Tag Archive for: Mission

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.

As a Christ-centered leader, in a rapidly changing world, you have the responsibility to engage your church in loving and caring for your community. By centering on God’s mission, embracing your local context, and engaging with the community, you lead with purpose and authenticity. You have the opportunity to lead your church in reclaiming its role as a vibrant and relevant force in the lives of the people in your community and beyond. 

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.

Engaging In Missions

As much as churches talk about caring and serving, your life changes when you engage in missions. Whether it is your life or the life of your church, engaging the community means constantly challenging personal preferences, the fear of losing control of who to serve, and the anxiety of not having enough resources. 

Although the work is challenging, engaging in mission means you can relax in the experience of loving others as you have been loved. Engaging the community is an experience of transformation and new life.

Focus on the Mission of God’s Love

So, what better time to explore engaging the community than the season of Pentecost? When I reflect upon the presence and power of God in and through the Holy Spirit, I discover that the early church was focused on the mission of God’s love and that the power of the Holy Spirit helped those early followers to overcome the barriers of race, gender, theology, faith, and persecution.

When engaging the community, you are given the power to overcome the barriers that keep people from experiencing God’s love by resisting evil in whatever form it presents itself.

So, the question is, “What do you need to do to engage the community with God’s love? 

Start with Prayer

Prayer facilitates your engaging the community. Since you are engaging in God’s business, it makes sense to seek God’s direction. So, as you begin to engage the community, provide opportunities for everyone in the congregation as well as your leaders to pray. 

Make prayer part of every Sunday School class, small group, administrative meetings (Administrative Council, Leader Board, Finance, Trustees, Pastor Parish Relations, etc.) rehearsals, trainings, or other gatherings of your church community.  

Remind your leaders, in whatever context they are leading, that when there is no prayer, there is no power. When there is a little prayer there is little power. When there is much prayer there is much power. Said another way: No prayer, no power. Little prayer, little power. Much prayer, much power. 

Ask God for new possibilities to break through in your church and community. Ask God to give you the eyes to see and hearts and minds to receive and understand what God is doing in the community.

  • Ask God to help you discover what you need to do that no one else is doing in the community. Ask God to send you the people no one else wants and for the grace to receive the people God sends to you.
  • As you surrender yourself to God’s direction, be mindful of how God can use you and your church to make a difference in your community.    

Prayer

To get you started, here is a sample prayer:   

O God, by your grace give each of us obedience to yield a little more of ourselves today.  Put us where you want us and help us be content.  If we can’t be content, make us faithful.  Let us be a part of what you are blessing and let us learn everything we need to learn in every situation and circumstance.  Teach us and equip us to bring here on earth what you have in heaven.  Break our hearts for the church and the church’s heart for the community. Send to us the people no one else wants and by your grace help us receive the people you send to us.  Let us see you in the tasks you have given us to perform and may you find us faithfully performing those tasks.  Fill us with your grace and glory so all with whom we come in contact will experience your grace and glory in us. 

Remember, prayer facilitates engaging the community. No prayer, no power. Little prayer, little power. Much prayer, much prayer. It was while the disciples were praying that the Holy Spirit came upon them. They received power to be witnesses (the Greek work means “martyrs) starting where they were and moving into their communities, surrounding areas, and to the world 

Engage in the Seven Missional Questions 

Read the blog ENGAGING IN MISSION: Seven Missional Questions. 

ENGAGING IN MISSION: Seven Missional Questions gives you the details of each question. The questions are:

  1. Where have you witnessed God’s presence in your community? (God’s Presence)
  2. What is the mission of the church (Mission)
  3. What is our mission field? (Mission Field)
  4. What are the assets of our community? (Assets)
  5. What are the needs of our community (Needs)
  6. What relationships exists with leaders in our community? (Relationships)
  7. What is one way we can collaborate with other churches? (Collaborations)

To engage the community, prepare your heart and mind with prayer. Ask God to help you to be aware of and sensitive to the people you encounter in your mission field. 

Prepare your heart and mind with bible study. Read Luke 10:1-12 and ask God to send you out as missionaries to learn about the mission field in which you live and serve.  

Engage the leaders of your church in participating in the seven questions above. Send your leaders out in teams of two or three to experience the mission, to encounter the people, to assess the assets and needs of the mission field. 

Assist your leaders in identifying and developing the relationships within your mission field. What relationships need to be nurtured, reconciled, or re-established? 

Continue to engage your team in prayer and study. Continue to ask God to help you be aware of and sensitive to the people you encounter. 

Read, Reflect, Respond, Return

When you are engaging the community, you are loving and serving people in all you do. Keep in mind that you are about God’s business as a follower of Jesus whether you are feeding people, providing housing, caring for children, sharing in a work team, or on a mission trip. To assist you in keeping focused, use the following pattern as a way of focusing upon God’s business and growing as a follower of Jesus. 

Before leaving for the site on which you are serving, gather your team together. The team must gather together before arriving at the site. In other words, the focus is on becoming who God created you to be, a follower of Jesus, and not upon the work you are involved in or the service you are providing. Both are important but becoming a disciple of Jesus and being about God’s business of loving others is the main focus. 

As important as this is, before leaving for the site, take no more than 15 minutes to do the following: 

Read

Pick a scripture for the day. Before reading it, ask each member of the team to focus upon a part of the scripture, then read it aloud for the team to hear. 

Reflect

Have each person briefly tell which part of the scripture they will carry with them throughout the experience. Keeping the scripture in mind, ask each member of the team to be aware of the people they meet and to look for Jesus in the midst of their serving, working, and interactions. 

Pray

Remember, prayer facilitates your engaging the community. So, before you leave for the site, pray. It can be short and simple. Here are three examples: 

“O God, make us aware of the people around us today so that we may be a blessing to someone, somewhere today. Use us as instruments of your love and peace.” 

“O God, give us the eyes to see, ears to ear, hearts to receive, and minds to understand your presence in our experience today. Give us pure hearts, because blessed are the pure in heart, they will see You.” 

“O God, make me aware of the people around me today. By your grace, help me be an extension of your love in the lives of the people you send my way. Help me yield a little more of myself so that I may love others as you have loved me. Help me be faithful to your call upon my life so that I may be a blessing to someone, somewhere, today. Amen” 

Respond

Remind each person to be aware of how they will be living the scripture in the places they encounter. Sounds simple enough, but keep the following in mind:

  • How will you love the people God sends your way? 
  • How will you reach and receive them in love?
  • How will you introduce them to God’s love?
  • How will you practice who you are as a follower of Jesus? 
  • In what new way will you love them as Christ has loved you? 

Return

At the end of the experience, gather the team together. Give God thanks for the experience and for the people with whom you interacted. Then, in small groups of 3 or 4 persons, ask them to discuss the following questions:

  • How did you live the scripture today?
  • How did you experience God’s love? In whom did you see Jesus?
  • What did you learn about yourself?
  • Were there times you felt uncomfortable, afraid, or alone? How did you respond?  
  • For whom are you grateful at this moment? Give God thanks for them. 

Engage The Community

There are many ways to engage the community. Each context will call for specific ways of loving and serving. As you move forward, use the tools of prayer, 7 Missional Questions, and the pattern of “Read, Reflect, Respond, and Return to keep you focused on the mission. 

You have been commissioned to love others as you love Jesus. As you engage in mission you will be transformed, so be aware of what helps turn your love for Jesus into an outward expression of love and care. 

It is time to engage the community. You have been given the power to love as you have been loved, to overcome the barriers that keep people from experiencing God’s love, and to resist evil in whatever form it presents itself.

Listen for your call into the neighborhood. It will come with the words of Jesus, “Just as the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Go and live into the life God has created you to live.

This is part 3 of a 3 part series.

Read Part 1  Read Part 2

As a Christ-centered leader, you have the opportunity to equip and assist persons in the mission of offering Christ. You have the responsibility to remind them that they are God’s children, and as God’s children, they are about doing God’s business. They are living God’s love by loving others as they have been loved. So, to engage in the mission of offering Christ is to be about God’s business in your living and loving each day. (Read Preparing for Mission: Being About God’s Business).

How to Engage People in Offering Christ?

The question for most of us comes down to how. How do you engage people in God’s business of love? How do you engage people in offering Christ?

At this point, it is easy to jump into techniques and practices of faith sharing. I believe there are practical ways of living your faith that naturally lead to sharing your faith and offering Christ. But I also believe many of those practical ways fall short without a clear understanding of who you are as a follower of Jesus.

Who are You As a Follower of Jesus?

As a Christ-centered leader, you have the opportunity and responsibility to remind those who are entrusted to your care that:

They are beloved children of God. 

