Do you ever have the feeling you might be aiming at the wrong target? Maybe chasing the wrong future?
This sort of wondering can make you question both your past and your present. It can quickly get overwhelming. Yet, despite our confusion at times, Christ’s instructions were very clear. Follow along with me in John 20, where Jesus’s disciples have just learned of the empty tomb.
“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After He said this, He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again, Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’”
Did you catch that last part? I am sending you.
The Church’s purpose—our purpose—is to advance God’s mission. Paul tells us this calling is for everyone, not just those of us who identify as missionaries. In fact, the word missionary isn’t even in the Bible! It’s just a word we’ve used over the years to designate people who leave home or go overseas for the sake of the Gospel.
One of my professors in seminary—a lifelong missionary himself—once commented that perhaps the invention of full-time clergy and full-time missionaries was the biggest barrier to the spread of the gospel in Church history. That’s a bold statement, but his point was simple: when we made full-time ministry a profession, we made it a career. Once it was a career, it was a choice. It made everyone with dreams of becoming bakers and doctors and teachers and hairdressers and accountants feel like we had to make a choice to make—either give up our passions or “work” in ministry for our livelihood.
However, if God’s mission is your lifestyle and not your career, then this isn’t an either/or situation. You can, and you should, do both.
So here’s the big secret: if you’re a Christian, you are a missionary.
Sharing the love of Christ relationally with others is your calling. It’s what you signed up for when you chose to follow Christ. And guess what? There’s no one way to do it. You were uniquely made to reach others for Him using your traits, quirks and style.
It’s time for Christ-followers to follow Christ. This is the “so what” in the Easter story. We weren’t redeemed just so we could live a better life. We’ve been sent out. We’ve been called.
Pastor and best-selling author of books like “Crazy Love,” Francis Chan, relates it this way, “We’re all called to be disciple-makers to some degree. You may not reach hundreds, but you can reach a few!” He continues, “Some people are discontent in their lives, and they think it’s because of their career or life situation. But it’s because you were made to be His witnesses. There is so much peace when you’re actually doing your job. This is where we come alive!”
As Pastor Mark Batterson says, Jesus did not die to keep us safe and have us do easy things. Yet, a lot of churches create environments and programs that do just that, feeding people in safe, protected “cages.” There’s a cage for youth group, a cage for college students, a cage for adults, and a host of other cages for specialty groups. We all sit in our cages and wait to be fed, knowing all the while that we don’t belong there. It’s safe and kind of nice to be taken care of, so we make ourselves comfortable.
It’s pretty clear: the Church has domesticated its followers. Instead of focusing on releasing people into the world, it has too often focused on keeping people safe, under the protective awning of the Church. But cages and hand feeding ultimately steal our true, God-given spirit. We need to return to our native surroundings and embrace the lives we were created to pursue. We need to live out our faith in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and greater communities, trading the convenience of the cage for the excitement of living as God intended. Our mission is to show people who don’t know Jesus what His love really looks like through our natural, normal, uncaged lives. All it takes is a willingness to embrace an unpredictable adventure, and live life in the wild.
Make no mistake, God loves you. He has washed you and redeemed you for His purpose. Remember all that talk about giving Him your life? Remember the talk about dying to yourself and being born again? It’s all for His mission, His goals for humanity and the world.
It doesn’t matter if you came from a family of Christians, another faith background, or no faith at all. It doesn’t matter if you lived as a good person right up to the time you chose to follow Christ, or if you lived as an outcast and a rebel (like me). When you said “yes,” you opted in. You joined a movement of Jesus followers who can trace our calling and purpose all the way back to the little locked room, where the first disciples were huddled together, and Christ showed up with a simple message: “I am sending you.”
That’s the main point – you have already been called. The invitation has been extended to join God’s “Family Business.” You’ve been called to love a broken world, and if you’ve been paying attention to local, national and world news lately, the world around us is quite broken. You’ve been summoned to make sure everyone on the planet knows what His real and genuine love is about.