Demystifying Mission.

The following is a guest post by Tyler Recker.

At the risk of oversimplification, I think that folks who aren’t living on mission find themselves in one of two positions. A) They have been swallowed up by Christian culture, so that they honestly don’t know any non-believers on a meaningful level or B) They live life among non-believers but they compromise so that there is no discernible difference in lifestyle between believers and non-believers.

Church folk like myself are tempted to be silent on the first and look down upon the latter, but the fact is that it doesn’t matter which side of the horse we fall off when we’re lying on the ground. Ignoring Jesus’ commands is sin whether one appears more conservative or not.

Likewise, I would say that it is fairly common to run across believers’ who have been neglecting mission and feel convicted about it, but don’t know how to change to be more focused on mission.

The fact is that, conceptually, the process is very simple, even while practically it can get complicated.

Build meaningful relationships with non-believers that lead to opportunities to live and voice the Gospel while trusting the Holy Spirit to do what only He can do.

1. Build meaningful relationships with non-believers

Some people need to be reminded how to make friends…especially if you’re introverted like I am. Strive for “Continuous relationships around a mutual interest over a long period of time…” (credit Tim Sherwood for that phrase…as we sat and talked mission on the deck of the Holloway home one night).

So, you like biking? Join a bike club. Meet people. Go to lunch with them afterward.

So, you read weird books about orcs and dragons? Join an orcs and dragons book club, and meet people.

Your career has a club? National Association of Cubicle Workers? Join. Meet people. Cultivate relationships.

Your kid is on a sports team? Show up and redeem the time by mingling with parents. Invite a family over to dinner.

You get the picture.

2. that lead to opportunities to live and voice the Gospel

After you’ve incarnated in the culture, then it’s time to just abide in Christ, living by convictions, and living the Kingdom and waiting for the Holy Spirit to open doors. Sometimes that means that He lays it on your heart to steer the conversation towards the Gospel. Sometimes He moves the conversation there through the other person.

God is at work drawing His people to Himself long before you get to them. Take comfort. Pray for them. Live as elect exiles…aliens…

Then explain the Gospel.

AND…

After you’ve spoken about the Gospel, keep the relationship intact. You’re not selling Amway where you get to just move on, you are preaching the Gospel with your mouth and validating the message with your life.

Don’t throw away the friendship after you’ve “fulfilled” your agenda. Your “agenda” is loving people. Loving people requires sharing the Gospel message, but it also keeps going after the spoken message also. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

3. while trusting the Holy Spirit to do what only He can do.

Ultimately, God has to regenerate the hearts of unbelievers. He does this through the means of faithful Gospel sharing. So share faithfully, but don’t carry the burden of trying to do the impossible. Jesus said that in order to squeeze a camel through the eye of a needle, God has to do the impossible.

If you blow an opportunity, resolve to take it next time. If you stumble on tough questions, remember it’s not about “lofty speech and wisdom” (2 Cor. 2). And if you don’t know the answer to a question….say “I don’t know.”

Jesus built his Church when the Holy Spirit empowered regular folks like fishermen, tax collectors, and the like to boldly live and proclaim the Gospel. He can use you in ways you can’t imagine if you’ll just be obedient and get a little uncomfortable.

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10 thoughts on “Demystifying Mission.

  1. Thanks Tyler for such a good perspective. A Christian who is living an effective missional life would fall somewhere between the A and B extremes.
    I remember a friend who decided that she would say “God bless you” to everyone she passed that day instead of saying “Hello” in hopes that it would lead to conversation about the Lord and an opportunity to witness. The first person she said “God bless you” to, said in return ” I didn’t sneeze!”. I think the lesson to be learned is to be genuinely caring about the people that cross your path whether at school, at the grocery store, doctor’s office or at work.
    Learn to be friendly. Make eye contact, don’t ignore people. Ask them questions about themselves. Show genuine interest in their life. Isn’t that what Jesus did?