They are claimed by God and commissioned to be about God’s business. With that in mind and heart, offering Christ is not a personal choice of whether you are good at it or not. It is how you live your life in relationship with the people you encounter each day. When you are claimed as a beloved child of God, you are also equipped with a love that will not let you go and a love that is meant to be lived out and shared in every situation and circumstance in which you find yourself. Offering Christ is about loving others as you have been loved.

God’s claim upon their lives is bigger than themselves…

God’s claim on their lives is also bigger than their church and their denomination. They have been claimed, commissioned, and equipped to be the human touch of God’s love in the places they live, work, and play. Every time you say the words “remember your baptism and be thankful” you are reminding them that they have been claimed and commissioned to be God’s love with family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, strangers, and even enemies. Offering Christ is about loving others as you have been loved.

Jesus is the way of love. 

Offering Christ is about Jesus. It is not about getting people into the church, or getting people to worship, or getting people to believe what you believe, or about gender, sexuality, politics, economics, race, nationality, (add what I left out), etc. When you are a follower of Jesus, you love others as God in Jesus has loved you. Offering Christ is about Jesus.

All people are included in God’s love. 

Offering Christ is about loving people. I know that sounds redundant, but your responsibility is to lead people into God’s business. People thrive and find fulfillment in companionship, support, and relationships. Relationships play a significant role in the overall well-being, happiness, and fulfillment in everyday living. Offering Christ, as difficult and inconvenient as it can be at times, is loving others as God has loved you. It is who you are as a follower of Jesus. (Read: Reflections on 50 years of Ministry: The Importance of People).

When you engage in the mission of offering Christ, people respond in different ways. Below are seven responses to God’s love. It is certainly not an exhaustive list, but is an offering of several “biblical models of offering Christ.” 

Saul Encounters Christ Acts 9:1-19

A dramatic experience of someone coming to Jesus is found in Acts 9:1-19. It is the story of Saul of Tarsus and his experience of the Risen Christ. Saul was so firm in his faith convictions as a Pharisee, that he participated in persecuting Stephen and other early followers of Jesus.

The offer of Christ came as he experienced the faith and forgiveness of those he was persecuting. His transforming experience came, not in dialogue with Christians, but in his interaction with them. Even in the midst of his misguided theological views, he received a clear offer of God’s love through the Christians around him. 

Cleopas on the Road to Emmaus Luke 24:13-32

Another experience of the Risen Christ is found in Luke 24:13-32. It is the story of Cleopas and his companion walking on the road to Emmaus. As they are walking, they are talking about the events of the crucifixion and the resurrection related to Jesus.  In the midst of their conversation, a stranger joins them. As the stranger is invited into the conversation, he begins to teach them.

Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interprets to them “the things about (Jesus)” in all the scriptures.  Cleopas invites the stranger into his home. It is in the midst of this act of hospitality, while breaking bread together, that Cleopas and his companion recognize the stranger as Jesus. The offer of Christ came in their offer of hospitality. In the midst of welcoming a stranger, they received a clear offer of God’s presence. In whom have you experienced Jesus lately? Where have you seen Jesus? 

Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy – 2 Timothy 1

Another experience of an offer of Christ comes in Paul’s second letter to Timothy (II Timothy 1:3-5). In his letter, he remembers Timothy’s sincere faith, a faith that lived first in his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. From Paul’s perspective, it was a faith learned at home. The offer of Christ came through the faithful living and loving of family. 

The Gospel of John & Offering Christ

In John’s story of good news, there are several experiences of offering Christ. In John 1:40-42, Andrew, after spending the day with Jesus, finds his brother Simon and says, “We have found the Messiah.” (which translated Anointed). He brings Simon to Jesus, who looks at him and says, “You are Simon son of John.  You are to be called ‘Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).” The offer of Christ comes through the excitement of a brother. 

In John 1:43-46, Philip, after being invited by Jesus to follow, Philip finds his friend, Nathanael, and invites him to follow Jesus as well.  Even faced with Nathanael’s skepticism, Philip offers the invitation, “come and see.” Come and see is a common theme of offering Christ in John’s good news about Jesus. (For more, read Engaging the Mission: Offering Christ Part One and Engaging the Mission: Offering Christ Part two

Simon Peter Encounters Jesus

There are several stories of Simon Peter experiencing the love of God in and through Jesus. Most of his stories focus on his struggles with faith. After he drops his fishing net to follow Jesus (Matthew  4:18-20), his faith journey is anything but a smooth one. He argues with the other disciples over which of them is to be regarded as the greatest (Luke 22:24).  

He challenges Jesus to allow him to walk on the water and cries out to be saved when he becomes frightened (Matthew 14:25-33).  He is affirmed by Jesus when he confesses his faith by saying “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13-20).  Then, the very night he tells Jesus, “I will never desert you,” he denies Jesus three times (Matthew 26:31-35, 69-75).  Yet his faith matures through his struggles.  

Because of his faithful response and his proclaiming Christ, “More than ever believers were added to the Lord…so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by” (Acts 5:12-15).  Simon Peter offered Christ through his own experiences of failure and maturity. His faith was anchored in his strong commitment, but his faith grew because of the grace he experienced in both good and not so good ways.

Experience Jesus for Yourself

And maybe one of the most dramatic experiences of offering Christ comes in John 4:39-42. It is a story of a woman who encounters Jesus and begins to tell everyone in the community about him. John writes that many of the people from the community believed in Jesus because of her testimony.  

They say to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that he is truly the Savior of the world.” The offer of Christ is to experience Jesus for themselves. Again, the offer came through the invitation to “come and see.” 

Love People As You Have Been Loved

So, as you engage in the mission of offering Christ, practice loving the people around you as you have been loved. 

Think of two or three people with whom you will interact over the next week. The people might be friends, family, neighbors, or colleagues. Write their names in your phone, or a piece of paper you will carry with you or make a mental note not to forget them. 

A Commitment of Prayer

Commit yourself to pray for each person, especially when they come to mind. Give God thanks for their lives and for what they mean to you. Pray for their well-being and health. Offer them to God’s love and care.  Your prayer might be like this: 

O God, I give you thanks for _______ and her ministry. I pray that she might have a good day as she experiences your love in and through the people she meets. I also pray that she might be an instrument of your love to those people as well. Keep her safe as I offer her to your love in Jesus’ name. 

As you go through each day, continue to offer yourself as an instrument of love and peace in the situations and circumstances in which you find yourself. Make yourself available to be a conduit of God’s love for the people you meet. 

Always be ready to offer a kind, caring, encouraging word. In each encounter, you are offering Christ just by being who God created you to be. 

Prayer

Here is a prayer for today:  

Lord, send me the people no one else wants and help me receive the people you are sending to me. By your grace, help me offer them Christ by the way I live out your love. Make me a blessing to someone, somewhere, today.  

Reflect on Offering Christ 

At the end of the day, reflect on the following regarding Offering Christ: As you reflect back upon your day, give God thanks for God’s call to follow Jesus. Who did you meet who needed a kind, caring, encouraging word? In what ways did you offer Christ to the people you met? What did you learn about yourself? Give God thanks for the opportunities you had to offer Christ. To whom do you need to respond with words of hope, words of encouragement, or words of forgiveness? What will you do differently tomorrow?

As a follower of Jesus, you can share God’s love with every person you encounter. Whether family, friend, colleague, neighbor, stranger, or enemy, you have the opportunity to be God’s loving presence in the way you live your faith when interacting with them. 

Sharing the love you have received in and through Jesus is part of God’s mission. You were invited into that mission when you were claimed as a “beloved child” of God, called and commissioned for ministry at your baptism (Read more: Preparing for Mission: Being About God’s Business and Preparing for Mission: Hospitality is a Lifestyle).

A Community of Jesus Followers 

With that in mind, think of the church as a community of Jesus followers who exist primarily for people who are not members. As a follower of Jesus, you are an instrument of God’s love for people who do not know or understand the love of God.  

The apostle Paul instructed the church in Galatia, “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Loving others as God has loved you is the main way you offer Christ. When people see and experience Jesus in you, you are offering Christ.  

Said another way, as a beloved child of God, you love others to be who God created you to be. You become an instrument of God’s grace. You are God’s love in human form. Offing Christ is who you are. It becomes the way you live your life. God sends people your way every day. So, love them as God in Jesus has loved you, all for the glory of God.

Offer Christ By Being You

So, let me share with you one way you can offer Christ, just by being you. Each of us faces times of uncertainty in our lives. Uncertainty comes with death or disaster. It comes with divorce, unemployment, or retirement. It comes with disappointment, lack of security, or the fear of the unknown.

At those times of uncertainty, disappointment, or instability, people need someone they can trust. Someone who shows compassion. Some who can bring stability and who can offer hope. They need and want someone who will love them unconditionally.

The apostle Paul gives us clues to offering Christ in several of his letters. I want to focus on one part of one letter, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:

Read Ephesians 5:1-2

Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Reflect on Ephesians 5:1-2

These words come immediately following Paul’s instruction on what it means to live as a follower of Jesus. The word “therefore” refers back to the instruction. When taken in their full context, the words refer to living and behaving as God’s children.

