What does it mean to be missional? What is the biblical definition of mission? What does mission have to do with me, since I’m not a missionary? All of these questions are real, and have at one point in our lives have been real questions on our hearts. I want to take a closer look at the biblical definition of mission, and how it is to have an effect on our everyday lives. I want to first begin by building the argument that we, as covenant people, must be engaged in missions. Then I will move to our engagement in the public square. Lastly, I hope to offer suggestions on how we can engage people with missional intentions at our places of work.
- Shaping a Missional Hermeneutic
The most quoted and common scripture used for mission is Matthew 28:18-20. “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This is an important missional scripture, however, much has been missed as a result of a misplaced emphasis. As I have heard this scripture preached and taught, much emphasis has been placed on the word “go”. “Go is an imperative used as a command to go into the world.” As a result of this emphasis, many have left with the understanding that this command is primarily for foreign missions. Most lay people are not sure how to deal with this in their own sphere of life. So as a result, mission is abandoned. This is a misinterpretation of the scripture. In fact, the Greek text has the word “go” in the present participle- participle of attendant circumstance. The function of the participle of attendant circumstance is to highlight and emphasize the main verb which is “to make disciples”, in which case should be the focus of this section of scripture. Christ is interested in us making disciples. It is not only the duty of those called to the mission field, but it is the duty of every one who would declare Jesus as their Savior and King- where ever God calls us to live.
2. Missional Engagement in the Public Square
Genesis 2:18-20 records for us God’s first commission of work. “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field”. God intended for man to work. He created so that man would have something to apply his hands and mind to. Work was to be pleasant for mankind. Adam was to preform it as worship to his God. However, as a result of Adam’s rebellion, humanity’s performance of work is now broken. But God is in the redeeming business, and he desires to redeem “work” as well.
God has called each of us to a different sphere of life. God has covenant people in the North, South, East and West. Some have been called to the Pastorate or the mission field. Others have been called to the office place. Still others are called to the blue collar spheres of life. Where ever he calls us, where are to effect and infect our spheres of life.
My Dad is one of the greatest men that I know. He is a man who is committed to God, and his family. He will work his fingers to the bones in order that his family has what they need. I can never remember a time when I needed something that he did not provide for me. My Dad is a blue collar worker. God has blessed him with a gift to use his hands. It seems like he can do just about anything. His profession is HVAC/ Heating and cooling but if you need him to be an electrician, he can put on that hat. If the job requires him to be a contractor, or mason, or carpenter, he is able to change hats and do the work. And I see how God uses him to influence. Since he is a business owner, he interacts with people continuously. In the HVAC industry, there is a great deal of temptation to take advantage of the customer, since it is such as specialized industry. I have always seen my Dad treat the customer with respect and diginity- never has he tried to con people out of their money. In fact, he often underbids the jobs. The beautiful thing is that people notice it- people are aware that there is something different about my father. People are drawn to him, and as a result he is able to show the love of Christ while he works.
God wants us to work. And while we go out and work in the market place, he wants us to represent him, to show his love to people who do not know it. Apostle Paul was well aware of this truth. He was a tent maker. Every day, he would go to the marketplace and set up his tent shop, and sell his tents so that he might earn his living. It was through his tent selling that he would meet numerous individuals that he could minister and give the gospel. Peter and John were fisherman by profession. Timothy became Bishop of the church at Ephesus (according to other historical records). No matter what sphere of life God calls us to, we ought to remain missional. Your vocation is important to God, we are called to embody the gospel in every area of life in order that we might transform the world.
3. Practical Engagement in Mission
What does real-life missions look like? It can look many different ways. I hope to offer just a few practical suggestions that might help you embody Christ in your workplace.
- Instead of eating lunch alone, intentionally eat with other co-workers and learn their story.
One of the greatest and most effective ways of evangelizing is through relational interactions. Let’s take a cue from Jesus. Luke 15:1-2 says, “Now all the tax-gatherers and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” Luke emphasizes Jesus relational attitude. Even though these people were viewed as the lowest of the city, Jesus desire to be near them. And they were drawn to him! While nobody else cared, they knew Jesus cared. As a result, he was able to effectively minister to them, just because he desired to know who they were. John Piper, former Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, says “We should find people interesting”. Find people interesting, genuinely get involved in people lives- this is how we can most effectively minister.
- Get to work early so you can spend some time praying for your co-workers and the day ahead.
Prayer changes things! When we offer prayers to God, he promises that he hears them and is ready to act on our behalf. James 5:16c says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” In other words, our prayers have power! Maybe you can pray for that coworker that you have been eating lunch and developing a relationship with.
- Bring extra snacks when you make your lunch to give away to others
This may seem kind of childish, but people enjoy being given free stuff, even if it’s just a snack. People might wonder why you are so happy, or why you choose to give your things away- this opens a door for the Gospel (Jesus gave more than a snack to his friends, he gave his very life).
- Make every effort to avoid gossip in the office. Be a voice of thanksgiving not complaining.
Have you ever known someone who complained all the time? Everything about their life is negative. There complaining even causes a sphere of negativity around them. Complaining is destructive and personally debilitating, and certainly not one of the fruits of the Spirit that are to be manifested in the lives of believers. It is sobering to think about those in scripture who though complaining would get them anywhere. For the people of Israel, their grumbling and complaining got them no where. In fact, it led to their sin of idolatry which caused them to remain in the dessert longer.
- Find others that live near you and create a car pool
Why not fellowship with other coworkers while reducing your carbon foot print? Besides, God has entrusted the care of his creation to us, we should steward it well by reducing carbon emission. Seems pretty logical to me! Either way, this goes back to relationship building. Are we intentional about being in relationship with those whom we do live with so closely? We should be, this should be our missional motivation.
- Lead the charge in organizing others to help co-workers in need
If you have been involved in any type of mercy ministry, you will know that the first steps in ministering to those in need, is to actually meet that need. A hungry man has a hard time listening to you while he is still hungry, but once you feed him he will be more willing to hear what you are saying. In our stressed economy, it is probable that you have a coworker that is experiencing a hardship. How great of a gospel proclamation could you make to someone than meeting a need of theirs?
Here are a few others:
- Make it a daily priority to speak or write encouragement when someone does good work.
- Ask someone who others typically ignore if you can grab them a soda or coffee while you’re out.
- Invite your co-workers in to the service projects you are already involved in.
- Make every effort to know the names of co-workers and clients along with their families (this goes a long way).
There are a number of things that we can do be missional at our workplaces. God has redeemed, and is redeeming every aspect of his creation. Humanity’s work is no less important to God. He has called to these spheres of life and we are required, mandated, and commissioned to influence it.