For many people the word “mission” can sound terrifying. There is a popular view that doing mission involves telling everyone we meet about Jesus, and that if we aren’t out there spreading the word, somehow we are doing something wrong. No wonder many people decide that mission isn’t for them, although they are grateful when other folk are brave enough to talk about their faith.
Actually, strictly speaking, telling others about Jesus is not mission. It is evangelism, and some have a particular gift of evangelism that the rest of us do not. Personally, I love finding the right opportunity to share my faith with others, although I spent many years as a nervous wreck before I had the confidence to open my mouth.
But mission is a far broader term than evangelism, and whether we like it or not, we are involved in God’s mission to the world. Let me explain why…
Imagine you have a particular friend who is in no way a believer. She has never read her Bible, rarely prays and certainly hasn’t set foot in the church. She may have picked up all kinds of strange ideas of what Christians are like. And you are the only connection she has with the Christian faith at all.
So whether you are aware of it or not, she will make certain assumptions about the Christian faith from the way you live your life. If, for example, you are proud or you swear a lot, she will probably make her own mind up about what you believe, long before you start talking to her about Jesus.
As I said in my sermon from Colossians 3 yesterday, our task day by day is to reflect the character of God in the way we live our lives. So if God is loving, then we too need to show that same sort of love to others. If God is holy, then we too need to lead pure and holy lives. If God is a God of peace, then we need to live at peace with others. That is what our mission is all about, and there is no opt-out clause. Following Jesus means living like Jesus, not just in church, but in our marriages, at home, at school, in our workplaces.
To put it another way, we all have a responsibility to show what life in God’s kingdom is like. Now that can sound kind of scary, but we are not alone. First of all, God gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit so that we can rely on His strength and His grace to show Jesus to the world. And also to assure us of His love and grace when, as we always will, we make a mess of things.
Secondly, God has given us each other as “the body of Christ”. So none of us on a wet Monday like today should feel we are on our own attempting to live out our Christian faith. We should be there for one another, supporting, encouraging and comforting each other in a network of relationships which are real and relevant to our everyday lives.
And our task as believers is not necessarily to talk to our friend about Jesus directly, although if she asks, we need to be ready to explain our faith. It’s in the first place to invite her into our network of relationships so that she can see Jesus in the way we behave to one another. That’s why all I talked about yesterday in Col 3:12-17 is so important – love, forgiveness, peace, thankfulness, ministry of the word, songs of worship and praise, and a general attitude of positivity towards the Lord.
Because it is when folk encounter the love of Christ in the body of Christ, it is then that they generally start to ask questions. That’s when the gift of evangelism comes in. Or even better, you can invite your friend to a Christianity Explored course where she can bring her questions and her doubts, and know she is valued for who she is.
Many, many years ago I worked as a chartered accountant. I felt I was a terrible witness to Christ, and I am sure my life didn’t seem that different to anyone else’s. Yet one day someone completely unexpected asked if he could come to my church on Sunday. I don’t think I had even spoken to him about my faith. Yet somehow God used even me (and I was a nervous wreck in those days!) and that person discovered the fullness of life in Jesus.
That was God at work in mission through, or more accurately, despite of me. I would be lying if I said I had many more stories like that. But the wonder is that God chooses to spread His kingdom through even people like us and thankfully, His grace is far greater than all our faults and failings. So let’s think positively about mission, and let’s be ready for what God wants to do in us and through us! We might just be surprised by the results…