The words, when understood in the light of engaging in the mission of offering Christ, refer to the followers of Jesus as beloved children of God. And as a beloved child of God, you pattern your life, your behavior, most specifically your forgiveness, love, and care after the love you have experienced in Christ. Your nature, as a beloved child of God, is to love others as God in Christ has loved you. In other words, Christ’s love for you and for others is the same as God’s love.

Love Others as God Loves You

One major expression of offering Christ is to love others the way you have experienced God’s love in and through Jesus. You will have many opportunities to offer Christ. 

Each opportunity comes with its own context and specific need. As a child of God, you love others the way each needs to be loved at the time they need it the most.

Times of Uncertainty & Offering Christ

As one way of offering Christ, I want to share with you an experience that has transformed my life. As with most of you, I have come through several times of uncertainty. Times of not knowing what the future might hold and being paralyzed regarding what decisions to make. At one particular time, I was caught in a place I had never been before. 

The uncertainty was so great that I could not see beyond the moment. Uncertain about my future, I felt confused, hurt, and alone. It was at that point, in my anxiety, that a colleague and friend stepped in to offer Christ, which helped me face my future. I didn’t get a lot of sympathy, shallow agreements, or unrealistic platitudes. What I did get was a person of faith who allowed me to be me at the moment of my greatest need. 

She created a space for me to talk about my disappointments, hurts, fears, and anxiety. Although there were times she did not agree with my assessments, she never passed judgment. She listened with compassion and, at the appropriate time, asked me questions I needed to answer for clarity and healing. 

She offered Christ by embodying God’s grace. I began to trust her compassion and look forward to her questions. The space she created and the grace she offered allowed me to move past my anxiety to see new possibilities beyond what I had known or experienced up to that point in my life. 

New Possibilities

Within the process of healing, she provided opportunities to put into practice the new possibilities that were beginning to emerge. Along with plans for reading and reflecting on scripture, occasions to practice the presence of God through prayer and conversation, and the challenge to look beyond myself to see what new thing God might be doing, I was invited to put my faith into action. It was at that point I rediscovered God’s desire, to use me as his beloved child, to make a difference in the places I encountered the people God wanted me to love. 

It was in and through her offering of Christ that this Jesus follower helped me experience hope in a time of uncertainty. She did not bring easy answers. In fact, she did not bring any answers. She did bring God’s promises to bear on my uncertainty. 

She came alongside me, at the moment of my greatest anxiety, embodying God’s love, to journey with me through my most difficult moments, to see what God might have in store for the future. She was an instrument of God’s love which brought hope and new possibilities. 

As a beloved child of God, she bore God’s image. She walked in love and invited me to walk with her. She modeled Christ’s love as she offered herself as an instrument of God’s love and peace. 

To Offer Christ

That is what it means to offer Christ. There are many ways to come alongside individuals and to love them, nurture them, guide and care for them. It is in times of greatest need that Jesus comes alongside us. Over my 70 years, Jesus has come alongside me in and through the people God has sent to guide, mentor, love, and admonish me. 

That is what it means to engage in the mission of offering Christ. Be the presence of Jesus in the lives of the people you meet each day. By your living, you offer them Christ. 

Respond

I know my words can come across as arrogant and condescending. Often when someone talks with us about “offering Christ,” we feel inadequate and even unworthy. It is common in the church for us to urge each other to witness to our faith. Sometimes we assume that sharing stories of our faith is easy to do. I must confess that I have found it incredibly difficult. It might be my personality, but it is tough to talk about things so deeply meaningful and profoundly intimate.

It is even more difficult to create spaces for conversation, where people can talk about fears, disappointments, and uncertainty. It is difficult to offer new possibilities when you, yourself, are uncertain about today and tomorrow.

So, before we explore ways to offer Christ, take some time to think about what offering Christ means to you. What would happen if you took John Wesley seriously and began to “Offer them Christ” as you developed relationships and talked about what was deeply meaningful to you?

Be Who God Created You to Be

Think of it this way, to offer Christ is to be who God created you to be. The offer is more than sharing “spiritual facts” which lead to a mental assent to correct understanding and logical decisions.  You and I don’t experience God’s love as a form of indoctrination.

The offer of Christ is not, what I grew up hearing, “closing the deal” for Jesus.  You and I don’t experience God’s love by being manipulated into saying “yes” to carefully worded questions.

The offer of Christ is a two-way process of honest interaction. Because you and I simply do not see everything the same way, we develop a friend-to-friend relationship.  So, the offer of Christ is not a single encounter.  It is an extended relationship of mutual respect and care.  It is within the relationship that God’s love is experienced, and hope is developed, and lived out.

Offering Christ Is More Than An Invitation

As important as it is, the offer of Christ is more than inviting people to worship or to participate in the programs of the church.  To offer Christ is to offer God’s love to those who are discontent and dissatisfied in their search for God. It is in and through relationships that we can share our experiences of God searching for us in Jesus.  New possibilities are found in the love you offer. Offering Christ becomes who you are.

I believe we can change the world by offering Christ.  Receiving one friend’s offer of Christ certainly has changed me. It was in her offer of Christ that I have experienced the love of God. In the midst of my disappointment and despair, God found me and embraced me with a love that will not let me go.  

T. S. Elliot wrote, “the life we seek is not in knowing but in being known, not in seeking but in being sought, not in finding but in being found.”

To offer Christ is to come alongside those who are lost in uncertainty, disappointment, or instability, and show compassion, stability and hope. It is loving others unconditionally as God in Jesus has loved you.

In Offering Christ Part Two, we will look at several practices that assist in “Engaging in the Mission” of offering Christ. 

Prayer

Lord, send me the people no one else wants and help me receive the people you are sending to me. By your grace, help me offer them Christ by the way I live out your love. Make me a blessing to someone, somewhere, today. 

Return

As you reflect back upon your day, give God thanks for God’s call to follow Jesus. Who did you meet who needed a kind, caring, encouraging word? In what ways did you offer Christ to the people you met? What did you learn about yourself? Give God thanks for the people God sent your way and for the opportunities you had to offer Christ. To whom do you need to respond with words of hope, words of encouragement, or words of forgiveness? What will you do differently tomorrow?

As a Christ-centered leader, in a rapidly changing world, you have the responsibility to lead forward in mission. By centering on God’s mission, engaging with the community, and embracing your local context, you can lead with purpose and authenticity. You have the opportunity to lead your church in reclaiming its role as a vibrant and relevant force in the lives of the people in your community and beyond. 

Engaging in Mission

You have been preparing for mission. The time has come to engage in the mission for which you have been preparing.  David Bosch wrote, “Mission is seen as a movement from God to the world; the church is viewed as an instrument for that mission. There is the church because there is a mission, not vice versa. To participate in mission is to participate in the movement of God’s love toward people; since God is a fountain of sending love.” 

The time has come to move into the community with God’s love. But before you move too quickly, take a quick overview of the mission in which you are engaged.  (For a more in depth overview go to Preparing for Mission: Building on HOPE) .  

Our Mission

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19).

People are sent out into the community to live the life of love as they have experienced in and through you and other followers of Jesus. As they experience hospitality, they extend hospitality. As they are immersed in God’s love, they invite others to be immersed in God’s love. As they practice loving as they have been loved they are inviting others to experience and to practice God’s love. 

Remember, you are sent out by Jesus. “Go” literally means “as you go.”  Wherever you are, you are set apart to live the life of love as experienced in and through Jesus.  

You are sent out to “make disciples.” A disciple is a student or follower. You have been invited, called, and commissioned to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus. This is important. You have not chosen Jesus. Jesus has chosen you. You are a follower of Jesus for the purpose of loving others as you have been loved. 

Making Disciples

Now, some people misread the word “make” as coercion, but that is not what Matthew means by “make.” Matthew is concerned about developing healthy relationships. So, how do you make disciples? You make disciples, followers, and students of Jesus, the same way Jesus did. You love people. You bless them, help them, and care for them. Just as with Jesus, (agape) the well-being of people becomes your priority.  

You practice the love of Jesus so you might become like Jesus. When you read the Gospel of John, you discover that the followers of Jesus are known by the way they love one another. So, to “make disciples” means to love people as you have been loved.  It is to engage in the love of God in the places you live, work, play, and associate with people. 

Making Disciples Begins with Love

The greatest part of loving others as you have been loved is, you are not left alone to love others.  The Risen Christ is with you.  God does not leave you to fend for yourself. The very birth of Jesus is announced as “and they shall name him Emmanuel which means, ‘God is with us.’” The mission of making disciples is God’s mission. You have been invited to participate in God’s mission.  If God calls you, God will equip you. When God calls and equips, God will be with you, even to the end. 

