A friend of my family, after a lengthy conversation, paused for a moment. “So you are telling me you are one of those evangelists?” I had not been a Christian for long and had been passionately sharing my faith with this great friend for two hours. “Yes” was my slightly bemused reply.
“Well I hope you are not thinking of evangelising me at any stage.” she replied indignantly.
As I reflected on the dismal failure I had been at sharing my faith for the last two hours, I began to wrestle with what it was to be missional in my every day walk with Jesus.
It did not surprise me that my early attempts at leading people to Jesus were not successful…I had always been terrible at giving directions. Once giving my mum directions from Newcastle to the Inner West of Sydney my wonderfully descriptive directions, that involved a bus stop with graffiti on it and a vague reference to a local fruit shop, ended with a frantic phone call from mum, driving somewhere in the southern suburbs of Sydney, simply stating “Where is the bloody fruit shop?!?”. Eventually I had to jump in the car and take a nice drive to lead mum back to my house.
My evangelism seemed to follow the same structure. I would yell frantically from where I was, telling people where to go. Unfortunately, somewhere between me yelling John 3:16 and the evangelisee making a decision to follow Christ, they missed the fruit shop and ended up on a different path.
Now that I have been a church planter and pastor things are a little clearer and many of the mistakes I made have refined my understanding of what being mission shaped, both individually and corporately, is all about.
Let me take a slight detour to point out that earnest, heartfelt and corporate prayer is an absolute given. We have to be praying and pleading with God for the lives of family, friends, colleagues and communities. It should be the beginning, the end and everything in between. Prayer breaks down barriers and opens doors, softening hearts and creating opportunities. However, prayer must lead to proclamation and the below hopefully will raise some areas of discussion for you and your church.
1. Mission should be driven by love
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (ESV)
This classic passage of salvation and incarnational theology is also a case study in missional motivation. It was love that drove Christ to humanity and the cross. It was love that left the plea of “take this cup of suffering from me” hanging unanswered in the heavens and love that forgave the dying thief along with the brutal soldiers.
Love can drive you to do stupid things. I still remember the crazy motivation of driving from Newcastle to Sydney, as a 22 year old, after work on a Friday night to go to dinner and a movie with my girlfriend (now wife) Nancy, then driving back at 2am on Saturday morning only to wake up and drive down to have lunch. I could go on, but it is love that motivates to go above and beyond and that is needed in mission. You are sharing the precious gift with, at times, the most difficult and humanly unlovable people. We need to seek God to impart to us the ability to love as he loved us.
If you are truly committed to mission begin by showing love to your neighbour and your community. There is no formula, simply see a need or a hurt and address it, see a person and give them your most precious resource… time.
How are you and your church showing love to the community and world around you? Is it genuine or is it forced? Does it have a long-term commitment or a short-term goal?
2. Mission should be emphasised by resource
The early church, through circumstance, placed an enormous emphasis on resourcing mission into the local community. They gathered resources to feed and support each other and the needy, selling land and property to do so. In the above passage we see that key people in the church were also set aside to serve so that mission could continue.
What we value most is identified by where we allocate our resource. The clothes we wear, the house we live in and car we drive show the world what we value most. In the same way the amount of resource that we allocate as a church to mission work both locally and globally sends a clear message to the world of how much we care. At the church I attend, we made a conscious decision to not pay a staff member until it was completely necessary, instead running the church as a voluntary organisation from the top down to allow the greatest amount of time and money to be used for mission work.
Our personal time also reflects this, do I prefer to watch ‘The Biggest Loser’ or share a meal with someone who does not know Jesus? Would I prefer to have the best of everything or to provide funding for ministry projects? Where your resource goes is where your focus is and many of us, myself included, need to re-evaluate how we allocate our money, time and energy to better reflect the great commission in our lives.
What percentage of your churches income is directed to missionary work, locally and globally? If you include your pastor’s salary as a missionary expense does your pastor’s position description reflect this expectation? How much time do you dedicate to mission and/or social justice ministry? This is not criticism but a self-diagnostic question that we help you identify what is really important to your church.
3. Mission should be lived out daily
It is no surprise that mission is less effective when it is delivered without integrity. A message of hope from a person that is always concerned about the future or a message of grace from a person bound in tradition and rules will always lose power. A genuine and honest declaration of the Gospel from someone who has lived day in and day out practicing their faith, will be effective and powerful to anyone who does not know Jesus.
The message that we bring with our voice is but a fraction of the whole message that is received. Your life should be a declaration of the Gospel to those around you. In 1 Peter 3:15, Peter encourages the church to be ready, not ready to start a conversation, rather, ready to respond to questions about the hope they have in Jesus. He basically says that people will see you being Christian well before you open your mouth. Likewise, Jesus in John 13:35, exhorts the early church to love each other and by this people will know that they are His disciples. By the way we love one another, not simply by what we say.
Are you living out your faith daily? Is your church a church of Grace and love or traditions and judgement? Are you living out your Christian beliefs in your work and in your community?
4. Mission should be prophetically transformational
I believe that the call on each Christian’s life is to give voice to God’s message (prophecy) and strive towards seeing it done (transform). The Lords prayer calls for the kingdom of God to become a reality now ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ and through this we are challenged to work toward that end.
Dr Martin Luther King Jnr once stood and declared, “I have a dream”. He saw what was and was repulsed and infuriated by it. The dream that was the, kingdom like, in-breaking of justice highlighted the depravity of the current situation. Dr King stood and declared that it was not good enough, that it was not what God desired!
True mission is a prophetic calling – it is seeing the will of God and standing to make it happen. It is seeing that God’s will is that ‘all are saved’ and seeking to make it a reality, it is seeing persecution of the vulnerable and giving voice to their plight, it is speaking against injustice in every form and championing transformation and justice through out the world.
Once upon a time, I would flick the channel when I saw a World Vision television advertisement come on or a documentary on poverty, I did not want to feel the pain nor engage in the emotion. However, that is exactly what God wants. For you to feel His pain for a hurt and broken world and for you to scream ‘ENOUGH’; and then maybe, just maybe, get angry enough to do something about it.
My mistake in sharing faith was that I was giving directions, nothing more that a human GPS. Mission is joining people on their journey to faith – meeting them and showing them the way. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” Matthew 28:19.