This is for me too
Earlier this week I wrote a post about whether the church can be both missional and attractional at the same time. While reflecting on the article and the comments I received, I was personally convicted of my own life. I began to ask myself if I was personally living a missional life? Am I actually on mission in my life? Or do I just like to talk about it?
I could be overly hard on myself. That is not the goal. I am not trying to beat myself up. I am not trying to guilt myself into a new set of legalistic requirements. I am simply asking myself whether I would be a good example of how I am encouraging us all to live.
I am sure I could come up with excuses about why I am not missional enough. I could talk about how busy I am or how my natural life rhythms don't bring me into relationship with many people outside the church. I am inclined to want to excuse myself from living on mission.
As I thought about my recent post and my continual invitation for our church community to be more intentional to reach and love their own neighbors, co-workers, families and friends, I was convicted about the common practice of talking about things more than actually doing them. It is easy to create theories or strategies, but it is harder to actually implement them.
This post is for me. It is for you too. I am sure that I am not the only want to thinks that living missionally is a good idea. I am not the only one who nods their head in affirmation when we read or hear someone talk about loving their neighbor in a radical way. I am also probably not the only one who fails to actually do it on a regular and ongoing basis. And certainly not at the level we would all want.
So, this post is for you. But is is also for me.
What do I mean by mission?
Allow me to briefly explain what I mean by living on mission. Jesus invites his followers to be his witnesses in the world (Acts 1:8). We have the privilege of being the tangible expression of God's love for the world. This includes both ministries of mercy and ministries of proclamation. We do this first with those who are in our Relational Sphere of Influence (RSI). Our RSI can be defined as the people we have a relationship with as a result of our natural rhythms of life, including family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, classmates, fellow parents, hair stylist, convenience store clerk, etc. We also engage in ministries of mercy and proclamation to people who we may not have an ongoing relationship with through larger events or new relationships.
Ministries of mercy are when we intentionally and generously meet the tangible needs of others. This might mean that we shovel our neighbors driveway or mow their lawn because they are not able to do it themselves. It might mean we volunteer at a ministry to the homeless in our community. It may mean that we help someone through a difficult time after the loss of a loved one. It may also mean that we help a family get back on their feet after a fire burns down their house. The opportunities to engage in ministries of mercy are nearly endless.
"Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify your God on the day of visitation." - 1 Peter 3:12
"Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." - Matthew 25:40
Ministries of proclamation are when we intentionally share the good news of Jesus with others. The gospel means good news. The message of Jesus is not advice to be followed, it is news to be shared. The God of the universe has made a way for people to know Him and as his followers we get to invite more and more people to follow Him too. This happens when we share about Jesus with our neighbors, family or friends. This happens when we are able to share about what God is teaching us and how we are growing. This happens when we get to point others to Jesus as the only true hope for life.
"How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feed of those who preach the good news.'" - Romans 10:14-15
Barriers to Mission
I feel confident in saying that most people who follow Jesus would also say that they want to be a part of his mission in the world. Unfortunately, we run into some barriers that keep us from being on mission. As I considered my own life and the life of people in our church, here are some of the barriers I thought of:
We are not being changed
It all starts with the change God wants to bring to our life. Mission is not a guilt ridden and dutiful task. It comes as an overflow of a life that is being transformed by a God who loves to renew people. It will be tempting to respond by trying to bring your own change to your own life. That doesn't work. God is the one who changes people. That means you start with knowing Him, not trying to change yourself. Create rhythms and habits in your life that cultivate an ever growing love for Jesus. As your love for Jesus grows, you will more naturally want to tell others about him and you will more naturally want to live in obedience to God's Word.
It starts with being changed yourself. It must come as an overflow. It needs to ooze out of us because we just cannot contain it. Think about a product you recently purchased or restaurant you ate at that you absolutely loved. Chances are you told some people about it, because it was so good that you felt compelled to tell others. You didn't have to make a conscious effort to tell them. You didn't think to yourself, "okay, I am going to try really hard to tell someone about how wonderful this new iPhone is." You just told them, because you were that excited about it.
If we are captivated by Jesus. If he is transforming our life. We will naturally want to tell people about him.
Are you being changed?
We are too busy
This is something I tell myself often. I have a wife, two children, a home to care for and a job to do. We have friends and family we want to see. We have bedtimes and cleaning that we need to complete. The list goes on and on. When most of us say we are busy, I think that we genuinely are quite busy. We have a lot of things that fill our time and our days.
That means we need to be very thoughtful about how we chose to spend our time. If you are too busy to spend your time loving people who are far from Jesus, then something needs to change. If you are too busy to tangibly meet the needs of others as an expression of God's love, then something needs to change. What changes need to be made in your life to create opportunities for mission? How can you more naturally integrate opportunities for mission into your rhythm of life?
For others, it might be the case that you are not that busy at all. For you, busyness is just an excuse, and you are being too selfish with your time.
We have a small view of God
Do we value God enough to invite others to worship him. Is God worth worshiping? I hope we answer with a hearty yes! John Piper wrote that "missions exists because worship doesn't. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man." We are after worshipers for God, because He is worthy of not only our worship but the worship of the people in our lives. Do we have a large enough view of God that would motivate us to invite others to worship Him? Do we see God as someone worth calling other to worship?
We forget who changes lives
God changes lives, not us. We sometimes don't want to be on mission because we are afraid it will be too hard. Or we don't think there is any chance that the person sitting across from us would ever follow Jesus. We forget that God can draw anyone to Himself. God saves people, not us. We fail to pray, because we forget where the power resides to change lives. It doesn't depend on you. Trust in God's ability to change a life, and invite others to follow him.
We care about people too much
We do not want others to think poorly of us, so we restrain ourselves from talking about our love for Jesus. We care too much about the opinion of others, so we neglect to do anything that might be seen in a negative light. We do not remember where our true identity, value and significance is found. We forget that it is found in Jesus.
We don't care about people enough
On the other hand, sometimes we just don't care about people enough. You have the words of life, but sometimes we care more about ourselves than we do about them, so we just don't say anything. Even Penn Jillette, a self-avowed atheist has recognized that it is unloving for us to not share about the love of Jesus with others. If we have the words of life, why would we not want to share it with the people that we love the most?
Take a practical step this week
Here are two practical ways you can begin to be on mission this week. These are not radical steps, but a place to start. These are not an ending point, they are a beginning. I am committed to take these steps with you.
What are you learning?
One practical way you can begin to be more thoughtful about mission is to simply share what you are learning with others. You can start by asking yourself each morning, "What is one thing that God has been teaching me this past week?" Then ask yourself if there is someone in your life that you could share it with? And finally, take the imitative to actually share it with someone that day. These three simple steps will open the door to a myriad of conversations with others about Jesus.
Who can you bless?
Another practical way to begin engaging in God's mission is to ask yourself "is there someone in my life that I can be a blessing for today?" Then ask yourself what you can do to be a blessing. Finally, actually follow through and do it.
Would love to hear from you
I would love to hear your thoughts. Please provide them in the comments below. Also, if you take a step toward mission this week, please let us know about it.