Please read my blog post from yesterday to see why it’s dangerous to idolize overseas missions.
As my friend Dena pointed out on Facebook, the phrase “I’m Not a Missionary” is pretty inaccurate because every believer is a missionary wherever they are. We are all joining with God on His mission to save the world and glorify Himself.
Before I begin my list, I want to remind you that the key to being missional is not good ideas or relationships or situations, but love for the Gospel. (Even reading the title of this great blog post from DG challenged me: "Don't Get Organized, Get Enthralled.")
The problem is not that we don’t have good systems for evangelism, but that our desire for Christ to be glorified is weak and unprovoking. So---no surprise here---if you want to know how to better love others, love God. It’s cool how He makes all that work.
The most mobilizing thing you can do is read your Bible and find yourself in awe of how worthy God is to be worshipped. Enjoy Christ and be broken over how much the lost are missing.
So here’s the list. Please keep in mind that though I can recommend some of these from experience, I am nowhere near where I want to be evangelistically, and I can afford to
-Go after the messy people in your life.
There are women and girls that I know who need to hear the gospel, but in my mind these people are “exceptions” to my missional to-do list because I really don’t want to get involved in their lives (maybe they’re annoying, rude, etc.)
I want to go overseas to make God known to people that I perceive are just waiting to worship Him (which is a totally idealistic notion anyway), but God is just as worthy to receive praise from the “messy” acquaintances, friends, or family members that are already in my life.
In other words, the command “love your neighbour as yourself” is a lot easier to obey when you tell yourself “I’m totally going to love my neighbours when I move to Uganda!” as you pat yourself on the back for your future-tense obedience. But we need to reach out to those people who are actually in our lives now, even the ex-Christian who really hurt you.
May we dare not say "I'll invest in anyone but her! She's not worthy of my time and effort!" Praise the LORD that, despite our severe unworthiness, He invested in us!
-Embrace people of other cultures!
When I found out my neighbor is from Turkey, I started researching Turkey like a madman and even learned some Turkish phrases, thinking maybe this was God calling us to be missionaries to Turkey. I don’t know if that’s the case (it probably isn’t), but I definitely know God is calling us to be missionaries my neighbour! She was absolutely enthralled when I said “İyi akşamlar!” one evening and it really makes her feel loved when I ask about her home country. (Plus, it’s really interesting to hear about it!) I am so grateful that God has allowed me to know her!
When I was still researching going overseas, I decided I really wanted to be involved in an English-speaking international church at a port city where people from all over the world come to work. These churches are so strategic because people from all nations---even restricted nations---are hearing the Gospel, becoming followers of Jesus, and going back to their home countries and sharing the Gospel there!
Then I realized I live right outside Tampa! The pastors of my new church strategically came to Tampa to plant a church because of how diverse the culture is---geographically, socio-economically, etc. etc. This place exudes global influence. May I view my city with the same missional intent!
-Go to the same cashier at Walmart, ask for the same banker at Wells Fargo, etc.
Build relationships where you are. I know someone who has gotten to share the gospel with people in both of those situations I mentioned. It took a lot of time and some intentionality but she said it was totally worth it!
-Use your skills or situation to get involved in the community.
Go to the skate park or play basketball. Join La Leche League or go to library events for children. See what our city has to offer and get involved with other people there.
Just don’t go so far in the “friendship-forming” process that you become a cowardly people-pleaser. (This is a major struggle for me!) I do not want my lost friends to say “If Jesus is as important as you’re saying, why have we been friends for so long without you telling me I need Him?”
I read a really good quote on Twitter the other day: "If you don't live a life that demands a gospel explanation, you probably won't share the gospel very much." -Jeff Vanderstelt
-Read your Bible, talk about it, or work on scripture memory in public places.
That sounds totally Pharisaical and boasting-about-your-righteousness, so you really have to check your heart on this, but really...show nonbelievers that His Word is life and we need it at all times. Show them the sweet precious Word that sustains us and that we enjoy. Publicly cherish the Word.
