Christians like to talk about God’s mission. We talk about the church’s mission, sometimes called “The Great Commission,” the big challenge Jesus gave to His followers to “go and make disciples.”
For many, the mission field has been far-away places. We train “missionaries” – those unusual people willing to go to strange places, eat different food, and live in an uncomfortable environment, speaking some other language. We love to support missionaries, and we should.
For many, the mission field was “over there” – somewhere else. This implied that “over here” is a Christian place. Today it is harder to accept that fantasy. “Here” has become a largely secular place. Actually, it has always been that way. Information technology has just sharpened our grip on reality.
When I first came as a pastor to northeastern Indiana, I received an interesting reaction from one of the prominent leaders. “Pastor,” he said, “you talk about outreach to the unchurched. I’ve been a member of this community all my life. I know the people around here. Most come from a churched home. A year later, after our church doubled in size, he realized his assumptions were not accurate. This man was a great Christian. Now he was becoming a great missionary. His worldview changed.
The mission field is over there, right here, and everywhere. Jesus declared this in a way that makes a lot of sense, once you unpack it. He said to His followers (including me and you, if you are a Christ-follower), “You will be my witnesses here in (1) Jerusalem, (2) Judea, (3) Samaria, and (3) to the ends of the earth.” You can read that: (1) in your own area; (2) in your region; among those of other cultures; and (3) all over the world.
You might think of your “Jerusalem” as so many square miles around where you live. This is where your knees begin to knock and your stomach gets queasy. You think I am going to suggest the unpleasant idea of knocking on doors, talking to strangers. Well, I’m not. That’s not the way the Christian Movement took off in the New Testament. Your “Jerusalem” mission field, the one closest and most receptive is not all the strangers in your area. It is the sum total of the non-practicing Christians in your social network. (Check the directory on your phone or your favorites list on the computer.) They are your friends, relatives, neighbors, fellow workers, and/or those you know at school. These are not strangers.
Who, among those in your social network, show no evidence of having a personal relationship with Jesus? They are your personal mission field. Now what? Your first move may not be to invite them to church. It is not likely that you should buy them a Bible, either. However, if you follow Jesus’ direction, you are to “witness.” You know what an eyewitness is: “I was there, it happened to me.” When someone in your social network gives you a sign that they are receptive, share your God-stories – what God has done in your life. A God-story is simple: “My husband was out of work. We prayed to God, and he got hired. We believe God answered our prayer.” No Bible passages, no pressure. Just tell your story. The mission field is your social network. That is not where it ends, but that is where you can begin.
How did you discover your personal mission field and what is it? We welcome your comments below.
Kent Hunter, founder of Church Doctor Ministries, is known as the Church Doctor. His most recent e-books are The Future Is Now and The J-Dog Journey, available at no cost. Contact him at (800) 626-8515, by email, Twitter, Facebook, or visit www.churchdoctor.org.