With that review, you are not ready to move forward with the mission clearly in focus. 

Read Matthew 28:19 

“Go therefore and make disciples…” 

To help engage in mission, below are seven questions to answer: (Click here for a more in-depth look at the 7 Missional Questions

1.      Where have you witnessed God’s presence in your community? (God’s Presence)

To help lay a foundation for mission and assist in developing a clear focus, consider asking this question at the beginning of every meeting. Have every group that meets engage in answering this question. It is one of two foundational questions that contribute to congregational health. People who follow Jesus should be able to articulate God’s movement in their life. The question can be asked in different ways. For example, “Where did you experience the light of Christ today? (Matt 5:14-16) How did God’s love become real today? Take note of the responses as one way of preparing for mission.

2.      What is the mission of the church? (Mission)

This question is about the purpose of the church. It is not about mission projects, trips, or work. It is about why your church exists. What is the church’s mission (purpose)? Does everyone know the mission? Can they repeat it? Do they embody it? This is the partner question to naming God’s presence. Both are essential for healthy disciple-making movements. It’s one thing to have words on a website or framed on the wall. It’s another thing to use the mission to guide what you do and to measure the direction and activities of the church. Use the mission as a sorting mechanism to ask, “Does this help us further or fulfill our mission?” If not, why are we doing it? Don’t confuse activity for missional impact. Don’t try to justify all your activities as contributing to your mission. If you’re having a party and it’s simply for fun, name it as fun. Otherwise, the mission becomes fuzzy for people. Lack of focus leads people to inaction.

3.      What is our mission field? (Mission Field)

Your mission field can be described in multiple ways. Most often, it is a geographic region where people live. Using the location of your church building as the center of a radius, what is the geographic area of your missional outreach? Although most of your church members live in the suburbs, if your building location is in the urban core of the city, your mission field is a section of the urban core of the city. The question to answer is, “are you a suburban church that meets downtown or are you an urban church in ministry downtown?  Once you have defined and are clear regarding your geographic region, then identify who lives within the mission field. What are their habits and interests? Listen to their stories, identify activities and symbols that help you learn more about them. Although you live someplace other than where your building is located, identify the area around your building as your mission field and the people within your mission field as your mission partners.

4.      What are the assets of our community? (Assets)

This is an important “preparing for mission” activity. Your assets start with the people who live in your mission field. As you meet people and begin to develop relationships, take note of their skills and resources. As you walk your mission field, take note of the services, businesses, physical attributes (parks, attractions, poverty, trash, etc.) and financial assets. If you’re having trouble identifying assets, take a walk in your community and ask people to respond to the questions: “What do you love about our community (neighborhood, or city)?” and “What would you change if you could change it?”

5.      What are the needs in our community? (Needs)

 This is another important “preparing for mission” activity. The needs start with the needs of people in your community. In general, the basic needs are food, water, and shelter. These are followed by safety, love, belonging and self-esteem/respect. Recognizing and realizing our potential, learning, faith, and service round out the list. As you walk your mission field, ask the people you meet to respond to a couple of questions. The first question is, “What do you love about our community (neighborhood, city, etc.)” Make sure to start with what they love, or you will not get much feedback. People like to talk about what they love to anyone who will listen. Then ask the second question, “What needs does the community have?” As you engage people in conversation, follow-up with “Would you like to help address the needs?” Make sure to get contact information so that you might engage them in meeting their needs.

6.      What relationships exist with leaders in our community? (Relationships)

 How are you and other church leaders developing relationships with the following sectors of the community: business, government, education, first responders, faith/religion, arts and entertainment, non-profit, health (hospitals, doctors, nurses, clinics)? Who are the people you already know and what relationships do you have with them? What relationships need to be nurtured, reconciled, re-established? What community leaders are members of your church? One person with whom to start building a relationship beyond the walls of the church is the principal of your local elementary school.

 7.      What is one way we can collaborate with another church? (Collaborations)

Every local church, at their best, is focused on Jesus. Your practices and theology may differ, but you are in the same business of loving others as you have been loved. In other words, you are not in competition with other churches. We are all on the same team. Now is the time to model for others what collaboration can look like, even in the face of differences. Now is the time to have a conversation with another local church leader or pastor. Listen to their stories. Learn of their faith and God’s call upon their lives. Take note of how they express their mission and what disciple-making looks like to them and their faith community.  Reflect upon how you might partner with them in God’s movement of grace and mission of love in your mission field.

You have received much information regarding engaging in mission. As you read, reflect, and respond to this information, prepare your head and heart for the next part of Preparing for Mission: Engaging in Mission Part 2.

Respond

To engage in mission, prepare your heart and mind with prayer. Ask God to help you to be aware of and sensitive to the people you encounter in your mission field. 

Prepare your heart and mind with bible study. Read Luke 10:1-12 and ask God to send you out as a missionary to learn about the mission field you have defined and within which you serve. 

Engage the leaders of your church in participating in the seven questions above. Send your leaders out in teams of two or three to experience the mission, to encounter the people, to assess the assets and needs of the mission field. 

Assist your leaders in identifying and developing the relationships within your mission field. What relationships need to be nurtured, reconciled, or re-established? 

Continue to engage our team in prayer and study. Continue to ask God to help you be aware of and sensitive to the people you encounter. 

Now, how will you love the people God sends your way?  How will you reach and receive them in love? How will you introduce them to God’s love? How will you practice who you are as a follower of Jesus?  In what new way will you love them as Christ has loved you? 

Remember, practice makes perfect. It helps you become who you are created to be. And who you are is how you lead. 

Prayer

O God, make me aware of the people around me today. By your grace, help me be an extension of your love in the lives of the people you send my way. Help me yield a little more of myself so that I may love others as you have loved me in Jesus. Help me be faithful to your call upon my life so that I may be a blessing to someone, somewhere, today. Amen 

Return

As you reflect back upon your day, give thanks for God’s call to follow Jesus. In what did you engage in God’s movement of grace and God’s mission of love? How did you engage the seven missional questions?  Who did you invite to participate with you? How did you feel like a missionary?  

If you did not engage the seven questions today, how will you engage them in the near future? Who will you invite to participate with you? How will you use prayer and study to prepare?

This is part two of a two-part series on Practice your faith. Read Part 1 – Preparing for Mission: Practice Your Faith here

Practicing your faith comes in two ways. First, to practice means to perform an activity or exercise a skill repeatedly in order to improve or maintain your proficiency. In other words, you rehearse or practice. (Part 1) 

Second, practice means to put into action or to implement what you have learned and experienced. It is the actual doing or application of an idea, belief, or method as opposed to talking about it. In other words, you apply or practice what you have rehearsed. 

As a Christ-centered leader, you have the opportunity to nurture people in their faith as well as equip them to live out their faith in everyday situations and circumstances. You have the opportunity to assist them in rehearsing their faith as well as applying their faith in everyday situations with every person they encounter. As a Christ-centered leader, you have the opportunity to put faith into action because that is who you are. You model faith by the way you live your life in relationship with everyone you encounter. 

Jesus gives clear direction in Matthew’s good news. He says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). When you are preparing for mission, practice makes perfect. 

Read Matthew 28:19-20 

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

To get a firm foundation for Practice Your Faith, read 

PREPARING FOR MISSION: What is God’s Mission? Part 1 

PREPARING FOR MISSION: What is God’s Mission? Part 2 

PREPARING FOR MISSION: Building on Hope

Reflect on “Teaching”

The word “teaching” for Matthew refers to who you are to be as a follower of Jesus. For Matthew, you are to be holy. The word means to be “different” as God is different. And you are different in the way you live your life as a person of God’s love. It is who you are and how you live as a follower of Jesus. It is what God’s movement of grace and mission of love means. The different life, the life of holiness, is seen in your relationship with God and with the people around you.  

You practice holy living in your relationships with family, friends, strangers, and enemies.  You are proactive in how you treat others.  You act on behalf of others not because they have acted on your behalf but because you are loved by God. A love you see in Jesus. 

You practice by living with integrity. You practice what you preach. You are as good as your word. You walk your talk. You can be trusted. Your “yes” means “yes” and “no” means “no.” Integrity is who you are. Your values are rooted in God’s love. And even though there are conflicting voices, you are attuned to God’s Word, God’s voice of love, Jesus. 

You practice by keeping your focus on God’s love by working for the well-being of all people. So, you seek first the way of God’s movement of grace and mission of love. You don’t get tripped up on things. To say it another way, you focus more on people than on buildings, furniture, or investments. You focus more on people regardless of their economic, social, or political status. 

Loving others becomes so natural that you care for everyone the way you would care for Jesus. You care because that is who you are, a grace-filled Jesus follower who is putting your faith into action. 

You practice by taking the initiative in forgiveness.  It actually means to forgive as many times as it takes to restore the relationships that are being broken.  It is the relationship that is important. 