  2. Thanks Tyler. I’m wondering how you maintain good relationships with those you have shared the gospel with? Can you elaborate? I’ve found it commonplace that those I have the opportunity to share with tend to become scarce afterward. It’s not that I don’t remain available for them, but telling someone that they, in their current state deserve to be away from the presence of God forever, and unless they see that their sin has caused a seperation between them and their God, admit that what they thought was the way to salvation was wrong, believe that Jesus died for their sin and rose from the dead, and ask Jesus to be their Lord, they will get what they deserve, people tend to look at you differently after that. They tend to not want to hang out with you. You know: light vs. darkness…

    The point is that the Gospel is, was, and always will be offensive to those who choose not to accept it, and life for those who choose to accept it. The gospel doesn’t cause gradual change in our unbelieving friends. It divides. Matt 10:32-36 makes it clear. In context, the message is undeniable: if you plan on being known by the Father, you will share Jesus before men. The cost? Possibly every meaningful relationship you have will be lost.

    The gospel is the most polarizing message there is. Jesus made it clear: John 14:6. He doesn’t make exceptions: His way or you don’t make it. The saints we read about in the New Testament were being slautered for their obedience in sharing their faith. The only thing we have to fear is rejection by loved ones and friends, and maybe losing our jobs. This is not a game. Jesus died for the sins of the world. The world is out there. The fields are over ripe for the harvest, and the Lord is looking for workers (no experience necessary – on the job training).

    Are you up for it? It will cost you your life. Is it worth it? Giving up your “friends”, and family for the One who died and rose again on your behalf. Don’t take it from me. It’s Jesus who said we have to lose our lives (Matt 16:25), sell everything (Luke 12:33), and share our faith (2 Cor 5:14-21). It’s worth it. Just remember: Self deception is silly: This is not a game. It is what our Lord & Master requires of us.

    We hired a plumber last night to fix our leaky faucet. Afterward, my dad and I sat down and began to open up a conversation about Jesus. Turns out he is a brother, and a great guy. After spending a few minutes talking to him about his family, opened up the conversation with the best gospel sharing opening question there is, and knew of his faith based on his answer!

    See you soon! Thanks to all who are praying for my mom and family as we see her get closer to going home to Jesus more and more every day.

    • I do believe that conversion happens in a moment. But I don’t think it’s fair to say that evangelism always happens in a moment.

      (EDIT as of 10:39pm on 2/10: when I say that I don’t think evangelism always happens in a moment, I mean that at times you may give someone the fullness of the Gospel, and then have to still walk with them for a while after that. I am not saying that I think you should always wait until you feel perfectly comfortable before sharing with them, or that you should be afraid of offending their background. Thank you to the brother who helped me see the muddiness of my statement.)

      Nicodemus seems to have had a slow journey to faith. From total lack of understanding in John 3 to his wishy-washy way in John 7 to helping Joseph bury Jesus in John 19.

      I think another important thing to keep in mind is that in the New South where we live, many of the people are culturally Christian (which is not really Christian at all) or dechurched (in the “I used to go to church, but I saw bad things happen there, so now I don’t believe” sense). When folks are culturally Christian and you talk to them about the reality of the Gospel, sometimes the response even from someone who is totally lost is a sense of “Of course” without really understanding the message.

      Sometimes it takes life on life for them to see the implications of the Gospel in someone’s life, so you can have further conversation from 1 John or somewhere else. “You say you’re a believer, but how come there’s no fruit?”

      We live in a culture inundated with advertising and quick-sells. People are weary. Sometimes it takes living in relationship with them so they can work through unimportant secondary issues (“all Christians are hypocrites”, etc.) and can see the real offense of the Gospel (Because of my sin against a holy God, I deserve to die).

      True, some will hear the message and become very offended and that is good. I heard the message and wasn’t turned off from hanging out with believers. I kept hanging around them for 9 months before God opened my eyes to the Gospel and gave me a new heart.

  3. Vince – You are right that the gospel is offensive. Its a stumbling block to those who are perishing and a rock that makes them fall (1 Peter). I need to make sure I’m offending with the Gospel, and not allowing a relational connection to compromise the offensiveness of the Gospel – great point.

    However, I also know there have been folks whom I have shared the Gospel with that would not really listen to Truth, until they saw it fleshed out in my life. I have a friend who used to be a Muslim, but is a faithful follower of Jesus today for that reason. Myself and several others shared the gospel with him, and he began attending church with us. After several years of real relationship and friendship with this person, he saw the love of Christ manifested in our actions towards him, and that is what God used to bring him to trust in Christ. We never compromised the Gospel, or watered it down to make it more palatable….he knew all along that we believed he was under God’s wrath until he trusted in Christ.

