Those are probably the two words that best describes these past few weeks in my life. For good or bad, my life has been busting at the seams and my mind feels like it’s getting plowed over by a tractor trailer. So many thoughts, so many realizations, so many things to think about. It’s been an intense few weeks. I wanted to share with you one of the main thoughts that has been wrecking me. So buckle up, here we go.
There is this problem we have in the Church (Speaking about people, not necessarily an institution), and it’s one of the problems communities are falling apart. It’s the word “missionary”. Yep, missionary is the word that is one of the problems communities are falling apart. You might in your head be thinking that I’m crazy, or that I went off the deep end but I follow me here.
The word missionary to most people brings up the thought or memory of someone they know of, heard of, or imagined living over seas, or in some far distant land, living on 5 bucks a day, always sending support letters to people begging for money. A missionary to most people means that you don’t live in your home, and that you’re talked about from the pulpit every now and then. My friends, what a destructive definition we have of missionary. Because if we limit the word missionary to something like what I just described, then that lets the rest of us off the hook to not really live the gospel, and instead become comfortable spectators at a once a week gathering we think is “church”. It’s dangerous, and it’s another great lie the enemy loves to have us believe.
If you are claiming to be a Christian, follower of Jesus, born again, or something along the lines of “I believe Christ died for my sins and I ask him to forgive me and to change me” then congratulations you are a FULL TIME missionary! Woooohooo! Shocking to hear that? Well it’s true. Being a follower of Christ is not something we add to our identity, it becomes out identity. We are called to live the gospel everywhere we go. So that makes us ask the question “well where do we go?”
This brings me to my point. We have missed reaching (most) of our local communities because we are too busy commuting to a church building 10,15,20,30 minutes away, and we are too busy doing “ministry” and “church things” in other towns to actually invest in our town. How do I know people do this? Because I did it for 12 years. Yep, for the past 12 years I’ve lived in New Egypt and never once tried to even pray for my town. How could I miss my local community? How could I miss right where God has me?! Because I was too busy pouring in to other places that weren’t local. I was too busy driving 40 minutes to a church building, attending small groups 35 minutes away to even think about reaching people my town. Plus, my town is weird, and people are old! I’d much rather be with my friends. This is a great tool of the enemy because the enemy doesn’t want us to know our neighbors. He doesn’t want people around us to be transformed. He’d much rather us do once a year Christmas toy drives then have us invite a neighbor over for dinner consistently. Why? Because if we only do things once a year then we have much less of a chance to actually reach that person with the gospel.
When the Lord completely wrecked me, opening my eyes to the fact that I have done nothing to reach my local community I made some big changes. First, I just started walking through my town (or neighborhood for those who live there) praying for the people, businesses, community, school system, government officials etc. What a perspective change this gave me. It changed my perspective in 2 major ways. First, it made me realize that my town is just as important at the “big” towns that I hear about (like Philadelphia). I realized that God loved the people in my town just as much as people in other parts of New Jersey. Second, it showed me that I didn’t need to make it “church official” to do it! I didn’t have to go through a institutionalized church because I am the church! so I just started doing it. It’s freeing when you realize that praying for where you live doesn’t require a committee meeting to actually do it.
After a few weeks, I cold called a local pastor in my town, met up with him, told him what I was doing, and he told me that he wanted to join in. So now every Friday morning 4 of us meet and pray over New Egypt. This connects the individual churches in my town together, to see how they can work together, and we come together unified with a heart for the town we live in. It’s powerful stuff.
I encourage, no implore you to start realizing that you are a missionary right where you live. Do you think it was an accident that God placed you in the town, neighborhood, city, , or suburb that you live or work in? There are people right around you in your immediate area who need to be shown who Christ is. You are a full time Missionary, get used to it because it’s how we are called to live EVERYWHERE we go. Not just on a trip overseas once a year, not just during the holiday season. We are called every minute we exist to be missional, to reach a broken world. Just dont forget that the broken world I’m talking about is right outside your doorstep, literally.