Put into Practice 

Here is the key to practicing your faith. The words “to obey” mean “to observe” or to “pay attention to,” or “to put into practice.  To obey “these things” means to put into practice God’s movement of grace and mission of love. To observe or to pay attention to means to be holy. 

It is easy to talk about being holy, but it is not so easy to be holy, to live in right relationship with God and your neighbor. So, practice makes perfect. You practice by living out what you have learned. As a Jesus follower, it means your regular everyday living is holy living. 

The Way You Love

As a Christ-centered leader, you lead others in practicing hospitality and in offering Christ in all they say and do. You practice faith by the way you love others. You practice faith by inviting others to practice what they are learning about “holy living” in relationship to the people they meet each day. 

You nurture the people around you in God’s love and lead them into practicing God’s love in everyday situations and circumstances. You put faith into practice because that is who you are. Who you are is how you lead. 

Respond

So, how will you practice holy living today? Be aware of the people God sends your way. Be mindful of the opportunities you have to respond with love. How will you practice who you are as a follower of Jesus?  In what new way will you love others as Christ has loved you? 

Practicing your faith helps to turn your inner faith into an outward expression of love and care. How will you practice your faith today? 

Remember, practice makes perfect. It helps you become who you are created to be. 

Prayer

O God, make me aware of the people around me today. By your grace, help me be an extension of your love in the lives of the people you send my way. Help me yield a little more of myself so that I may love others as you have loved me in Jesus. Help me be faithful to your call upon my life so that I may be a blessing to someone, somewhere, today. Amen 

Return

As you reflect back upon your day, give thanks for God’s call to follow Jesus. In what ways did you practice your faith? With whom did you share God’s love? How did you invite people into God’s movement of grace and mission of love? How were you hospitable? How did you offer Christ to the people around you?

Think about the people you encountered today. With whom do you need to practice your faith so you will become more who God has created you to be. What will you do differently tomorrow?

The beginning of a new year is an excellent time to refocus on the mission of the church and how you will lead others into focusing upon and living into the mission. As a Christ-centered leader, your primary purpose is to focus on that mission and to equip those whom you lead to do the same. The question is “What is the mission?” 

What is Mission?

Mission is the core purpose of an organization. It tells what an organization focuses upon and does for its customers. It is what sets you apart from other organizations. So, from the perspective of the church, what is the mission? 

To put it simply, the mission of the church is God’s mission. The idea of mission comes from the Latin term, missio Dei, which is a theological term translated “mission of God” or “sending God.” 

Using missio Dei, God’s mission, as a foundation, David Bosch believed that mission was an attribute of God more than an activity of the church. He said God was a sending God. Jurgen Moltmann believed the same. He stated that God’s mission included the church. He wrote, “It is not the church that has a mission of salvation to fulfill in the world; it is the mission of the Son and the Spirit through the Father that includes the church.” 

The Old Testament on Mission

There are numerous scriptures, in both the Old and New Testaments, that name and give support to God’s mission. In the Old Testament there are scriptures like Isaiah 6:8, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!” and Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” 

The New Testament on Mission

In the New Testament there are scriptures like Luke 10:1-11, “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two] others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go…” Mark 16:15, “And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” and Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” These scripture references are focused upon God’s mission in the world that includes the church. 

With God’s mission for the church in mind, let’s look at a scripture that is accepted as a definition of God’s mission.    

Read Matthew 28:16-20 

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him, but they doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

Reflect 

Matthew’s mission was to let people know that God sent Jesus to teach us how to live a holy life. At times he called it “righteousness,” at other times, “holiness,” and once he called it “perfect,” as in “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). From Matthew’s perspective, God sent Jesus to teach us how to live the life God created us to live. 

Set-Apart Life

For Matthew, being a follower of Jesus means you are “set apart” in your living.  You live differently because you see the world (your families, enemies, communities, etc.) and the people of the world differently. You love differently, relate differently, and interact differently because your orientation is different. As a follower of Jesus, you have been created by God, set apart, to live and love differently. 

So, the scripture for today is Matthew’s way of telling his followers how to live this set-apart life. Jesus is sending his followers out to love others into being his followers.  Now, before looking at this particular scripture, let’s look at the other gospels for similar themes. 

Loving Others

Although the context is different, John talks about the set-apart life, as loving others as God in Jesus has loved. John writes, “God is love.”  Jesus says, “…love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35). In other words, the holy life is to love as you have been loved by God. Holiness is to live and love as God has created you to live and love. 

Power to Witness

For Luke, the set-apart life is to receive power to witness beyond the barriers of race, gender, nationality, economic status, etc. In other words, God has provided what is needed to love and include all people in God’s love and community. You are sent out into the world, the community, to live and love as God has created you to live and love, empowered by God’s spirit.    

Love is the Center of a Set-Apart Life

At the very heart of the set-apart life is love, God’s love. The word used for God’s love is “agape.” This love grows out of the will to love. The will to love is not based upon feelings or emotion but upon the conscious and intentional decision to love as you have been loved by God. Love is an action rather than a feeling. So, the set-apart life is seen in your intentional actions of loving others as you have been loved. 

Wesley on Perfection

John Wesley understood this set apart life as Christian perfection. He wrote in his sermon “On Perfection,” “This is the sum of Christian perfection: It is all comprised in that one word, love.” 

So, the mission of the church, according to Matthew, is that wherever you go, love others as you have been loved, invite them into God’s love, immerse them in God’s love, and model God’s love for them.  You make disciples the way Jesus did. You love people into being followers of Jesus. 

In “What is Mission Part 2” we will take a deeper dive into Matthew’s mission for the church. Until then, your mission is to love others, wherever you are and in whatever circumstances, the way you have been loved by God in Jesus. 

Respond 

Even though Matthew does not use the word love, love goes to the heart of God’s mission, which is the very nature and purpose of the church. So, a working definition of mission for the church is a community of God’s people that defines itself, and organizes its life around, its purpose of being an agent of God’s love in the world. 

In other words, the church’s true and authentic organizing principle is love. When the church is loving the people in the community, it is the true church. The church itself is not only a product of that love but is obligated and destined to extend that love. The mission of God flows directly through every believer and every community of faith that follows Jesus.

So, today, watch for opportunities to be an instrument of God’s love. Become aware of the people around you and how you might model God’s love in difficult situations and circumstances.

Practice loving others as you have been loved. Keep in mind that you get to work for the well-being of those who might not think or act the way you do, those who are your neighbors as well as your enemies, and your family and friends.  

Practice receiving God’s love as you let others care for you in ways that allow them to be who God created them to be.

As you experience God’s love, you have the responsibility to share God’s love. Remember, love is not a soft, delicate, emotional gift, but the most healthy, transformative gift of all gifts. Love, agape love, is God’s mission for you, me, and all creation.

Prayer

O God, make me aware of the people around me today. By your grace, help me yield a little more of myself so that I may love others as you have loved me in Jesus. Amen

Return

Give God thanks for the people you encountered today. With whom did you experience God’s love? In what situations were you able to model God’s love? How did you express God’s love? With whom do you need to celebrate the love you experienced in and through them? 

Defining Leadership in Today’s World

Who or what defines a leader? How do you understand the concept of leadership?

I am discovering that most people assume that they know good leadership. Their understandings are based upon what they have seen or experienced. Sometimes their view is limited to a particular place, like the workplace, a service club, the PTA, or the church. Other times their view is based upon a person who has helped meet a need or shown some particular interest in relating to people.

Shifting Views on Leadership

Some people experience leadership all the time. Whether at work, school, the grocery store, or wherever they interact with people. They experience some form of leadership. They understand themselves as leaders, regardless of position or power. Wherever they encounter people, they have the opportunity to influence and to motivate people in one way or another.

In today’s culture, there are many ways to define, think about, and approach leadership. Some say a leader is one who inspires and motivates action. Others say a leader influences and advances change for a more equitable world. Then, there are others who say that a leader is anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and has the courage to develop that potential (Brené Brown). Regardless of your definition, your belief about leadership informs what you think about and practice as a leader. So, how do you understand leadership?

The Need for New Leadership Models

Over my time in ministry, leadership has been limited in understanding. It has been seen as either pastoral (caring for God’s people, counseling, and spiritual care) or entrepreneurial (the leader knows where the church needs to go and has the vision, passion, and strategy to take it there). Pastoral leadership has its roots in scripture. Entrepreneurial leadership has its roots in the sociological aspects of the culture. Both models have their strengths and have met particular needs at particular times.

Because of the cultural shifts being experienced today, the time has come to rethink our leadership models. Most of us have been trained to be good caregivers and caretakers of the people entrusted to us. As we seek uniformity and stability in our congregations, we have learned that good pastoral care helps to get better results. I agree that good pastoral leadership is needed, but it is not enough to navigate the shifts taking place.

