I Choose Mission. What Next?
So you’ve decided to choose the mission. But how do you know what the mission is? How do you disentangle everything you want with what is actually best for the church, the kingdom, and the world?
First, center yourself on Jesus.
Jesus came and lived with us. He lived perfectly, died in our place, and rose again. When he left the earth, he promised he would return and make the world new. While he was on earth, Jesus showed love to the unlovely. All ethnicities, genders, social classes, and occupations.
If you want to make sure you’re choosing mission over wants, ask yourself: Is this something Jesus would do? Of course, there’s really only one way to know that: read about what Jesus did. Choose one of the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, and read it… 10 minutes a day, 3 days a week.
Jesus’ mission of love didn’t end with kind words and acts of generosity. It took him to the cross and the grave. On the third day, he rose again (alleluia!), and went to the right hand of the Father (a.k.a. “Mission Control”). The perfect life of Jesus was essential for the rescue of humanity, and it became effective because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
In other words, doing good things isn’t ‘mission’ enough… ask yourself, “How does this relate to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus for the unlovely?”
Second, examine yourself.
Not all your wants are bad. In fact, most of your wants point to something very good. God made you a unique individual, setting you in your time and place, placing you in your family, and even giving you certain strengths: physical, mental, or emotional. In his wisdom, God made you and enabled the flourishing of your hopes and dreams. Some of us are naturally crafty. Others can sing or play music. Still others find that singleness enables them to uniquely influence the world around them.
What is it that you most enjoy? What’s the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning? When was the first time you noticed something that truly delighted you in the world? When and where were you when you felt heaven was closest?
Is it people, beauty, creation, hard work? Is it fun and excitement or calm and habit? When you’re with your friends, do you prefer the jokes and laughs, the memories and nostalgia, or the deep reflection and growth?
When you take those personality tests, what are the things that make you nod your head? And what are the things that embarrass you?
Choosing Mission over Want doesn’t mean you neglect who God has made you to be. It means you embrace it and use it for his purpose! When Paul and Barnabas split, Paul’s mission continued toward people who had not yet heard the gospel. But Barnabas didn’t lay down and pout, he continued his mission of encouragement. God used even the bad breakup for his mission purposes.
But to choose the mission intentionally, you have to know yourself. You have to be honest. You have to be able to know when you’re choosing to play to the mission with your strengths, instead of just indulging your preferences. Are you settling for the path of least resistance? Or are you choosing the path of mission faithfulness? Sometimes the paths look the same, and only you and God know what’s in your heart.
Third, look at the needs.
Look around you. Whether at home, church, work, or the community, there’s bound to be things that are well-tended without any of your input. But surely there are things that need improvement. Jesus told his followers, “It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick.” He came to seek and find the lost, and he did so in the places it hurt most. In Luke 4, he proclaimed ‘liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind.’ The mission seldom goes to the most comfortable places. Typically it goes to the most broken.
It’s not very difficult to find people willing to sit in air conditioning and talk about the future of the church; it is very difficult to find adults willing to give up an evening to help mentor youth. It’s not very difficult to find people willing to spend money in the nice part of town; it is very difficult to find people willing to walk the bad parts. It isn’t very difficult to ‘do your dues’ at work; it is very difficult to stifle gossip with encouragement.
Fourth, just do something.
The mission will never get done if you just consider what might or might not be. Eventually, you just have to do something. Don’t know if this is one of your God-given passions or not? Try it for a few months and find out! Can’t determine if this will provide opportunities to show the gospel? Give it a shot, be attentive, and take the opportunities if they arise. Afraid the apparent need is really just a symptom? Get in there and try to make it better; at least then you can rule out what doesn’t work.
God’s grace is sufficient for you in all your failures and successes. Pulling back and evaluating is healthy, but staying there is sinful. After you evaluate, it’s time to correct your course (if necessary) and push through.
So how do I know the mission?
Step 1: Ask if it imitates the concerns of God.
Step 2: Ask if it’s something for which God has equipped me.
Step 3: Ask if there’s a need.
Step 4: Go, in God’s grace.
Manny Boston is Family Pastor at Hope Hull United Methodist Church. In that role, he leads our ministry with children and youth so that they grow into the love and knowledge of Christ.