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Engaging in Mission: What Do We Do That No One Else Is Doing? Part 4

Engaging in Mission What do we need to do Transforming Mission (2)

Engaging the mission is about following Jesus into the community and being about God’s business. It is a way of relating to and loving others within the community in which you are located.

To help resource you in Engaging the Community, we have explored The Seven Missional Questions (Engaging in Mission: Engaging the Community), have done an overview of koinonia, the New Testament understanding of community (Engaging in Mission: Engaging the Community Part 2), and explored the components of mission (Engaging in Mission: Engaging the Community Part 3).  

What do we need to do that no one else is doing?

As you focus on God’s business, one way to discover your particular focus is to ask God, “What do we need to be doing that no one else is doing?” God will answer your prayer by opening opportunities you may not have considered. By broadening your perspective on the community, you will begin to recognize where God is working.

God might lead you to a partnership with a local elementary or middle school. As simple as it sounds, few churches are in partnership with the schools in the community they serve.

So, let me say it this way: One tangible way to be about God’s business is to partner with a school in your community. In partnership with children, you can grow personally as a follower of Jesus as you share the love of God unselfishly. In conversation with school administrators and teachers, you learn ways to develop relationships of love and care.

God might lead you to a feeding or housing ministry. Most churches find participating in these ministries relatively easy. Whether it be a food pantry, serving meals, or participating in building a Habitat for Humanity home, you have the opportunity to grow as a follower of Jesus as you actively respond to meeting immediate needs in the community.

So, responding to basic human needs such as food and housing is another tangible way to be a part of God’s business of loving people as God has loved you.

Praying for Your Community

God might lead you to pray for the first responders in your community. What better ministry is there than to hold before God the well-being, safety, and families of the people who serve the community in which you live. Praying for police officers, firefighters, and other first responders keeps you focused on the community and helps you develop a pattern of prayer for your own life and well-being.

So, as you seek to engage in mission in the community, it is only natural to pray. Prayer is another tangible way to be about God’s business in the community. The fact is, you will be blessed by God as you respond to the invitation to be a part of something that no one else is doing.

In one church I had the opportunity to lead, we prayed, “What do we need to do no one else is doing?” God led us to a local HIV/AIDS Clinic. As we developed a partnership with the clinic, we developed a ministry of love, care, prayer, and compassion for people who were pushed to the margins of the community. We provided what the clinic said they needed to serve their clients. As we partnered with the clinic, God provided a place for us to develop relationships and to grow as followers of Jesus as we gave ourselves in love and care to God’s children in the community.

Follow God’s Lead

I am sure you have gotten my point. When you ask the question, God will lead you into your community, into your ministry context, and provide opportunities for you to love and care for others as God has loved and cared for you.

As you seek to engage in mission in your community, God will lead you to places you might not have considered. Just ask God the question, “What do we need to do that no one else is doing.”

To help with your engagement in the community, read the following story from Matthew:

Read: Matthew 25:31-46

When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep in his right hand and the goats at the left.

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.’

Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You who are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels,  for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’  And these will go away into eternal punishment but the righteous into eternal life.”

Reflect: What are you doing? 

Matthew uses a parable of Jesus to help his readers to understand holy or righteous living. He is not telling them what they should be doing but is showing them what they are doing.

Parables are not mirrors of morality but are reflections of reality. In teaching us how to live a holy and righteous life before God, Jesus tells a parable to help us understand how we live in a relationship with God and our neighbors.

The Reality of Our Living

The parable is often used out of context to tell people or to encourage people to respond to human need. It is used out of context when it is used to say “we should” feed people, or care for people, or work for the good of others.  Feeding, caring, and working for the good of others is good and needed work, but that is not the point of parable.

The parable reflects how we are living our lives in feeding, caring, and working for the good of other ways. In other words, it reveals the reality of our living.

So, what does this parable have to do with “What do we need to do that no one else is doing?” 

Recognize Jesus

To engage in mission in the community, you must be able to recognize Jesus in the people you are being called and led to serve. Jesus offers the invitation to follow him into the community. It is following Jesus so closely, that you can recognize and respond to God’s call and invitation to “do what no one else is doing.”

Tom Long, retired Bandy Professor of preaching at Candler School of Theology, attended a Presbyterian Church in downtown Atlanta. Like many downtown churches, it had a ministry with people living on the streets. During the winter, when the church opened its gymnasium to provide shelter, people from the congregation would serve as hosts and hostesses.

On one occasion, Long volunteered to be a host for the night. When his night came to serve, he invited a friend to come and serve with him for the evening. His friend was not a church member but enjoyed engaging in conversation about faith and religious matters. He would often say, “Tom, I’m not a theologian, but it seems to me…,” and then he would express his opinion.

On the night Long was hosting the shelter, the two greeted the men as they arrived. They ensured each man had something to eat and a place to sleep. Both Tom and his friend hung out with the men for a while before they began to retire for the night. Tom’s friend said, “Tom, you get some sleep. I will stay with them the first watch, then I’ll wake you up, and you can come and stay with them for the rest of the night.”

So, the friend stayed up and mingled with the guests, listened to them, and asked questions about who they were, what had happened to them in their lives that they were now homeless. At 2:00 AM he went in to awaken Tom. He said, “Wake up! Wake up! I want you to come and see this. I am no theologian, but I think that Jesus is down there.”

As Tom Long tells the story, he says quoting Jesus, “Those who show hospitality to the least of these have done it to me.”

By asking the question, “What do we need to do that no one else is doing?” God is reflecting back to you the love you are offering to Jesus in and through the people you meet, care for, and serve. So, what is it that we need to be doing that no one else is doing?

Respond 

Where are you seeing Jesus in your community and in the ministry of your congregation? What are you doing that no one else is doing in the community? How are you responding to the needs and assists of your community? How are you bringing needs and assists together to engage the people of your church in mission in the community? As Jesus invites you into the community, where will you start? What assistance do you need to get started?

Prayer

O God I am grateful for your call upon my life and for the opportunity to be a leader centered upon your love in Jesus. By your grace, give me eyes to recognize you in the people I meet each day. Give me ears to hear your voice above all other voices. Give me faith to assist people in growing in their faith. Give me the courage to lead people into the community to love others as you have loved me. Thank you for your love, which will never let me go, and that enables me to love and trust you more. Amen.  

Return 

Give God thanks for the people you encountered today. In whom did you see Jesus? With whom did you experience something new? Who did you encounter who needed special love and care? What do you need to be doing that no one else is doing? What did you learn that you will do differently tomorrow? Give God thanks for the opportunities you had to become more who God has created you to be. Keep in mind, who you are is how you lead.

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