-Be open about yourself.
Don’t be afraid to tell nonbelievers that you’re struggling or that you’re going through a hard time. If you act like Christianity is all peaches and roses they’ll probably think you’re trying to sell them a lie. Jesus said it’d be hard...but He said He’d be with us.That is a distinction that we can boast in to our friends and family as we confess our hardships.
Ask God to give you the courage to be real with your friends and family and say things like “I know you’re empty. It breaks my heart. Don’t you think there could be a better way?” or “That’s a really hard situation! I can’t imagine what you’re going through. Do you ever wonder why?” Then tell them how they can be filled! Eternity is urgent; don’t be afraid to express that urgency. (Reading Charles Spurgeon, especially Around the Wicket Gate, has really inspired me to beg and plead with the lost to believe and repent.)
-Give to missions!
How American of us to think we need to get our hands into something for it to be good.
For a good article on why it might be a good idea to cancel your short-term mission trip and give your money to people who actually live overseas long-term, read this.
-Keep it complicated.
(I read a great blog post on The Gospel Coalition that I definitely recommend.) If you want someone to follow Jesus, don’t be afraid to tell them what following Jesus entails, according to the Bible! It’s okay to boast in every bit of God’s character; there are too many weak and diluted views of Jesus being pushed on people anyways. Simply saying “Jesus loves you” to a nonbeliever is most likely something they’ve heard a million times already anyways, and it doesn’t show them their need for a Saviour. Tell them the truth that they haven’t heard.
-Read the Gospels and Acts.
See what kind of people in which Jesus invested himself. See how He did it. See what He said. See what the apostles did and said. Adopt their mission, their strategy.
For example, when I was in Mark last week, I was so convicted when I read about how Jesus cared about the marginalized (like children and deaf and blind people.) I thought about that odd-looking toothless neighbour who walks her dog all day and is a really good target for telling Peter things like “You won’t believe what that weird lady did today.”
May I instead see the “weird” people in my life as souls in need of Christ, not dehumanized objects of snickering. It is so American to objectify others in this way while soap-boxing about how we need to care for the poor and needy.
You may not be able to go for God to the nations, but you can certainly go to God for the nations.
I would venture to say that prayer is the most humble, effective means of ministry.
You won’t get books written about you and it’s likely that nobody will ever know of you labours, but I’m sure that God is using some grandmothers in their prayer closets to bring about major revival across the world.
I hope this helped! Please comment and leave YOUR suggestions for being missional where you are!
This is the hardest and easiest blog post I have written yet.
It’s the hardest because this issue is still something I really, really struggle with. Some days are better than others.
It’s the easiest because, since I’m right in the midst of going through it, I have really struggled with the LORD about it and He’s taught me a lot through His Word and through the wisdom of others.
I think it’s necessary to write this because---especially since this week is missions week at Bell Shoals---I observe a lot of people (young women especially) who have the same really unhealthy view of missions that I had only a year ago.
The same view that had the potential to completely wreck my marriage.
I am sensitive to bad thinking in this area because I have had some really bad thinking in this area.
Some background: Even before I was a genuine Christian I wanted to be a pastor’s wife. In 10th or 11th grade I was willing to expand that desire and the job of “missionary” was also an option for “what I want to be when I grow up.”
The guy I really wanted to marry (Peter, now my husband) was risk-taking, great at evangelism, and majoring in Missions at college. I think anyone who knew him would vote Peter as “Most Likely to Be a Missionary.”
“Here am I, send me!” was my prayer and I spent so much of high school and college being restless, painfully itching to go overseas to tell the best news ever to people who had never heard about Jesus.
Before marriage as Peter and I talked about our future, ministry in some capacity was definitely the plan.
At GOC (the missions week at Bell Shoals) last year, I met a couple who lives in China and I wanted to live with them for awhile so we could learn from them and maybe stay there for the rest of our lives. If that didn’t work out, I had multiple back-up plans and I was very passionate about all of them.
