3 Missionary Behaviors
I've been thinking a lot about being a missionary lately. I know it should weigh heavy on my mind all the time, but with our upcoming transition to start Ridgeline Church in Salt Lake City, I'm thinking about it far more. In a city with 40% Latter Day Saints, 27% unaffiliated with any religion and less than 3% evangelical Christians, we are certainly headed to a mission field.
As a result, I have three behaviors I believe will help us practice a missionary posture in our new city:
Love drove Jesus' mission (John 3:16). If love drove His mission, it must drive mine. The problem is, people are hard to love. When people think differently than I do, when they don't do the things I want them to do, when people conflict with my comfort, loving them becomes very difficult. This means I'm desperate for the Holy Spirit to change my heart and help me live a more loving life. I'm praying for the grace to love people more faithfully. I want to love the way I've been loved.
When Paul went to Athens in Acts 17, he did so with his eyes open to learn the people he was pursuing. He was distressed when he saw the idolatry of the city (Acts 17:16). He even used the idolatry as a starting point from which to share the good news of Jesus, the one true God (Acts 17:22). While all humans have been created by God with the same basic longing for Him (Ecc.3:11), every people group and every city have unique aspects to their beliefs, practices and cultures. The missionary's responsibility is to learn these characteristics as a bridge by which to take the gospel to those who don't know Jesus.
The whole "If you build it they will come" thing works great when you're building a magical baseball field in your backyard, but it's a losing missionary strategy. We can't simply sit back and expect people to come to us, Jesus has called you and I to "GO make disciples..." (Matt.28:19). This means we have to labor to live among people who don't know Jesus. This is what Jesus meant when He said He was sending us "into the world" (John 17:14-19). To live our lives in a "holy huddle" surrounded by Christians alone is to miss the mark of the mission we've been called to.
I need to more faithfully love the people God has called me to. I need His eyes to see, understand, and thus learn these people. I need to step out of my comfort zone and live among those who need the very Savior who was sent so we could live with Him.
This season for us will be a new season of stretching. None of this is natural to me. My guess is, most of this isn't natural to you. Thankfully every follower of Jesus is filled with the SUPERnatural empowering strength of God's very Spirit.
We can grow. We can stretch. We can change.
I'm counting on it.