Living missionally didn’t come easy for me. I struggled with it. Maybe it was because I’m an introvert. Just the thought of having to engage with people often left me feeling emotionally drained. I just didn’t believe I fit in the missional sphere.
You know how people in their 20’s often need to travel to ‘find themselves’. (Often for some reason, it’s to India. Is this where ‘lost’ people end up?) I was a bit like this as I journeyed with Jesus. I needed to find where I belonged in the story of the God who is on mission.
When I was at Theological College (that’s what we call seminaries in Australia) I focused on pastoral subjects. This was where I felt God was leading me. My grades weren’t awesome but I worked hard. I was preparing for life as an associate pastor.
Morling College has a strong missional emphasis. They run a post-grad program in missional leadership. Mike Frost, Karina Kreminski and Graham Hill, each missional leaders in their own spheres, are part of the faculty. But our paths never crossed. I did a mission-based subject, but it was because my degree required it. See how far from missional thinking I was?
Church Planting, Really???
Just after finishing college my wife and I both felt a strong leading to plant a church. Not just any old church mind you, but one that was intentionally missional. What on earth was going on? Why would God lead me this way? I’m a complete novice.
Our denomination even agreed, we were complete novices. But they must have seen something else too. The church plant started over 4 years ago in our lounge room. We still meet in our lounge room but we’ve seen people grow.
There’s the lady who was unsure how her faith practically related to her work-life but now has her co-workers ask for prayer. And the 8 year who brings a handwritten prayer to share with everyone thanking God for the group and asking him to help invite his friends.
Some people start living missionally easily. It’s natural to them. They can study missional leadership and evangelism. It’s kinda like coming in through the front door.
Not me, I fell into living missionally. How?
1. It Began Where I Was At.
I didn’t begin a new area of study. Nor did I pick up a new book, or scour the net for ‘how to’ blogs. I turned to spiritual practices. I began to ask ‘How does prayer shape me for living missionally? What does my Bible reading teach me about God’s heart for people?’
This is why I needed to fall. I can get concepts. I can learn to adapt them to my circumstances. But living missionally isn’t like building a set of Lego. Simply following the instructions won’t get you there. What I need most is to know God’s heart, his passions.
2. I Saw A Bigger Picture.
In my mind, missional living was all about evangelism. I thought they were essentially the same thing. What I began to realise was that evangelism was just a part of living missionally. We are living missionally when we are bringing God’s kingdom into the everyday situations around us. This includes salvation but it also includes bringing his peace, beauty, justice and hope. I love the way J.R. Woodward expresses this:
‘We are to be witnesses to God’s kingdom, joining him in bringing a greater sense of beauty, justice, reconciliation, mercy and healing to the networks and neighborhoods to which God has sent us. And as we join God in this greater mission, we have the opportunity to invite others to become reconciled with God and join the revolution.’
See how big mission is?
3. Connecting In.
I did connect with others. I read books, I emailed, I had conversations. Being in community is part of following Jesus. I couldn’t go it alone, and you can’t either. As much as I needed to learn God’s missional heartbeat and see his missional picture, I also needed to connect with others.
And there’s a good reason why we need each other. We get encouraged by others and we encourage them. We learn from each other. But even more so, we go on a journey together where get to know God more because of what he’s doing among us. Here’s how Jeff Vanderstelt puts it:
‘God calls every one of us into an intimate and dynamic relationship with him that cannot be fully experienced apart from being in a community of disciples sent together to make disciples… It is in community that we learn to be loved and to love and it is on mission that we experience the power and presence of God at work in us and through us.’
My journey of living missionally isn’t finished. I’m still introverted, but I find myself in places where I can connect my faith and everyday life, and help others glimpse the shalom, beauty and reconciliation that is God’s kingdom.
I’ve learned that not every conversation has to be about Jesus to be missional. My friendship with a janitor at the local shopping centre shows this. I regularly work in the library rather than at home and would always talk to this man. After about a year of casual conversations, he asked why I was always there. At first, he refused to believe I was a pastor or blogged about God because I had never judged him for being homosexual. Now sometimes he’ll ask me about church and the Bible; we’ll talk. There’s no way he would have done that when we first met.
The Journey wasn’t the most direct but it got me there. And in the way I needed. I needed to understand God’s heart first.
And I learned God can even use complete novices like me. So, if you sense God may be leading you in a particular direction even though you’re a novice, don’t give up. He can get you there.