Picture a missionary. Do you imagine someone wearing a safari jacket or someone like yourself? We tend to think of missionaries as super-Christians in foreign lands; but every Christian is an ambassador for Christ. The great commission to make disciples of all nations applies to all of us. But what does practical missionary work look like in the life of an average Christian?
Stage One: Work Where You Are
Wouldn’t it be nice if God gave you a clearly defined mission like in the old Mission Impossible TV show? It turns out, he has done just that. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is right in front of you.
In 1 Corinthians 7:17, Paul writes to the church in Corinth, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule for all the churches.” He goes on to explain that people need not change their tradition, class or career in order to fulfill their assignment as Christians. Each must work where he or she is.
Want to know your assignment? Want to know your calling? Look around you. This is your assignment. This is your calling. The work you’re doing now, the people you’re among now, the community you’re in now, the roles you fulfill now, the responsibilities you have now: these make up your calling and it is as important as missionary work in another country.
Stage Two: Work From Where You Are
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:15-16, “But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence.”
Here’s basically how the Christian mission works:
1) Missionaries bring the gospel to people who haven’t heard it.
2) Some accept it and become Christians.
3) The missionaries work to cultivate them into mature Christians, establishing them as a church with capable leadership.
4) This new church matures and becomes a base of operations for further outreach into lands beyond. Dulin’s Grove is in this step and will be developing in maturity and outreach until Jesus returns.
Most Christians will work where they are and from where they are, rather than physically travel to distant lands, personally delivering the gospel to the unreached. The Great Commission is a blade thrust into the world. The sharp, narrow edge of evangelism penetrates into the unreached people groups, while the broad base of discipleship follows as the bulk of the effort. This is why the New Testament letters read more like a church cultivation manual than a frontier missions manual. The average Christian’s practical obedience to the Great Commission will be working from where they are in three primary ways:
“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord… so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia… your faith in God has gone forth everywhere…” (1 Thessalonians 1:7-8)
Most would say their parents’ example had a deeper impact on them than their parents’ words. Similarly, who you are is more foundational than what you do or say in regard to global missions. The last thing the world needs are zealous missionaries abroad who are apathetic at home. Remember, your assignment begins where you are and your work here has ripple effects ‘over there’.
The question to ask here is: If new Christians in the lands beyond grow to look like me, is that a success or a failure? If new churches in lands beyond grow to look like mine, is that a success or a failure?
“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” (2 Corinthians 9:6)
My backyard is green and grassy, yet my front yard is cursed with bald patches. Why? Because I’ve planted grass and worked to cultivate its growth in my backyard and I’ve done nothing in the front. This same principle applies to the global mission. Your dollars are seeds to sew in the frontier field. Sow bountifully and watch fruit begin to grow.
All through the New Testament we see the church praying for doors to open and the boldness to enter new lands with the gospel.
If you are an average Christian who wants to obey the Great Commission in practical ways, begin with this: be an exemplary Christian, give generously to send missionaries to the lands beyond and pray for open doors and bold witness among lost people groups. Work here, work hard, and work outward to make disciples at home and in the lands beyond.