Because of the sharp decline in church membership and worship attendance, we have decided to rethink how we develop congregations. Some of you have special gifts of vision and development. You know how to start new faith communities and grow new congregations. I agree that leaders with entrepreneurial gifts are needed, but entrepreneurial leadership is not enough to overcome the shifts taking place.

Please hear me, I am not saying we don’t need pastoral and entrepreneurial leadership. But I am saying neither are adequate, by themselves, to lead through the cultural shifts of today. Both models have their place in providing effective Christ-centered leadership. But, even together, they fall short of the leadership needed to navigate the shifts being experienced today.

Cultural Shifts and the Role of Missional Leadership

Several years ago, I read a story about Halloween Mischief Night in a Philadelphia neighborhood. Two boys broke into a store. They didn’t steal anything, but they did something worse. They went around and changed the price tags on everything in the store. The next morning, people found televisions selling for $10.00, while phone adapters were selling for $1200. What had been made valuable was made cheap, and what was cheap had been made valuable.

That story is a silly illustration of what has happened in our culture over the past several years. It is almost as though someone has broken into our culture and changed the price tags. What we once thought was really valuable and precious does get as much attention as what has always been considered frivolous and worthless. The ground seems to be moving under our feet, and there is no firm place to stand. We are in the midst of some sharp cultural shifts.

The Call for Missional Leaders

The followers of Jesus have navigated cultural shifts from the very beginning. In the early church, the followers of Jesus were sent to serve and convert the world, to care for the sick, the prisoner, the widow, the children, and the poor. They knew they had been called and commissioned by Jesus to carry on his loving service in the world.

They were to engage the world, not withdraw from it. In the middle of a hostile environment, they were to witness to God’s love The front door was the frontier into mission. They were compelled to take the life they shared in the congregation and cross over the threshold into the hostile world outside.

Baptism was a powerful symbol of death to things of the hostile culture and a new birth into the way of Jesus. It was their call to be missional leaders. It meant that they put their lives on the line for the love of God they had experienced in and through Jesus. (The Greek word translated for “witness” is the same word for “martyr”). Leaders put their lives on the line for the love of God.

Living Out the Mission

Then with the conversion of the Roman emperor, Constantine, Christianity became the official religion of the empire. The church was no longer in a hostile environment because the church and the culture became intertwined. The followers of Jesus were no longer called upon to witness in a hostile world because everyone in the culture was Christian.

Over time the church shifted from a community of convinced, committed, believers supporting one another within a hostile environment to a community of good, law-abiding citizens, who paid taxes and supported both religious and secular institutions. Unity was no longer centered upon Jesus but shifted to administration, theology, and politics. Institutional structures were developed to minimize discord and to reconcile differences.

To become a follower of Jesus was to be born into the church. Baptism was no longer a call to mission but an affirmation of your place in the church. People became organizational leaders who became loyal and obedient to the institution.

Today, we no longer live in a culture where we can assume everyone is a follower of Jesus. We can no longer assume that the church is part of the community or vice versa. Although the culture is not totally hostile to the good news of God’s love, A new way of living out the mission is emerging. The shift is back to the mission field being just outside the front door of the church, of the workplace, of your home.

A New Way of Leading: Missional Leadership

In a time in which the mission field is changing, pastoral and entrepreneurial leadership alone are inadequate. The cultural shifts call for more than transitional change. There is a deep need and yearning for transformation. There is a call for a new understanding of leadership. Although pastoral and entrepreneurial leadership are part of it, a new way of leading is emerging. The orientation of leadership is different.

For the sake of clarity, I am calling this new leadership orientation missional leadership. It is not a new leadership concept or model, but it is a new and different orientation for most Christ-centered leaders today.

Missional leadership has its roots in the love of God. At the very heart of missional leadership is the development of a congregational environment where God is the center of conversation and where God shapes the focus and work of the people. It is about a cultural change that is powered by curiosity and imagination more than new techniques or programs.

Shaping Cultural Imagination and Embracing God’s Love

It is about shaping cultural imagination in order to create an environment where people, both in the community and in the church, are embraced by God’s love and set free to love others as they have been loved. It is a missional orientation that cultivates the practice of searching scripture, discerning prayer, and Christian conversation for the purpose of discovering places of God’s life-giving future in Jesus.

Missional leaders know the difference between transitional and transformational change.

They know that transitional change is focused on maintaining stability. What changes are made are reactions to what has caused a disruption or discomfort. The ultimate goal, whether intended or not, is stability at all costs, while transformational change names current reality, focuses upon the goal of new life, and leads the necessary change to build upon the fundamentals that bring about new life.

Differentiating Transitional and Transformational Change

They understand that transitional change is concerned with creating as little pain as possible, while transformational change is “ripping off the band-aid” and moving toward a new reality.

They recognize that transitional change works to maintain the status quo, even if by a different name, while transformational change works to adapt to the changing world and is willing to pay the cost to become effective and fruitful.

Missional leaders have a growing understanding that the church, which is made up of Jesus followers, lives the gospel message that not only embraces personal salvation for individuals but also embraces salvation for communities, cities, social systems, and all of creation. They lead by putting God’s mission at the center.

With entrepreneurial gifts, they develop relationships that assist people in understanding that God’s mission is not about personal preferences, pleasing people, or promoting prosperity. With the care and compassion of the pastor, they lead the shift from program-focused ministry to people-focused ministry. They model leadership by engaging with the community, adapting to societal changes, and helping people become followers of Jesus. They highlight the need to understand and embrace the local community, moving from attractional models to celebrating what God is doing in the community and in the lives of the people.

Engaging the Church and Community

Missional leaders engage the church in God’s active healing and wholeness, leading people to break down the barriers and navigate the obstacles to God’s mercy, equity, justice, and reconciliation. They engage the church and community to “scatter across the countryside” with the love of God experienced and known in Jesus.

So, said in another way, missional leadership isn’t about getting people to a church building on Sunday mornings; it’s about meeting people where they are and forming genuine connections. These connections are the catalyst for healthy and mutual transformation.

In a culture that feels like the price tags have been changed, missional leaders help the church be who God created the church to be at unexpected times in unexpected ways.

A few years ago, in a small rural community Presbyterian church, a young single mother brought her baby to the church to be baptized. On the day of the baptism, she stood alone before the congregation, holding her baby in her arms.

The pastor had not recognized the awkwardness of the situation. He came to the part in the baptismal service when the questions were asked, “Who stands with this child to assure the commitments and promises made here will be carried out? Who will be there for this child in times of need and assure that this child is brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?”

It was then that the pastor realized there was no grandparent or godparent to answer the questions. But without hesitation, as though on cue, the entire congregation stood and with one voice said, “We will.”

Missional Leaders Embody God’s Love

At the very heart of missional leadership is God’s love for all people. Missional leaders develop a congregational environment where God shapes the focus and work of the people. They help shape the cultural imagination in order to create an environment where people, both in the community and in the church, are embraced by God’s love and set free to love others as they have been loved.

Although there is much more that can be and should be said about missional leadership, I will end with this: How do you understand the concept of leadership? Who will stand with the community to ensure the love of God is experienced and known in and through the church? Will you be present and available in times of need and assurance to nurture and guide the community to become who God has created the community to be? Who is ready and willing to be a missional leader? Who you are is how you lead.

Have you ever considered yourself to be a missionary? Have you considered entering a different culture, developing relationships with the people, and sharing God’s love by serving and working with the people? 

Whether you have considered it for yourself or not, you know people who have been called and gifted by God to share the good news of God’s love by learning the traditions and activities of the culture and by developing relationships of trust and compassion. 

They have been trained to be cross-cultural workers, immersed in a culture different than their own, to discover and understand the needs and assets of the people they are called to love and serve. 

Are You A Missionary?

There is a need for people to respond to God’s call by leaving the known and entering the unknown. There is a need to cross the cultural barriers, motivated by God’s love, to love and serve people in the name of Jesus. With that said, have you ever considered yourself to be a missionary? As you reflect upon the question, let me offer a perspective to consider. 

The early followers of Jesus found their identity in his mission. They understood themselves as evidence of the resurrection and that they became part of the loving, healing, feeding, serving, and dying of the Risen Christ. They engaged the world and witnessed to the work of Jesus in the midst of a hostile environment. In the midst of the tension, they did not withdraw from the world or forsake the mission.

Baptism as Calling and Commissioning

Baptism was a powerful symbol of new life in Christ. It symbolized death to things of the world and new birth into the way of Jesus. Through baptism, Jesus followers knew they had been called and commissioned by Jesus to carry out his loving service. They understood the mission field to be where they were at the time. So, they lived out their call in the places they lived and worked. They were driven to ask “Who are we in relationship to those around us? To whom are we sent?” It was out of their experience with Jesus and developing relationships that their understanding of mission emerged.