About a month later, Peter told me he was no longer pursuing the missions track and he just wanted to work hard, lead his family, and live a quiet life here...at least for awhile.
I was completely shattered to pieces. It felt like someone had died. This wasn’t part of the deal, I thought. I married a future missionary, not someone with a normal job!
“My goal is to glorify God,” Peter reminded me, and I knew he meant it. “Isn’t that enough?” But no, it wasn’t enough for me.
My brokenness over this was very disconcerting, and Peter suggested that since I had such a strong reaction to his current career choice that my dreams of becoming a missionary were idolatrous. I had never considered that a possibility, but after struggling with Peter more about it I found that to be true. I’m not sure if it was the glory of man or what, but my “desire for the nations” was clearly not as pure as I thought.
I was saying “Here am I, send me”, as long as “sending” meant “leaving.” But what if God sent me to stay?
In other words, my submission to the LORD was conditional. “I’ll go anywhere You want as long as it’s not the suburbia in which I grew up.” But what if that suburbia is exactly where He called me?
Now this idea of “calling” must really be reconsidered. If I feel that my “calling” overseas is stronger than my “calling” to be submissive to my husband, I am blatantly out of God’s will because the Bible commands that I am submissive to Him. (I read a really helpful article on the will of God here.)
So here are some things to remember for those of you who want to go overseas or do something particular for the LORD but simply cannot go right now (or maybe ever):
-God would not call you out of submission to your husband or your parents (if you are still under their roof.)
It’s Satan, not the LORD, who wishes to tear families apart, and he’s vile enough to tempt us with very biblical things that breed very unbiblical priorities.
Don’t trade the gospel image of submission for a romanticized idea.
-If you think right now you’re being called to something (like overseas missions) and it conflicts with where you’re already called (submission to husband or parents), you’re not really called.
God is not conflicted and His sovereign workings are always in perfect unity with His revealed will in scripture.
-God’s hands aren’t tied by your location or opportunities.
One time I was talking to an unmarried girl and she was carrying on as if it was impossible for her to live for God until she got married.
God would not put you in a situation where it is impossible to live for Him.
Paul was in prison (the biggest obstacle I can think of) and He was grateful for the opportunities He had to witness to the people there. (See Philippians 1.)
-Even the hearts of kings are waters in His hands.
Any time God wants, He can “flip the switch” and make your authorities give you the green light.
Don’t let yourself think that God is saying “Hey, I’m on your side here, but you can’t be a missionary until this stubborn situation gets resolved. Sorry.”
He closes and opens doors with perfect purposes. Instead of complaining about your lot, rejoice in God’s sovereignty and know that He will fulfill His purpose for you and that you will walk in the good works that He has prepared beforehand for you.
No one can thwart His plans; our God is in the Heavens and He does all that He pleases.
-Remember why you want to go overseas in the first place. Is it to make Christ known?
Don’t view your time in America just as “practice for the future” or “a waiting room”; make Christ known here!
As Matt Setliffe has pointed out, in Acts 17 from all outside views it would appear that Paul was in a season of waiting, but his spirit was provoked for the city where he was, and he capitalized on the opportunity to share the gospel!
(Hudson Taylor also was a great example of this; his autobiography is one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever read. It’s very short and you can read it online for free!)
I don’t want to make this post too long, so stay tuned for tomorrow when I talk about how we can be missional where we are.
And please know, I LOVE missions. God's main purpose in everything is to make Himself known among all nations. If you are pursuing foreign work, praise God! I just don't want to cheap foreign missions with a romanticized, idolatrous view of it.
Confession: I used to be a Sanrio addict. Badtz Maru all the way. But now I am not, so I have a seemingly widow-at-zarephath self-replenishing supply of this notebook paper. Not very adult-like.
I also happened to need envelopes to send out all three invitations to Stephen's half-birthday party. None of the ones I had fit. Badtz Maru saved the day.
