Like the sound of living “on mission?”
Maybe your heart skips a little with the talk of “loving your neighbor” or “being a missionary” or “doing life with other people.”
Well, those terms are pretty worn-out by this point, aren’t they? They’ve been stretched out beyond recognition, like a used garment, and I’m really not sure what they mean anyway.
But, whatever concept you attach to those terms, I’m smiling for you right now. Thank you for your heart, and thank you for responding to how God is leading you.
The best way to begin to pray about your next steps is to become more aware of two things – what this may look like practically and the cost of your obedience. I’ll address both those areas here.
First, let’s begin with what this “living on mission” may look like for you. Maybe this will help? Below are the expectations and considerations my husband and I talk through with those wanting to start a neighborhood center in the ministry we founded. (A neighborhood center is just another term we use for this concept of living missionally.)
- Be willing to move in. This is about everyday life wherever God directs you. Sometimes this means under-served parts of town, sometimes not. But, often it seems that when others are edging away from certain areas with certain reputations… well, you’ve found yourself a mission field. Go there and move in.
- Agree to an “Open Door” policy, which includes sacrifice and being inconvenienced. The point is to be in a position where you need the body of Christ to step in, in the form of friends, volunteers, and contributions – or you would burn-out and lock your doors forever.
- Love the Church. It’s a work of His Church, not just you. Affirm others in how they are gifted, provide opportunities for them to minister in your neighborhood when possible. Delight in seeing His Church built up, encouraged, established, effective. Take your place in a local community of believers, submitting to one another and supporting one another. If you can’t do that, you can’t embrace missional living.
- Embrace your roles as a missionary to and advocate for your neighborhood. Stand your ground. God has you there for a reason.
- Serve food freely. In our experience, people will provide countless meals and snacks, but you need to be willing to serve and serve and serve when no one else is there to help or clean up. Food is a key part of building relationships. People need to know you share willingly, no strings attached. Better yet, you need to make time to sit and share meals together.
- Be known as the place to go if one needs help in your neighborhood. This rarely happens from 8am-5pm. Be ready to help parents find missing kids at midnight, offer breakfast at 7am, apply copious amounts of band-aids, and give countless rides, rides, and more rides. (You may need to buy an big, ugly, rusty van, actually.)
- Coordinate with other neighborhood centers (or generally, others living missionally) in prayer, work efforts, ministry opportunities, and more. We are in this together!
- Be excited about the opportunity to build relationships within your neighborhood. Relationships are the goal. It may take high schoolers using your internet around the clock or you patiently helping a parent fill out ten job applications (with not one call-back), but just be a friend – no agenda.
- Become the servant of the neighborhood. Sometimes we may need to quit talking about setting boundaries. Instead, be willing to be poured out at the expense of others. Only after you have sacrificed and learned to draw your energy from the Lord do you have the opportunity to step back and pray about where boundaries can be set up. The first step is sacrifice, not boundaries.
- Intercede in prayer consistently for your neighborhood. Start prayer walks. Cover the people in prayer, and see how He ignites a love for them in your heart.
- Give up on keeping up with the “Joneses.” To be honest, your house will take a beating. You will need to value relationships over that antique vase or your newly mopped floor. Learn to find a certain amount of freedom in saying the following sentence: “Oh, it’s OK – we don’t have anything that hasn’t been broken or won’t get broken here shortly.” Hold very loosely to material possessions; love your neighbors instead.
- Experience it for yourself first. Visit others who are living on mission around you. Come hang out! Observe the daytimes and evenings as well as weekends. You’ll soon see we’ve thrown the plan out the window, and flexibility is paramount…a sense of humor is pretty helpful, too.
- Have a Advocate in place. This is important. Pray for someone or a couple who will be your advocate. When you are in the trenches, needing to make decisions, struggling, rejoicing etc., we have found it is imperative to have someone who is walking closely alongside you. We recommend this person comes to your house and prays with you and for you at least once a week.
So, now you may have an idea forming of what this may look like in your life and in your location.
But, next, here’s the whole truth about missional living that you need to consider: You need to count the cost of your obedience. Let me explain –
To us, moving to a certain part of town and to live “on mission” is done with the same commitment and discipline of an overseas missionary headed to another continent. Many logistics are different, obviously, but the missionary mindset, when applied to everyday living in the United States, still demands a surrendered lifestyle of yielding to God’s plan, for His glory, wherever the location, and whatever the cost.
Missional living isn’t just sharing food and loving neighbors. It’s not about wearing Toms or going barefoot. It’s not about critiquing the Church.
Missional living is about laying down your life – and by life, I also mean lifestyle. That American Dream? Yeah, that. It goes on the altar, right beside the career goals, remodeling projects, success in society’s eyes, dream vacations, and new vehicles.
Does that sound harsh? I don’t intend it that way – because, really, those things are debatable anyway. It’s up to God and how He guides you; they aren’t necessarily wrong or right, but they are to be held with open hands. That’s the point.
The really hard part? Well, there on the altar are precious things, personal things, good things. Look closely at this altar. You need to count the cost. Do you see your kids there? Your safety and their safety? Your kids’ academic options? Their influences? Your future and your family’s future? Sweet, uninterrupted family time? Comfortable house and nice lawn? Good time with good friends? All that – it belongs on the altar.
Can you lay it all down?
Because, really, all this chatter about missional living creates a buzz, but does it create disciples? I’m talking about disciples who understand the part of dying daily, picking up their cross, and following a crucified Savior.
So, you still want to live missionally?
Look again at that altar. Pray about all that, my friend. It’s real.
And, then, when you have counted the cost, look down around your feet, and you’ll see a trail of blood. Follow it. It’s from Jesus, the One who has claimed your life. Walk His steps, identify with His suffering. It will lead you up a hill and to a cross – and you know the story, my friend.
That cross, that’s where you bend your knees and you worship. For your risen Savior paid for your sins with His blood.
You have been bought with a price.
Your life is not your own.
Once you’ve accepted His sacrifice for you, you’ve forfeited your rights to directing your own life. It’s about His glory, His fame. And, in light of the goodness of Jesus and the unworthiness of humans, may you be humbled and compelled to respond with a surrendered life, fixated on His glory. That’s missional living.