We are missionaries
When I was fifteen years old, I became a Christian. God changed me from the inside out. Growing up I thought Christianity was about rules. Rebellious by nature, I wanted nothing to do with religion that was about being good.
The Jesus I met as a struggling teenager was about grace.
God changed my heart and made me a part of his family long before I followed the rules. My friends introduced me to Jesus the most unlikely of circumstances. Somehow it stuck. The missionary God of the Bible captured my heart.
Not long after I met Jesus, however, I began to define myself by my activity: by the good things I did, or by the bad things I did not do.
I am not alone.
Even as we say we believe in grace, we find meaning and significance in our activity. A Christian in our evangelical culture is someone who goes to church on Sunday. Someone who has quiet times with Jesus early in the morning. Someone who gives or serves generously. Someone who votes a certain way. Someone who puts a fish sticker on their minivan, a Bible verse in their email signature or Jesus junk on their desk. Someone who wears golf shirts and polos (or for that matter skinny jeans and vintage t-shirts).
We are obessed with our activity rather than our identity. This shapes how we think about the Christian life. We likewise tend to think of missions as something we do.
Is a missionary someone who goes to Africa to feed the poor, care for orphans or heal the sick? Is a missionary someone who plants churches and teaches the Bible? Is a missionary someone who fights injustice? Is a missionary someone who spends their spring break building houses and playing with children in Mexico?
Do missional people invite their neighbors over for dinner? Do missional people serve the poor and oppressed in their own city? Is being missional about wearing black, having tattoos, drinking microbrews and smoking cigars? Do missional churches engage with the art and music of the culture of their city?
One thing I enjoyed about Tim Chester at Together for Adoption was his ability to speak into our culture as an outsider. He could see something to which most of us are blind. As Americans, we are uniquely obsessed with doing..
Missions is not about the things we do. Missions is about what Jesus has done. Missionary is an identity given to us by a missional God.
According to Tim Chester, the Bible is a story of God’s mission.
From beginning to end the Bible is the story of God giving his people a mission to reflect his glory, bless his world and make him known. We have a missional identity.
At Together for Adoption, Tim Chester walked us through the story of the Bible three times: first, through the lens of God’s family, second through the lens of God’s mission, third through the lens of God’s kingdom. Here is a bit of what I learned from Chester.
Creation. God is a trinity, Father, Son and Spirit. God is eternal and self sufficient. God did not create out of need. Rather, God created out of an outpouring of his love. His essence is love. He has loved for all eternity and he chose to create us to share in his love.
When God creates, he forms what is formless and fills what is empty. He forms the heavens and fills them with stars. He forms the waters and skies and fills them with fish and birds. He forms the land and fills it with plants, animals and people. Likewise, God gives humanity two tasks: to form and to fill.
Made in the image of God, men and women are to be culture creators. We are to be God’s representatives in the world. From the very beginning, we were created in God’s image for mission: to reflect God’s glory in the world.
Fall. After the fall, people come together in opposition to God. We distort the image of God and create culture that does not honor him. We live to glorify ourselves.
Covenant. When God goes to Abraham, he promises that his descendants will become a great and mighty nation that will bless all the peoples of the earth. God chooses to people of Israel to be a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” (Exodus 19:6). The people of God are to live a distinctive life in a way that makes God known.
The law of Moses is given for the sake of mission. The law answers the question, how do we structure our life to show others the glory of God.
Exile. But instead of being a blessing, the people of Israel become more evil than the nations surrounding them. The people of God do not structure their lives to show others the glory of God. Through Isaiah and the other prophets, God reveals his plan: he will send his son on a mission to be a light to the nations.
Jesus. God’s mission is fulfilled in Jesus. He reveals the glory of God to the nations. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus says some interesting things about our identity as his followers. We are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world. We are the city on the hill.
Jesus does not give his followers a list of rules or list of things to do. He tells them who they are.
What does this mean? If you love Jesus, you are a missionary. You have a missional identity because you love a missional God. You are created in the image of a missional God. This means that as we live our everday, ordinary lives, we are missionaries.
This gives me an incredible sense of freedom. We are free from following an oppressive set of rules – we do not have to do anything other than worship Jesus in our everyday lives in order to be missional.
Practically, if we are on board with God’s mission, we will do lots of things. We will seek to understand our communities. We will get involved with our neighbors. We will live our whole life with gospel intentionality – knowing that it is not what we do that makes us who we are.
It is being, not doing, that makes us missional. In the beginning, God gave us a job description. We are to form and fill in order to reflect God’s glory in the world. This means that even the simple things of life are missional. I am a missionary as I make soup, wash the dishes and snuggle my kids in bed.
This post is part of a series of reflections from the Together for Adoption 2011 Conference. Follow these links to read more: When Everything Changes, We are Family, We are Missionaries, and We are Disciples.