Preaching tonight at Peniel was an exciting experience for me, even though I have already preached there more times than I can count. It was my first chance to preach there since the church called me to be their pastor last Sunday night. Previously I had addressed them as their Associate Pastor, and before that as a traveling fill-in guy. And I could sense that they paid attention to the message in a different way than before.
God has been dealing with me for several weeks on the subject of missions–especially forcefully in the last two days–and I welcomed the opportunity to share some of what He had placed on my heart. Missions has to be the very heartbeat of our people; and I know it has not been.
When I was a student in junior high, high school, and college I did not think of myself as a student: I was a missionary to whatever campus I was on. That caused me to think, act, and live differently than I otherwise would. The same went for whatever business I was employed by.
Somewhere along the way, however, I drifted into my own life, and I lost that perspective.
We all (myself included!) have to stop thinking of ourselves primarily as students, employees, bosses, parents, children, siblings, etc. who are also Christians. We are missionaries: first, last, and always. Everything we do and are must be brought into subjection to our calling to serve Christ and carry the message of the cross to those around us. That does not mean we neglect our relationships, jobs, finances, and other earthly obligations–when our personal lives are the embodiment of chaos, conflict, and disarray it reflects poorly on the God we serve. Instead, we view these things through the eyes of a missionary, where everything is an opportunity for us to further His kingdom. When the challenges of life arise we give them up to God and REFUSE to be deterred from our mission!
We cannot afford to be overcome by our focus on “real” life; instead we must realize that there is no such thing as real life outside of Christ and His call on our lives.
I have been doing a great deal of study on Paul’s attitudes about his mission. One passage that comes to mind is this:
“To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you” (I Corinthians 9:22-23).
Here was a man who was willing to give up everything for the sake of the Gospel. His life, his preferences, his dreams, his habits, his culture: they were all expendable as he went wherever Christ sent him and addressed whomever he found there.
My prayer, as Peniel and I embark on this new era of ministry together, is that God would help each and everyone of us to see ourselves, not as church members, not as part time “outreachers,” but as sold-out, dead-to-self missionaries of Jesus Christ.
It is a radical departure from any way we have ever before seen our role in God’s Kingdom.