In my last post I looked at how Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow him and fish for people. I also asked what ways following Jesus changed them. It seems to me that when Jesus called them to fish for people, he radically changed their mission in life.
Jesus was willing to take these fishermen to water they hadn’t chartered before. They left behind everything that was familiar. Now, that’s scary. I like to pretend I’m really brave but deep down I’m not. I find new things daunting. I’ve never been skydiving but I’ve heard sometimes people need to be pushed out the door. The fear paralyzes them.
Going on mission can be daunting. We can fear. What if we get it wrong? What if people think I’m stupid? When I was first challenged by God’s mission, I found myself talking about it doing it but my words didn’t convict me because I also found excuses not to be missional. Here are 5 excuses I’ve made.
5 Missional Excuses We Make
1. I Don’t Know Where To Begin
I meet so many people who don’t think they know the Gospel well enough to be able to live missionally. The thing is it’s ok not to have all the answers. Just think of the Samaritan woman. She had a single conversation with Jesus but that was enough. She shared that with others and they went to find out more. If you don’t know where to begin, look at what you’ve got – your relationship with Jesus. He is present with you when you are with others.
I’m writing in the local library. On the wall there’s a sign ‘French Storytime for Preschoolers.’ I don’t speak French at all. Maybe this is one of the problems we have with missional living if we have been in church for a long time. We know the Gospel, but we only know it in Gospel language. We don’t know how to speak the Gospel in the language of the streets.
Maybe it’s time to hang out with people. Have people round for dinner. Start listening to people’s stories. See where the Gospel is needed in the everyday parts of their lives.
Missional living so often begins with listening – hearing people’s stories, seeing where God is working and how he is inviting you to join in. Where is the Gospel needed in the everyday parts of people’s lives?
2. Being Missional Will Cause Problems At Work
There’s some truth behind this excuse. Employers pay people to do their jobs and not share their faith. But this isn’t all that people do. We talk in our workplaces, whether it’s in the office or over the checkout when there’s no customers. I knew someone who wouldn’t talk about Jesus, God or church because it wasn’t ‘work related’ but would join in conversations about tv and current events. Fear was really behind the excuse.
However, surely there are ways that we can still be missional in our workplaces. I’ve heard of someone who makes cakes and slices just to bless her co-workers. I know another who knows how to spot when someone is down and checks up on them. A friend leaves encouraging notes on other’s desks from time to time.
Sometimes being missional in the workplace requires creatively seeking ways to bless others.
3. It’s Not Who I Am
I can so relate to this excuse as an introvert. I can pretend I’m not called to share my faith. And I can even pretend I can defend it Biblically because God has gifted ‘some’ to be evangelists. Of course all of this is nonsense.
God calls all of his followers to make disciples, and those he’s gifted, is for the purpose of equipping his followers. It may be uncomfortable, but simply put, to be a follower of Jesus is to be on his mission. There’s no real options here.
Is it that being missional is not who you are, or just that it’s not convenient, not a priority? Be honest, say you don’t want to.
Is it that being missional is not who you are, or just that it’s not convenient, not a priority?
4. I don’t Know Enough Non-Christians
I remember being told I needed to make more friends because all my close ones were Christian. This annoyed me because it ignored my circumstances. I was at a Christian school, went to church on Sundays, youth group, and I find it hard to make good friends. They were well-meaning, but prescriptive.
There can be lots of reasons why people can feel isolated or just don’t feel they have capacity to extend their social network. Pastors. The elderly. Sometimes those with mental illness and disabilities. Even parents of young children who feel ‘trapped’ at home. In Christian communities this results in people feeling like they don’t know enough non-Christians to be missional.
As I’ve grown older I’ve begun to realise I know (or at least connect) with lots of people. My wife normally hates my haircut for the first 2 weeks. She says I look like a teenager. But it’s not about the hair for me. The barber I go to is Middle-Eastern and, given some of Australia’s social views, I expect that they could at times feel not very socially accepted. I don’t know his back-story, but in his broken English, he was telling me about his children. I introduced my 10 month old daughter a few weeks later when I saw his store was quiet. He was overwhelmed by her blue eyes and that I remembered what he had said. We don’t need to be best friends with people to show them God’s love, we just need to see they’re there.
Sometimes we act like we must be friends with someone before we tell them about Jesus. But you can be missional by showing people God’s love even if they aren’t your best friend.
5. People Won’t Listen Or Believe Me
Sometimes we use this excuse because we are worried that other people will judge us. In a culture where following Jesus seems to be increasingly counter-cultural, who wants to be judged? No one wants to be labeled as the spiritual weirdo.
Perhaps you use this excuse because you’ve been there before. You’ve tried to live out Jesus’ mission and been rejected. Shame is a powerful opponent. But Jesus defeated it on the Cross. This is the Gospel we tell others.
Maybe some people will listen, maybe some won’t. Maybe some people will believe, maybe some won’t. One thing is certain, they won’t listen or believe if you don’t show and tell people about Jesus. Behind this excuse is the fact that we’ve predetermined a negative outcome. We believe people aren’t interested. In other words, we often forget how powerful the Gospel is.
Shame is a powerful opponent. But Jesus defeated it on the Cross. This is the Gospel we tell others.
So instead of excuses…
Find God’s Missional Story
God’s heart is for people. This is the story of the whole Bible. We break the Bible up into chunks so often that we miss the missional thread that runs right through it. The mission of God is to be in relationship with his people. It starts in Creation and The Garden of Eden as he walks with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening. Sin affects the relationship but his mission to be in relationship continues through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God sends Jesus willingly to deal with sin and the power it had over us on the Cross. As Jesus rose from the grave he was the promise that death had lost and we too would live with him forever.
We have been changed. We are made saints in Jesus even though we were once sinners; brought from darkness into light. Our identity has changed. We are brought into God’s family. And we’ve been given a mission. We have been given the Holy Spirit to enable us to continue his work of bringing people into relationship with him.
The end of the story isn’t sitting on clouds playing harps. We have hope which is larger than you or me. Jesus will bring God’s new, redeemed earth. There will be no more tears, sickness or death. Our fragile bodies transformed and perfected.
And God will be physically there with us. It’s a return to those walks in the cool of the evening from Eden. God has recreated, or redeemed, everything, including us, so we could have a relation with him. He dealt with Satan, sin, and its effects once and for all.
The future hope informs our present reality. Even though we have been made new through Jesus, we still experience brokenness. But in the midst of this brokenness, we can invite the Holy Spirit to fill us with hope. The one who raised Jesus from the dead will raise us from our broken world to be with him.
When we live our lives like this we are a foretaste of God’s kingdom. We aren’t the real deal yet; only Jesus is. But our lives are pointing to a day when Jesus will make all things new. And in the meantime we join Jesus saying ‘Taste and see the Lord is good.’
This is the story of who we are as God’s people. It is my story. It is your story. If we want to be ‘missional’ people, we need this story. We need to know that it’s God’s mission, and he’s inviting us to join in. We need to know it’s all about relationship, but also more cosmic than we’ve probably ever thought.
Want to change the culture? Give them a new story.