Episode 79 - "Either a Missionary or an Imposter"

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This week I want to talk about mission and missions, I want to propose a model for how we look at everyday life as Christians in whatever context we find ourselves.

I remember growing up in church, and sometimes on Sunday nights or even on a Sunday morning, we would have a missionary come and they would tell us about what work they were doing in some far, distant place where people didn't know God, but needed to. They would tell us that our offering dollars had helped support their work of spreading the gospel.

I think the impression I got growing up is similar to the default, implicit impression many of us have today, which is that missionaries are certain types of people who go to different far away places and it's a specific type of thing that we don't do. They're doing something different. Now I think, at least with that last part, that's right. For most of us, they are doing something different than we are doing on a daily basis, but should that be the case? Should there be the type of Christian who is a missionary and the type of Christian who is not a missionary? I would say no.

In fact, Charles Spurgeon actually said, "Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor." There is no middle ground. To be a Christina is to be one who has been redeemed by grace through faith and has been given a mission to go. To say, "I've been saved, but I will sit here and be content to go to heaven by myself," does not accord with anything in scripture. There is no middle ground. You're a missionary in some form or fashion, maybe a bad one like many of us are (sadly) or you're an impostor.

If we need to be a missionary, well, what does that mean? How should we think about life? You might be thinking, "Well, I can't be a missionary. I'm a school teacher.” “I work for the state." "I'm a stay at home mom, I'm not a missionary." Let me propose a way of thinking about daily life that may alter and flip the way you think about living. This is what I would suggest: While we go to work each day where you're a software developer, maybe you're a teacher, but we shouldn't think about ourselves that way.

Maybe that's what you do for the majority of your day, but God has called us all to primarily be missionaries. God didn't call me to be a software developer. He has called me to go in to all of the world and make disciples and tell them about Jesus and baptized them in the name of the Father and teach them everything he taught them. We see that in the great commission. That's something I'm told to do.

We're also told in scripture that God is reconciling the world to himself. He does that through a specific means. We, as Christians, have been given the ministry of reconciliation. We are the ambassadors of God who go and tell people that there is peace, there is forgiveness. We are the emissaries of our Sovereign King. We must represent Him well. That is our calling as Christians.

Now, how does this relate to my work? I still have to get up tomorrow and go to work. Well, what if you thought about each day as if I was going into the mission field, as if I am a missionary who happens to be a public school teacher. That is my mission field. Or as if I am a missionary who happens to work in the governors office. What if we thought about it that way?

I would suggest that that is a much more biblical way to think about life because we will always be missionaries if we live in accordance to the scripture, but we will not always be teachers and public servants and stay at home moms We will always be missionaries. That is the overarching calling of the Christian life. It's to be a disciple and a missionary. We may find ourselves in different places. You may move halfway across the world, you may switch jobs just down the street, or you may stop working, but the one consistent thing in your life should be that you're a disciple and a missionary.

Now, I know I'm proposing this model of thinking and I don't have this down. I don't wake up each morning and think, "I'm a missionary. I'm going to a mission field”, but I need to; I know that. This is one thing I am personally working on. It is hard living in our culture today when people ask, "What do you do? What's your ambition in life? What did you go to school for? Where did your income come from? Who are the people you are with most of the day.” We are most likely to think about work as the thing we get up in the morning and do. Indeed you do work if you do go to work, but my point is, what if you thought about the work as incidental to your actual primary motivation and goal in getting up each day and going out from your house.

I think that would lead to so much more effective evangelism. God will be so much more glorified in that than how I often wake up and think, "Well, you know, this is another day” and maybe I remember to fit God in there somewhere in my approach. I would encourage you to think about your primary job in life as being a missionary and you might happen to do that at work, at school, or at home.

If you're a stay at home mom, you have a mission field and I don't mean outside of your house. Your kids need to be evangelized. They need to be thought the things of God. They need to come to understand the gospel and grow in that. That is a mission field. If you're a stay at home mom, you might also have a network of other stay at home moms that like to get together. That's a mission field. Maybe you volunteer a little bit a week so you can be around lost people. That's a mission field.

I have a friend who works from home, and she realized she's not around lost people as much as she would like to be and so she got a job, a part time job at a store so that she could be around and be more intentional with lost people. If we started thinking about our life in terms of mission and secondarily in terms of what our vocation is, well gosh, I think that would be so much more biblical.

Three Tips

Towards this end, I have three short tips or things that a Christian missionary—someone who's on mission—would do.

Be Intentional

The first is to be intentional. You can't live in our society today and accidentally stumble into being a missionary for Christ. You must be intentional in that. Along with that, I think you need to be intentional about sharing the gospel.

There's a quote that's dubiously attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi that says, "Share the gospel at all times and use words when necessary." Well, every time I've shared the gospel, I found words necessary. You can't communicate the sovereignty of God, the fact that He created everyone, the fact that man has fallen and is accountable to God, and the truths of the resurrection and forgiveness that's found in submitting to Christ's lordship without using words. You can't do it.

