The Book of Order is part II of the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Over the years, the character of the book has become much more regulatory in nature, but there are still some really important statements that can help direct our congregations in a much more missional direction. One example is found in the Form of Government section G-4.0201 which says this:
"The unity of the Church is a gift of its Lord and finds expression in its faithfulness to the mission to which Christ calls it. The church is a fellowship of believers which seeks the enlargement of the circle of faith to include all people and is never content to enjoy the benefits of Christian community for itself alone."
How does this statement reflect the reality in your congregation? Would the people in your congregation agree with this statement or not? If they agree with it, do they live, act, and behave this way? This statement makes a number of points to me:
1) The unity of the Church is a gift of the Lord. That doesn't mean that there isn't anything we can do to help the Church discover greater unity. In fact, I think there is a lot we can do. There are definitely unifying actions and unity-destroying actions. We can act in ways that slowly build unity. But, wherever we find unity in the Church, we cannot take the credit. It is a gift from the Lord.
2) "The unity of the Church finds expression in its faithfulness to the mission to which Christ calls it." Unity always pushes us to be in mission together in Christ. Unity is not satisfied to sunbathe and sip drinks by the side of the pool (as attractive as that sounds). Unity is not passive, it is active. It is not static, it is active. We can stay unified by being faithful in mission. I would also suggest that unity and faithful mission are an ongoing circle. If we are not being faithful in mission, our unity will suffer. If we are not unified, our faithful mission will suffer. The two go together like a hand in a glove. They are complementary, and cannot be separated.
3) "The church is a fellowship of believers which seeks the enlargement of the circle of faith to include all people." I know a lot of churches that really do not function this way. Some are not too concerned about enlarging the circle of faith. They are very content with what they have and whom they already have. Their energy and focus is all pointed inward.
Some churches do believe in enlarging the circle of faith, but only to include people who are just like them. They find it very difficult to truly reach out to ALL people. They want to include people who reinforce their assumptions and who will support the status quo. And yet, God calls us to a bigger challenge.
4) "The Church is a fellowship of believers that is never content to enjoy the benefits of Christian community for itself alone." This is hard to live out in our American, consumeristic culture. When we go to church, many people are unconsiously thinking, "What's in it for me?" "What will I get out of this?" "How will this improve my life?" Often, our desire to grow our congregations feeds right into this selfish, narcississtic tendency. Does anyone belong to a congregation that is trying to grow with the idea that "It's not about you"? I think that's more Biblical than what we see in a lot of American churches.
The PCUSA's Book of Order actually has some strong missional reminders in it. This one is key. Presbyterian congregations should be known as those who are never content to enjoy the benefits of Christian community for ourselves alone. We are called to live differently. We are called to be internally strong and externally focused. Without a major part of our energy being focused outward, we will become a dying, insular, civic club, that has to keep raising the rate of dues to a smaller, elite club of members every year. If we could actually persuade the majority of Presbyterians to live the way the Book of Order calls us to, we would be constantly seeking the enlargement of our circle of faith to include all people. And until the Church does include ALL people, we should never be content.