They put their lives on the line for Jesus as they witnessed to God’s love across boundaries of race, nationality, and economics. They were missionaries just by being followers of Jesus.   

Sharing the Good News of God’s Love

Then, during the age of Christendom, when all institutions of the culture were Christianized, the mission field shifted.  It moved from wherever you were at the time to areas outside the boundaries of the empire or country. To be a missionary during Christendom meant that you entered a culture different than your own, developed relationships with the people, and shared God’s love by serving and working with the people. 

You shared the good news of God’s love by learning the traditions and activities of the culture and by developing relationships of trust and compassion. You became a cross-cultural worker, immersed in a culture different from your own, who worked to discover and understand the needs and assets of the people you were assigned to love and serve. 

The Mission Field is Outside Your Door

That brings us to today. The missionary spirit is in our DNA as a follower of Jesus. But we are living with a Christendom mindset. So, what does that mean?

It means we are in the midst of another shift. Although most of us believe we live in a Christian culture, we can no longer assume everyone is Christian or assume that the community is part of the church. A new way of living out the mission is emerging. The mission field is, once again, just outside the front door.

The reality is wherever you are, you have the opportunity to enter a new community, to learn the traditions and activities of the people, and to develop relationships of trust and compassion. In the truest sense, wherever you are, you are a missionary of the love of God.   

Love Like Jesus

The foundation of being a missionary is Jesus. The greatest distinguishing characteristic of Jesus is love. So, your work as a missionary is to love like Jesus in the places you interact with people on a daily basis. 

To love like Jesus means to focus on people and develop communities of care and compassion. It is a love that defines God’s immeasurable, incomparable love for all people. It is God’s ongoing, outgoing, self-sacrificing interest and concern for creation. God loves you, me, humanity, and all creation without condition. To love like Jesus is the work of the Christ-centered missionary.

Love Lived Out in Relationship with Others

To put it another way, this love is not dependent upon the worth of the people being loved. Love does not count the cost based on the return. It is spontaneous and does not consider beforehand whether it will be effective or proper. This love is the extension of God’s love lived out in and through our relationships with each other. 

So, to love like Jesus means to live the highest form of love described and experienced in the Bible.  It is more than an emotion. It is a matter of will. 

As much as we talk about the church being a family, this love is greater than friends and family. In fact, this love is greater than race, color, or belief. It is a love that intentionally works for the good of each individual regardless of who they are or whether you feel anything or not. This love is greater than politics, nationality, gender, and race. To be a Christ-centered missionary means you live by and serve with love greater than yourself. 

Be a Missionary of Love

To love like Jesus is to understand that love is the greatest expression of relationships. As a missionary of love, you are working for the good of all people. Relationships, and not agreement, are the issue. As a Christ-centered missionary, you love as you have been loved and you courageously serve the community with that same love.

To love like Jesus is to express your love through action. Too often we talk about love and loving others but are slow to live the love we talk about. John, in his first letter wrote, “Those who say, ‘I love God’ and hate their brothers or sisters are liars. After all, those who don’t love their brothers or sisters whom they have seen can hardly love God whom they have not seen! This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also” (I John 4:19-21). 

Be Focused on the Good of Others

To love like Jesus is to be focused on the good of others before it is focused on our own good, desires, expectations, or results. As a Christ-centered missionary, you love because God in Christ first loved you.  

Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” This love is about being who God created you to be for no other reason than being who God created you to be. Who you are is how you love.  

Love the People in Your Community

As a Christ-centered missionary, you love the people in the community where you are at this moment. So, it is important to know your context, your community, the people to whom you are sent (or are sent to you). You love like Jesus so you can fall in love with your community. So, try experimenting with the following: 

  • Take a walk through your community or neighborhood. (This might happen a little differently in some areas. In more rural communities, you might need to drive by your neighbors). Organize a group of people in your church to walk together in twos or threes. 
  • Pray for each family in the homes as you walk by. Ask God to help you be the neighbor God needs you to be for them. Pray for their well-being. Ask God to love them through you. Pray for each business, service, hotel, etc. that you pass by. Ask God to love the people you meet through you. 
  • Engage the people you meet along the way in conversation. Ask them, “What do you like about our community or our neighborhood?” “If anything, what would you like to see changed?” As you reflect upon your conversations, think about how you and/or the church can come alongside the people in the community? 
  • Take note of the different agencies and services in your community. Are there schools? Libraries? Police stations? Fire stations? Extended care facilities? What other assets can you identify? Medical clinics? Social agencies? Begin to engage your church in prayer. Pray, “Oh God, help us see you in the people in our community. What do we need to do that no one else is doing?” 
  • In your conversations, listen to the needs in your community. Is there a need for food? Housing? Childcare? Community park activities? Health care? Pray, “Oh God, send us the people that no one else wants and help us love the people you send to us.” 
  • Identify the individuals in your congregation who can assist in making connections in the community. Who are the leaders in the community? Who are school teachers or administrators? Who has influence among the people? Now, pray for each of them. Ask God to prepare them for the mission of loving the community as God has loved them. At the appropriate time, ask them to assist you in relating to the community. 
  • Identify other churches you might ask to be a partner with you in developing relationships and providing resources. Give God thanks for the opportunity to be a conduit of God’s love to the community. 

So, as a Christ-centered missionary, you love like Jesus, and you love the people in your community. The question is, “do you need special training to love? 

The answer is no. You love people and your community as God in Jesus has loved you. 

Jesus Loves You

Tony Campolo tells the story of being a counselor at a junior high camp early in his ministry. He said junior-high boys have a strange and often cruel sense of humor. There is a strong tendency to pick on anyone who is different, to make fun of them, and make them the brunt of their jokes. 

He said this was the case during one particular week of summer camp. The boys picked on a thirteen-year-old boy named Billy who had difficulty walking and talking. He had cerebral palsy. 

The boys at the camp would often mimic his gestures. They thought it was funny to imitate his halting movements and his slurred speech. Their actions were cruel at best, but the cruelest thing they did was on Thursday morning of the camp. 

On that day, Billy’s cabin had been assigned to lead the morning devotions. They voted for Billy to be the speaker. They wanted to get him up and in front of everybody so they could be entertained by his struggling attempts at speaking.   

Surprisingly, it did not bother Billy. When the time came for the devotion, he dragged himself up to the front of the room. Except for the snickering of the boys from his cabin, everyone was quiet and attentive.   

Campolo said, It took Billy almost30 seconds to say, ‘Jesus…loves…me…and…I…love…Jesus.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus…loves…you…too.’” 

Campolo said, “When he finished, there was stunned silence.  When I looked over my shoulder, I saw that all over the place there were junior-high boys with tears streaming down their cheeks. Some of them had their heads bowed.” 

He said, “We had done many things that week to try to reach the boys with the gospel message, but nothing had worked. We had even brought in baseball players whose battering averages had gone up since they started praying, but it had no effect on the boys. It wasn’t until Billy, with his slurred speech, declared his love for Jesus that everything changed.” 

It was years later, while traveling, that Campolo met a young man who said, “You probably don’t remember me. I became a Christian at a junior high camp where you were a counselor.” Before the conversation was over the man said, “Jesus reached out and spoke to me through Billy.” 

Friends, God doesn’t need superstars or trained witnesses. As it says in the scripture, God likes to take “the stones which the builders reject” to use as the foundation rock for loving all of creation. 

Are You a Missionary?

Have you ever considered yourself to be a missionary? When you leave your home, your work or your church building, you are entering the mission field where people need a kind, caring, encouraging word. God has already loved you through his Word made flesh in Jesus. The joy and peace of this life come through sharing what you have received. 

When you enter your community, you have the opportunity to develop new relationships and to share the joy and peace you have received in the name of the living God who loves you in Jesus and who empowers you to share God’s love through the Holy Spirit. 

Whether you have considered being a missionary or not, you are a missionary just by following Jesus. Today, love like Jesus and love your community. Be the missionary you have been called and gifted to be right where you are at this moment.  And remember, who you are is how you lead.  

Who or what comes to mind when you hear the word “missionary”? Is it someone who leaves everything behind and enters a foreign cultural context to serve God? Is it someone who crosses cultural barriers to share the good news of Jesus? Is it someone who goes beyond their natural environment and into a new one motivated by the love of God?  

Who or what comes to mind? Traditionally a missionary has been seen as someone who enters a culture different than their own, develops relationships with the people, and shares God’s love by serving and working with the people. They share the good news of God’s love by learning the traditions and activities of the culture and by developing relationships of trust and compassion with the people. A missionary is a cross-cultural worker, immersed in a culture different than their own, to discover and understand the needs and assets of the people they are called to love and serve.   

Are you a missionary?

