6 Helpful questions for our Christian Lives - question 5
In this series of blog posts I am looking at six questions about our Christian lives that are good for us to think about regularly. Reflecting on them can help provide shape and direction to the three dimensions of our Christian lives: Our life with God, Our life with God's people; and our life with the world around us. Unlike a checklist, these questions are designed to be open ended. Each of us is unique and we will each answer these questions in different ways. In fact at different times we will have different answers ourselves!
It is IMPORTANT to note that
These questions aren't a test.
You aren't going to be graded on the quality of your answers.
It is not about comparing yourself to some 'super Christian'
You will get the most benefit out of these questions if you can identify one or two simple things you can work on in the next few days. This is much better than spending hours creating a long list and then doing nothing!
Question Five - Who am I sent to?
I think most Christians understand that is important for Christians to be engaged in mission of some sort. However, it is something we tend to outsource to others - overseas missionaries, visiting evangelists, paid ministers, or church programs. Mission activity becomes part of the Royal 'We' - together WE are somehow doing mission even though I personally am not doing much or any of it. Mission becomes amorphous.
A big part of the reason we don't engage in mission is that we don't know how. Only a few decades ago, a large percentage of our population attended church and even those that didn't had cultural connections to church. So most of what we did was plant new churches in urban growth corridors and upgrade church experiences to try and attract people back to church. Mission expertise was only really developed by missionaries who went overseas to places where people hadn't heard about Jesus.
But we are living in a post Christian culture, and we don't have to become overseas missionaries to interact with people who don't know Jesus, they are our friends, neighbours, and work colleagues.
So the first thing for us to do is to ask ourselves 'Who am I sent to?
Now beware, of general answers like 'I'm sent to everyone'. Jesus was specific, he was sent to the lost sheep of Israel (Matthew 15:24) and when he sent out his disciples he was specific about where they should AND shouldn't go (Matthew 10:5-6). Now before you think - 'I don't want to exclude anyone', neither did Jesus - he died for the whole world. But if he had to start somewhere specific, there is a high probability that we will too. 'Everyone' is too big a target, it is impossible to plan, prepare for and to engage in. If our target is 'everyone' in practice it can end up being 'no-one'. We need to start somewhere specific, we need to ask 'Who am I sent to?'
If you think about it, this is usually the first question that potential overseas missionaries ask and answer. And once that decision is made most other steps become clear - I need to learn xyz language, these are the possible mission agencies I could go with, this is the training I need. It is the same with us. The first step to engaging in mission (even before we know what to do) is to think and pray about who God is sending us to.
Now we shouldn't let the fear of 'getting the answer wrong' paralize us - we should just answer the question as best as we prayerfully can and get on with it. It is easy to turn a moving boat, but very difficult to turn a stationary one. Once we begin to move in mission, God can then correct our course just as He did with Paul in Asia minor (Acts 16:6-10).
As you begin to explore possible answers, you might find these additional questions helpful:
Who are the people I most naturally connect with?
What networks (i.e. non geographic specific groups of people with the same workplace or similar interests like bike riding) or neighbourhoods (geographically specific areas) am I already connected with? Which ones could I connect with easily?
What local mission are some of my Christian family/friends engaging in? (mission is usually done in teams and those teams require members)
Two final thoughts:
If we are scared or overwhelmed with the prospect of mission, or even if we aren't, it is vital to recognise that when Jesus sent his disciples on mission, he always sent them with others. This is the pattern that the disciples followed in the book of Acts. And it should be our pattern as well - we don't have to do it alone. That is why as we ask ourselves this question we also need to be asking ourselves Question 6 - Who am I sent with?
There are many other elements to learning how to engage in mission and a simple way forward is to begin to ask yourself questions 1-4 from the perspective of engaging in mission.