    As far as “how” you maintain the relational connection with folks, I think you just have to be willing to be available to people. Some need questions answered and some just need to see the tangible difference Christ has made in our lives.

    With some people, God tells me to share the gospel with them and I will have no other relational contact with them ever again, but these are people who are already strangers to me. Sometimes I will share the gospel with “friends” and they will turn their back on me and never want to speak with me again. You’re right, I must be willing to risk that and let them leave….and I will, but I will also let them know that I’m available if they ever need anything, or want me to pray for them. Lastly, there will be those for whom the Gospel is something new and different…they want to hear more and let it sink in. Those are the folks I need to make sure I am not “offending” by walking away from them and making them feel like they were my “project”.

    Grace.

  4. Good post, Tyler. I find that too often I am in Category A. I don’t want to be there, really. I just find that I don’t know many lost people that I see consistently. My hair stylists and pedicurist that I see whenever I have extra allowance have heard it as have the family that I know aren’t born again. However, I don’t have anyone else and I am not sure how to get them. My life feels, and I use the word feels on purpose because I am sure it is perception and not reality, that I have no room aside my current responsibilities or financial constraints to get involved in new activities to meet folks. I am not even sure what that would look like for me as far as choice of activity. I know I am an A, but I don’t know how to get back on the horse.

    • Shawna, thank you for your honesty and transparency. As a minister, that is easily the side I am most pulled towards.

      As a church family living in community, let us all seek to continue to spur category A folks and category B folks to get back on the horse.

      We all must remember that when Jesus tells us to make disciples, he meant it, and to the degree we ignore that, we are in rebellion.

      The church was created by mission (Acts 1-2) and lives for mission.

      We all must spur one another towards mission constantly, or we’ll find ourselves becoming one of those churches that is so irrelevant (word not used in the seeker sense) that we argue about the color of curtains.

  5. Thanks Ken, for the tip. We also have people who we have shared with who still cone by on Sundays to eat, and who ask us out To dinner now and then.

    You are SO right about the call to be Holy in all things! It takes all the pressure off when someone comes to you and asks you “Why do you handle things so completely different?, or “Why don’t you ever swear?”. A righteous life opens more doors to the gospel than any other way! We are called to be holy (1 Pet 1:16) just as strongly as we are called to be ambassaders (2 Cor 5:20). Can you really separate these 2 callings? I don’t see how!

    I know for sure people are not projects, yet many times my motive for being at an event with a group is to have a chance to make a connection and get to know someone in order to share the gospel with them. I confess that it is my only motive sometimes. I feel compassion when I see how one dimensional their lives are and often that brings me back to Jesus to thank Him for drawing me to Him and offering me the opportunity to receive His gift, which makes me want to share with those who are dead like I was even more! I love having Colleen with me in social situations. She is copassionate and great at the small talk and socializing that I struggle with. Al Spalding and I are teamin up as well, because our personalities compliment each other.

    Shawna-Maybe you can hook up with a social butterfly like believer who has a lot of interaction with the unsaved and pair up as a team. That would give you opportunities to share without making you change who you are. Partnering up with your hubby or best friend can go a long way in getting you out there. Certainly, pairing up is a completely biblical concept ( Mark 6:7, Luke 10:1-). I think having at least one evangelism parter who will challenge, encourage, and support you is a key to sucessful missional living.

  6. “We are called to be holy (1 Pet 1:16) just as strongly as we are called to be ambassaders (2 Cor 5:20). Can you really separate these 2 callings? I don’t see how!”

    You absolutely cannot seperate these two callings. I am not advocating that.

    “my motive for being at an event with a group is to have a chance to make a connection and get to know someone in order to share the gospel with them.”

    Amen. I often feel the same. When you love people, you share because you love them. Even if you’re just meeting them. But when people are projects. You share so you can go back and boast to church friends or to pacify your guilt in this area. It makes a big difference, and I think non-believers sense that.

  7. Vince: Thank you! That is a great idea! I will begin to find a connection point that may be there for me through someone I know and start the process there. Thank you for the encouragement! Sometimes the desire is there enough to move us, but the practical pathway is not visible to us and we need our brothers and sisters to help us see them! You have encouraged me!!!

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