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July 2012

Mission and the lazy, hazy days of summer

What happened to the lazy, hazy days of summer? I walked into chapel on Monday and it was bursting with excitement—and bodies. I couldn't find a place in the chapel to sit—in June! They had to set up additional chairs. The place was packed with Doctor of Ministry students, Distributed Learning students, Children, Youth and Family students, guests from Ethiopia, Lifelong Learning participants and, yes, the traditional faculty, staff and students. What happened to the old days when the seminary closed down for the summer so we could prepare for "normal" students returning in the fall?

Well, the short answer is, those days are—happily—gone. The long answer has to do with the growth of people—all sorts of people—wanting to be trained for leadership in God's mission. And "God's mission" here doesn't necessarily mean "clergy." More and more people feel called to serve where God has sent them: in their business, neighborhoods, families, non-profit agencies and, yes, in their congregations. They are taking courses during the summer to prepare themselves for a whole variety of callings in the world. That reminds me of biblical scholar C. J. H. Wright's definition of mission: "Mission (if it is biblically informed and validated) means our committed participation as God's people, at God's invitation and command, in God's own mission within the history of God's world for the redemption of God's creation." 

Because each Christian has been called to be an ambassador for Christ (II Corinthians 5:20), the mission of God cannot be confined to what happens on Sunday. Within the ecology that cultivates leaders to do God's work in the world "at God's invitation and command," the congregation plays a special part. One of the chief jobs of any pastor is to be a gardener who tills the ecology of missional leadership for the world. This is one of the chief vocations of any congregation. It trains leaders for God's mission.

Our call at the seminary is to assist congregations in this high calling. Leaders produce leaders. And missional leaders will lift up other leaders who are passionate and focused on God's redemptive activity in the world. That's why the chapel was full this summer. We don't have time for the old lazy, hazy days of summer. God's mission is on the move.

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