Basically you wrap the letter/card like a present. Fold the vertical sides over your card. Fold the bottom (about 1") over your card, then tape to the margins to secure. Fold the top over.
Now flip it over. Present-style, fold in the corners of the top flap and fold the top flap over. Tape to secure. 30-second envelopes. Voila :)
Fruit flies are swarming around my kitchen.
I have no meal plan for this week and my attitude towards cooking is “I hope Peter forgets about the whole dinner thing” because I am not in the mood to make anything.
I have a laundry list of things I need to do but have chosen not to do...laundry being one of them. In fact, I just now put away a load that has been clean for three days. (All those clothes are now wrinkly and musty, of course.)
When Peter came home from work, I spoke sharply and was anything but encouraging.
Oh yeah, and I didn’t have a quiet time this morning, though any of my Pinterest followers can tell you that I’ve had plenty of time for that.
I don’t know what the opposite of a SuperWife is called, but...that’s me today. And yesterday. And all week. And lots of other times.
God is so faithful to humble us, isn’t He?
He does not promise to completely guard us from sin in this life, but He does promise to gradually make us more like Christ.
And this process begins looking like this:
Purely Impure Motives
Preschool-Maturity Temper Tantrums
But praise God, it does not end there!!!
Grace. Growth. Gratitude.
In other words, I can praise God for the days when I fail the hardest because it is in these times that I see my need for Jesus the clearest.
Yesterday Peter was telling me something someone told him recently: “In order to pray consistently you don’t need more time, discipline, or accountability, but you really only need one thing and you will pray: you need poverty of spirit.”
I’ve been reading in Mark and my favourite verse so far is when Jesus said “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (2:17) The sicker you are, the more you appreciate the doctor, obviously.
Please know, I do not want to downplay the new heart and identity that Christ has given me. I am wary even to call myself a “sinner” because who I am has been so radically transformed. God doesn’t see me as a sinner; God sees me as a blood-bought saved one wrapped in the pure robe of His perfect Son.
But my point is, we can be so grateful for our blah seasons because we are being shown our neediness.
Peter and I are trying to stay away from saying things like “I’m sorry I was harsh with you then; I was just upset because *insert excuse here*.” That is not a real apology and does not show either of us our need for a Saviour.
When my kids lose art competitions and don’t make the cut for the soccer team, I’m not going to blame it on unfair judging or a biased coach. That “it’s-never-your-fault” mindset would teach them that they can do no wrong (therefore have no need for Jesus), and when they do make obvious errors, their tarnished self-righteousness would make them feel completely hopeless.
I want my children, as well as myself, to be in constant practice of clinging to the cross. I cling to the cross not because I still need forgiveness, but because I love Jesus and claim His sacrifice as the means for my freedom!
Maybe your struggle is more consequential than dirty kitchens and a discouraging attitude. Maybe you feel like God has no business forgiving the sins you’ve committed. You’re right!
As Paige Benton Brown pointed out at a conference I attended recently, God doesn’t forgive sin; He forgives people. God knew who would believe in Him and He already gave the full punishment for their sins to Jesus on the cross. (He proved that they were fully paid when Jesus rose again!) And Jesus can handle your sin.
I’ve only made it to Mark 5 or 6 so far, but already I’ve seen Jesus heal a leper, a woman with a discharge of blood, and a dead person...by touching them. According to various laws, He was considered ceremoniously “unclean” by touching them, but instead He made them clean! Jesus can handle your corruption. And He can take it away, not only by declaring you righteous before the Judge (He is the Just and the Justifier) but by helping you fight your sin.
Dear fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, may we view our times of failure as times of victory because Jesus has forgiven us!!! May we be brought to deep gratitude that He has met our need. And may that gratitude drive us to repentance!
Dear friends who do not know God, please see your times of failure as brightly lit arrow marquees pointing you to the Jesus who is certainly able to save you to the uttermost.
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 5, 3, 1, and not-yet-born. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
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Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today