As one man said and wrote in his journal, "Shared the gospel today. Found words necessary." If you write the first part of that, you will always have to write the second part of that in your journal. Words are necessary. We must be intentional with how we look at going out into the world each day and with looking for opportunities to share the gospel.

Be Equipped

Along with that, in addition to being intentional, we need to be equipped. You are probably very equipped for your secular job, if you have one, or if you're a stay at home mom, you're probably equipped for that.

In a professional situation, you might go to conferences, read books, get a degree, continuing education, etc. You will do all of those types of things to stay up to date with what's changing in your field. Why don't we do that with Christianity? You are equipped to go do your secular job each day. Are you equipped to be a missionary? I think all of us if we're honest would say, "We're not as equipped as we should be."

If we aren't able to talk with someone about the gospel, we don't have the confidence or knowledge to do that, or we're not tactically aware enough to do that, we've got some work we need to do. We can't just be turned off by the fact that, "Oh, I don't feel equipped. I'll leave that to the missionaries," because we're all missionaries or as Spurgeon said or impostors. We must be intentional and equipped. We need to take seriously our continuing education in Christ, our discipleship in Christ that we would be a workman who would not need to be ashamed, who can rightly divide the word of God.

We’re Empowered

Intentional, equipped, but we also need to remember, we're empowered. We are not the only ones in this laboring effort of being missionaries each day. I don't just mean there are other Christians hopefully doing the same thing. But seriously, what would it look like if every Christian woke up in the morning, went to their workplace, and saw it primarily as a mission field, instead of just a secular job." I think the world would look very different.

More than that, I'm not just talking about the other humans who are Christians. I am saying you are empowered by the Holy Spirit. As Greg Koukl has said, "Evangelism and sharing the gospel is a hundred percent man and a hundred percent God." You are totally responsible for your part, but that's not the only part. God is totally responsible for his, and he will always be faithful with His part.

In fact, evangelism is the task of standing over a coffin from six feet above it, telling the dead man to come back to life. Apart from the work of the Spirit, that is an effort in futility, but nonetheless, telling the dead man the gospel is the essential way that God has ordained for the gospel to go forth.

As Paul says in Romans, how will people repent and believe and have faith if no one goes and tells them? We must tell people. We need be intentional, equipped, and we need to remember that we are empowered by the Spirit. We are not in this endeavor alone. If it weren't for the Spirit, the effort would be futile to start with. I would encourage you, think about yourself as a Christian missionary. Think about being intentional and equipped when you go out and you do whatever you do each day. Do it for the glory of God.

Be Better

This brings me to a little point in closing, which is I think Christians should be better at whatever we do. If you are a teacher, be the best teacher. If you collect garbage on a garbage truck, pick up garbage the best you can. If you are a customer support representative, be the best customer support representative you can because remember, your job is incidental, almost, in this paradigm. Obviously, you needed to make a living. I'm not excluding that. But if you're working for God and you're seeing yourself as a missionary for God and you're talking about the gospel at work, then how you work reflects on the other things you say.

Do your work heartily and well as if unto the Lord because He created us to work for His glory, but the way we work often times will buy us a little bit of conversational capital with someone. I've talked with a few people who have had similar experiences to me. I played drums every Sunday at church for about fifteen years. There have been sometimes when I've talked with someone, even at church who is very oppose to what I'm saying, but they were willing to listen to me because they respected that I play drums well (in their estimation).

Doing something well gave me a little bit of an opportunity to talk with people. I have friends who are in academia—which is often times a very hostile place today in our culture—and because they do their work well, because they strive to be good scientists, their coworkers around them may totally disagree with their ideas, but they're at least willing to listen because they see that this person does good work.

Remember that how you work, the business deals you make, if you're ethical or not, if you are putting fences in and your fence poses are straight or not straight, that communicates something that ultimately should tie in to our Christian witness.

We must be the light. It's not hidden under a bushel, but I fear too often, in America today at least, what happens is that we are sensing that the culture is becoming more and more against us and so we hide our lights more an more under a bushel.

We don’t want to offend. But we must remember that there is no way to share the gospel to a fallen man that will most likely not be offensive. The gospel, at its core, confronts the pride and sensibility of man. That he is not able to accomplish his own salvation.

We need to remember that our character needs to be a credit to our witness and the words we use in sharing the gospel (because remember, words are necessary!) We also need to remember that when we share the truth of the gospel, it most likely will not be heard and accepted as something that's politically correct. It might be awkward to tell someone the truth of the gospel, but that's what we're called to do and that's our primary job as Christians: to be missionaries. To suck up the awkwardness, to take whatever social consequences there may be, but to accurately represent the word of God to a dying, lost nation that desperately needs to hear from Him. That's the mission we've been given.

That ministry of reconciliation is ours. It's not just the missionary who goes to Iraq, or Afghanistan, or India. It's ours. It's been given to us here, today, to everyone who is a son and daughter of Christ. I'd encourage you to think about your day in terms of Christian mission and what you can accomplish for the kingdom of God. I'll talk with you next week on Unapologetic.