Missions is for those who leave their communities, learn a new language and go live in a jungle. Missions is for those on the other side of the globe. Missions is for missionaries; not for me. That’s how most of us think. We send a little support, a sprinkling of prayers and if we’re really serious a care package every now and then or spend a week on a short-term trip. We then go on with our life and wash our hands of any responsibility. I’m as guilty as anyone.
This faulty mindset is one of the reasons when the church’s role as salt to preserve the culture has lost its flavor and its responsibility to be light in a dark world has dimmed. In Acts 1:8, Jesus commanded his disciples to be witnesses in Jerusalem (locally), Judea (regionally), Samaria (neighboring country) and to the ends of the earth (everywhere). We focus on Samaria and the ends of the earth and do little in Jerusalem (e.g., where we’re planted).
Missionaries embed themselves in their communities and seek to understand the culture and develop relationships that allow them to communicate the Gospel. They have to overcome language, cultural and health barriers along the way. We don’t have these challenges. We don’t need to learn a new language or how to navigate a foreign culture, but instead must develop the mindset of a missionary. A missionary mindset engages the neighbors in our communities rather than flees due to the discomfort with the ungodliness that we’ll face. The mindset makes us intentional like missionaries who know that they haven’t moved to a new land to make friends but disciples. In the mindset we trust that God’s word will not return void rather than fearing failure because of our seeming inadequacy. Here are some ideas of how to change your thinking to become a missionary in your neighborhood. The objective is to develop relationships that allow you to share the message of the Gospel, so make sure you don’t stop at these actions:
- Be the first to greet new neighbors to the area and help them adjust to their new community. You can be especially helpful to immigrants who are unfamiliar with the culture. There are government programs that can pair you up with needy families
- Start a neighborhood Bible study or book study. Desiring God offers significant discounts on bulk order near Christmas and Easter to encourage conversations
- Get involved in the community through school, coaching kids sports and neighborhood events
- Hold BBQs or other events for your block or neighborhood to strengthen relationships
- Serve the elderly in your community. This has a direct benefit of showing them love, but an indirect benefit of showing good works to others (Matthew 5:14-16)
- Give books or sermons on CD as gifts at Christmas and Easter time
- Seek out the prayer needs of others and pray immediately for them to show that they are loved. Continue to pray and follow-up
- Support people through difficult circumstances in their life (e.g., divorce, death of a loved on, job loss) and explain to them how God has helped you through challenging circumstances. Make sure that you’re clear that the Gospel is a solution to their sin problem rather than their life circumstance, so you don’t explain a false gospel
- Find ways to use your skills and gifts to serve others (e.g., handyman work, financial expertise, medical training, hospitality, sewing, providing rides, counseling, yard work)
Change your thinking. You aren’t supporting missionaries; you’re the missionary. You’re sent to your neighbors, co-workers and family. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life and whoever captures souls is wise.” – Proverbs 11:30