community Church, were no exception. Len suggests that “this missional component is huge” for the content of large church small group gatherings:
“The download today is not just ‘your baptism is your ordination into ministry’ [but] your baptism is your commissioning as a missionary. You have a ministry to the body [of Christ] and a mission in the world. So part of the mandate of every small group is, ‘How do we help you to understand what your ministry to the body is and what is your mission in the world?’ — because you were made for a mission!
“You don’t think that resonates with people? How else do you explain how many millions [of copies] of Purpose-Driven Life have sold now? ‘Purpose’ is Rick [Warren]’s way of talking about mission.”
While I’m a firm believer that understanding ourselves (our gifts, passions, callings) is a key early step in the process of participating in God’s mission and contextualization, I’m concerned that Sweet is de-incarnationalizing [to steal a phrase from David Fitch] mission. Meaning: by over-personalizing or individualizing mission, it actually serves to separate mission from the ongoing work of Jesus Christ in the world.
Yes, we each have our own individual unique callings—and each church has a unique identity and ministry in the world—but those are all meant to be subordinate to God’s mission. So, it gets really confusing if we talk about “I have a mission, you have a mission, we all have a mission, kumbaya!” My Lord. There’s only one mission, ultimately, and that’s God’s mission.
Amen? Disagree? What do you think? Am I harshing on Len Sweet a little too much? (I love you, Len.)