If you are a Christian reading this, I have news for you. You may not believe the news, you may not like it, or you may not be ready to embrace it, but it’s true. In fact, it’s one of the truest things about you. I’ll share more about what “it” is in a second, but first read this:
Yesterday, as I was leading a church equipping session I asked the group, “What stands in the way of you being on mission and reaching neighbors and others with the Gospel?” The group sat for a minute to think about it and then came up with a few honest responses. The answers were not surprising:
- I’m tired after working all day
- I have many other commitments
- I’m not sure if I’m called to live life on mission
One of the leaders in the room quickly pointed out how easy it is to for us to put things in compartments. Our work life stays as our work life, and our home life is just that. For many of us, being on “mission” is for that person who is going on a trip to another country or moves to a far off place to do God’s work through humanitarian efforts. Mission is for the people who were called to it, and if I wanted to be involved in it, I’d need to join that department at our church. Not only that, but like it was voiced above, I’m already over committed, and I’m out of energy at the end of the day. So what gives?
Has all of this been your experience as well?
This diagram shows (source: Verge Network) how most of us view mission in the church. Mission is seen as one of the many things we have going on in our lives. We have kid sports, vacations, work, family time, school, church commitments, etc. If we have enough time left over after all of that, perhaps we can take a “mission trip.”
Well to put it bluntly, I’m challenging the way we’ve been viewing this very mission that we’ve held for many decades or perhaps even centuries. So ready or not, here’s the news I have for you: If you are a Christian, you have the Spirit of God living in you, and if you have the Spirit of God living in you, then YOU are the missionary. You are in fact God’s master plan to bring about His Good News to all of the earth. You are to be a missionary at work, at home, on vacation, while playing sports, and in your neighborhood. In fact, if you are reading this at your work right now, take a look up right now and examine the mission field God gave you. If you are at home, walk out to your doorstep and begin praying for your neighbors. In his book The Forgotten Ways, Alan Hirsch says, “It’s not the Church that has the mission, rather it’s the mission that has the Church.” God sent Jesus to earth as a missionary to rescue us. When we follow Jesus, we become more and more like Him as God shapes and molds us into His image. This is called our sanctification process. We are becoming more Christ-like, and therefore more missionary-like.
So what does all of this mean for you and me? I’m glad you asked! If we are in fact God’s Good News missionary people, I think it means we are to begin behaving like His missionaries. So what exactly do missionaries do? Well, in the missionary trips I’ve taken to Haiti and Mexico, I can tell you that I’ve developed relationships, listened to the needs, built homes and businesses, I’ve shared my story and the Gospel, and I’ve shared meals and sought out opportunities to be a blessing. Has this been your mission experience as well? So what if we just applied those same rhythms to where we live today? Perhaps this diagram better describes this new missionary lifestyle.
What if God intended for His people to live like and be the Church instead of seeing Church as an event or building we go to on Sundays? You see, I’m convinced that the Church is a family of missionaries, but for whatever reason, we’ve never fully grown up to live in this reality. Just like how we develop our children to one day leave the home and raise their own family, I believe our churches must begin thinking this way. If we don’t, we will unintentionally continue to operate like perpetual orphanages. Orphanages are where infants and kids are constantly being fed and taken care of by a few people. Growing into full-time missionaries is like starting a family where we are dependent to Christ alone and watching over infants ourselves (making disciples).
So what do you think? It’s probably a paradigm shift for many, but will you consider wrestling with it? I believe it’s the exact place we need to wrestle as we begin thinking through reaching the lost culture around us. The lost world isn’t necessarily only across the globe. Perhaps they are also simply across the road…
PS – I speak more about this new identity and rhythms as a missionary in the Neighbor Hubs curriculum. Be sure and grab a copy if this stuff resonates.