A while back I wrote a blog called Rethinking Christianity in America, where I talked about how we cannot claim that America is a Christian nation anymore. Whether it actually ever was a truly Christian nation can be debated on either side…but regardless, the reality is that America is definitely not a Christian nation now.
As Christians living in America today, we need to have a major mindset shift; we must view ourselves and our nation in a different light. I challenged my students with this a while back, and I’m challenging everyone who reads this blog as well. It is time we viewed ourselves as missionaries living among people who are in need of the gospel…we are all full-time missionaries, and our mission field are the communities we live in.
“…and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Jesus made this statement to his Disciples right before ascending into Heaven. He was with his Disciples at a place called the Mount of Olives, which was a Sabbath’s day journey away from Jerusalem; the first location mentioned by Jesus in verse 8. A Sabbath’s day journey is around 3/4 of a mile, so it’s not far.
When Jesus told his Disciples that they would be his witnesses, the first place he mentioned was where they lived. Jesus called his Disciples to be missionaries in their own community first…their own neighborhood.
In Matthew 22:39 Jesus says to “love your neighbor as yourself”. Neighbor: those who are around you. We are in a neighborhood of some kind, which means we have neighbors all around us right where we live. Jesus commanded us as his followers to be his witnesses first in our own communities, to our own neighbors who live right around us…to those we interact with on a daily basis.
As followers of Christ living in America, we must view ourselves as missionaries to America.
But we can’t just say to ourselves “I’m a missionary” and leave it at that. I believe we need to learn to be strategic in how we think of ourselves and how we use our day. We are constantly in and around opportunities where we could be sharing our faith in different ways, but if we aren’t prepared, we often miss out on those opportunities.
So how do we make sure we are thinking strategically and properly preparing our self to respond to the opportunities that are all around us?
Having led multiple overseas Mission Trips, I have begun to notice something interesting. When we are preparing to go oversees to work in a different country and culture, there is a lot of work to prepare ourselves for the trip. We do some studying of the culture, we try to learn some of the language so we can communicate, we find out what we will be doing in advance on the trip so we can prepare ourselves ahead of time, and we spend time in prayer for the trip.
All of that is great for going on a Mission Trip. It is actually necessary for a trip like that to be successful. But what I’ve noticed is that it seems like the opposite happens here in our own country and culture.
Many times it seems as though a lot of Christians in America are trying to avoid as much of the culture as they can, which ends up creating a huge gap between the Church and the World. Christians get involved in all kind of activities at their church and make sure to hang out with their Christian friends. And while none of that is bad (it is good to be involved in church and have Christian friends to strengthen one another), when it happens all the time it can begin to create a disconnect. If we are not careful, we can become so disconnected with the world around us that we can’t be very effective as witnesses for Jesus.
Jesus called us to be witnesses in our own community, country, and culture first.
It is time we obey Jesus and seek to be a witness right where we are. That begins with us being strategic in our thinking and living. We are missionaries to America; our mission field is our own community.
To help us prepare for how we can go about being strategic as missionaries in our own communities, I asked some questions of those who are full-time missionaries, both in their own culture and in other cultures.
I came up with a 5 question survey that I sent off to several people I know who are serving as full-time missionaries. I wanted to know what they do to prepare for being a full-time missionary in the country and culture they are called to, because I believe we can learn a lot from them that we can apply to being a missionary in own community.
Here are the 5 questions I asked them:
- Before you began, what did you do to help understand the culture to which you were called to minister in?
- How much time in an average week do you spend in prayer specifically for opportunities to share your faith with others and/or seeking out those opportunities?
- What ways did you go about becoming a part of the culture and getting to know the people around you?
- What has been the biggest difficulty in you/your family’s life as a missionary?
- Any other thoughts concerning living a life of missions that you want to share?
Their answers to these questions are in part 2 of this blog series.