Who or what comes to mind? Have you ever considered yourself to be a missionary? Maybe you can think of it this way. Wherever you are called to serve, you have the opportunity to enter a new community, learn the traditions and activities of the community, and to develop relationships of trust and compassion with the people. In the truest since, wherever you are, you are a missionary of the love of God you have experienced in and through Jesus.     

On Mission for Jesus

The early followers of Jesus were missionaries. They found their identity in his mission. They understood themselves as evidence of the resurrection and that they became part of the living, serving, and dying of the Risen Christ. Their witness was seen in their loving, serving, and caring for the sick, the prisoner, the widow, the fatherless, and the poor. 

They engaged the world and witnessed to the work of Jesus in the midst of a hostile environment. Whether it was living in tension with the established religion (Judaism) or being persecuted by the government (Roman), they did not withdraw from the world or forsake their mission. They were missionaries of the Risen Christ.

They understood themselves as called to ministry through their baptism. As baptized followers of Jesus they lived out their call to ministry with the people they encountered each day in the area in which they lived. As they worshiped, they listened to the stories of Jesus and how he interacted with people. It was out of their developing relationships and their experience of Jesus that their understanding of mission emerged. 

They put their lives on the line for Jesus as they witnessed to God’s love across boundaries of race, nationality, and economics. The mission field was at their front door. In other words, they became missionaries of Jesus with everyone they met.

Prepared to Be Messengers

Those early followers were missionaries of the Risen Christ. In the bible, you can read about the Acts of the Apostles. I’m being a little “biased” here, but some of my favorite stories are of people like Philip, Peter, and Ananias meeting people along the way. God has prepared them to be God’s messenger as they meet those who have been pushed to the edges of society and cut off from the community of faith, who are theologically and religiously misaligned with the new community of Jesus followers, and that Jesus is greater than cultural norms and religious laws.

As missionaries, they saw themselves as evidence of the resurrection of Jesus. They told everyone they met about Jesus. When the religious council heard of what they were doing, the followers of Jesus were told to stop. But they persisted. So, the religious council had them arrested and beaten. 

Then the followers of Jesus were told not to speak in the name of Jesus again. Read the words for yourself from Acts 5:33-42

As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah” (Acts 5:41-42).

Worship as a Celebration of Christ

Worship was the celebration of their experiences of the Risen Christ and of what God was doing in the lives of the people they met each day. To be considered worthy to suffer for the sake of Jesus was reason to worship and to continue to witness to the mighty acts of God. So, these early missionaries, freshly beaten, walked down the road with their heads held high, smiling, giving each other first-century high fives, because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the name of Jesus.

To our modern-day ears, being a missionary does not sound very inviting. You and I have been shaped by a different worldview. Those early followers were part of a missionary age while we have been influenced by Christendom. In a missionary age, the mission field was wherever you were at any given moment. In Christendom, the mission field moved to countries beyond the borders of the empire or country in which you were living.

Specialized Ministry

The shift came with the conversion of Constantine. He declared that all the empire was Christian. With that edict, the identity and mission of the church shifted from being a voice and force in a hostile culture to becoming the official religion of the Roman empire. With that shift came a different understanding of being a missionary. As a follower of Jesus, you were no longer a missionary as you stepped out the front door. Being a missionary became a specialized ministry that carried the good news to countries outside the empire.

Baptism was no longer a call to ministry but became a rite of claiming new followers of Jesus for the empire or the institution providing the baptism. The shift was from being centered upon Jesus to being centered upon a particular culture, theology, and worldview.

Most of us, if not all of us, have been shaped by the idea that being a missionary means you pack up your belongings, travel to a foreign culture, to serve God by crossing cultural barriers to teach people about Jesus. There is a kernel of truth to that idea, but only a kernel.   

A Christ-Centered Missionary

When I ask the question, “Who or what comes to mind when you hear the word “missionary?” We have been shaped by a worldview different from those early followers of Jesus. So, take a deep breath in, now let it out. You are not going to be beaten for your faith in Jesus today.  But you are not off the hook.

What does it mean to be a Christ-centered missionary today? We are living in a new missionary age. Although most of us still believe we live in a Christian culture, we can no longer assume everyone is Christian or assume that the community is part of the church. A new way of living out the mission is emerging. The mission field is, once again, just outside the front door. And you, as a follower of Jesus, are a missionary in the places you live, work, and play.

Follow Jesus in the Every Day

So, being missionary today means you are a follower of Jesus in everyday places. You are learning about the traditions and activities of the community. You are developing relationships of trust and compassion. You are listening to and learning about the hopes and dreams of the people, while at the same time being the evidence of God’s love in every situation and circumstance. Your witness is seen in your loving, serving, caring for the sick, the children, and the poor. You are engaging your community and witnessing to the work of Jesus in an environment crying out for connection and care. You don’t have to have special training or go “overseas.” You are a missionary of the Risen Christ right where you are at this very moment.

Oh, there is much more to be said about being a missionary today. I will go deeper in the meaning and purpose of being a missionary in the blogs that follow this one. But for now, let this story illustrate what it means to be a missionary today.

Go to Jesus

Will Davis Campbell was a minister, author, and activist. He was a supporter of civil rights in the southern United States during the 1950’s and 60’s. He is best known for his book, Brother to a Dragonfly.  I wanted to introduce him to you to tell you this story.

As a preacher in the tradition of “altar calls”, he preached a sermon critiquing “the invitation” given in at the end of the sermon.  The preacher in most southern churches invited people, who wanted to commit their lives to Christ, to come down the aisle to the altar of the church to indicate their desire.

In his sermon, Will Campbell said, “I hope that someday there will be an evangelistic service when the preacher gives the invitation and people start coming down the aisle, and he yells back at them, ‘Don’t come down the aisle! Go to Jesus! Don’t come to me! Go to Jesus!’

“Upon that declaration, the people who are coming down the aisle will turn around and exit the auditorium, get in their cars, and drive away. He then yells at the rest of the congregation, ‘Why are you hanging around here? Why don’t you go to Jesus too? Why don’t you all go to Jesus?’ The people will rise quickly, leave the church, and soon the parking lot is empty.”

We Want to See Jesus

Campbell continued, “What I imagine is that about a half hour later the telephone at the police station starts ringing off the hook, and the voice on the other end says, ‘We are down here at the old folks’ home and there are some crazy people at the door yelling that they want to come in and visit Jesus. I keep telling them Jesus isn’t here. All we have in here is a bunch of old lonely and forgotten people. But they keep saying “But we want to visit Jesus. We want to visit Jesus.’”

“The next call is from the warden down at the prison.  He is saying, “Send some police down here. There are a bunch of people at the gate yelling, ‘Let us in there. We want to visit Jesus. We want to visit Jesus.’ I keep telling them that all we have in his place are murderers, rapists, and thieves. But they keep yelling, ‘Let us in. We want to visit Jesus.’”

“As soon as the phone is put down it rings again. This time it is the superintendent of the state hospital calling for help.  He is complaining that there are a bunch of people outside begging to be let in. They, too, want to see Jesus. The superintendent says, ‘I keep telling them Jesus isn’t here. All we have a bunch of sick people, but they keep yelling at us, “We want to see Jesus.”

Follow Jesus into the Community

As much as the story is slanted, it reflects the truth. As a missionary, you follow Jesus into the community to meet his friends who are sick, lonely, broken, lost, hungry, homeless, imprisoned, marginalized, and forgotten. As a missionary, when you worship, you gather to celebrate where you have seen God at work, where you have experienced Jesus and his love for people and the community.

In the day in which we live, in the context of our culture, you are a missionary where you are at this very moment. The question is, “Where are you seeing Jesus in the lives of the people?” As you reflect upon that question, consider this: Ask yourself, “Where am I experiencing Jesus in the community, at work, on the golf course, and at the ballpark?”

Look for Jesus in the Lives of People

To be a missionary is to get outside of the walls of the church building and look for Jesus in the lives of the people God sends your way. As a follower of Jesus, you have the opportunity to love others as you have been loved, to serve others in Jesus’ name, and to become the leader you were created to be by leading others into the mission field. 

As a missionary, you have been given the power to communicate across the barriers taught and experienced over centuries. You are a witness to God’s love in Jesus which is greater than the prejudices that keep people out of the community of faith. You have been given the power to address the barriers of biblical and theological ignorance rooted in the misunderstanding of who has received God’s grace and who is included in the community of faith.  

Communicate Beyond Barriers

You have been given power by God, through God’s holy spirit, to be a witness, starting where you are, in the church, in the community, and in all the world. It is God’s power given to you that communicates beyond the barriers. 

So, put this blog down and get out in the community to see Jesus. Look for him everywhere you go and when you gather with other believers, tell them where you have seen Jesus and what he is up to in loving, caring, serving, and forgiving. Put this blog down and get out there. Your community is crying out for the love of Jesus that holds them and will not let them go.

Be the leader you have been created to be. Because who you are is how you lead.