Every Christian is a Missionary – Part 2

Speaker: Scott Jarrett | Jul 10, 2016

“No one can say: ‘Since I’m not called to be a missionary, I do not have to evangelize my friends and neighbors.’ There is no difference, in spiritual terms, between a missionary witnessing in his home town and a missionary witnessing in Katmandu, Nepal. We are all called to go—even if it is only to the next room, or the next block.” – Thomas Hale (On Being A Missionary). 

  1. Though Jesus’ Great Commission was given specifically to the church’s leaders (Mat 28:16 – “the eleven disciples”), since they are the only ones possessing the authority to grant salvation (Mat 28:18-19 – “all authority…make disciples…baptizing them” – 1Pe 3:21; Joh 20:21-23 w/Mat 16:18-19); it is clear that the congregation understood they too had an important role. They were to be the church’s evangelists (e.g. Act 11:19-21; 1Th 1:8; Rom 1:8; Phm 1:6).
  1. In this respect then, every Christian is a missionary – i.e. those sent out of the church for the purpose of sharing the gospel[1] (or evangel) so others might receive salvation through Jesus’ blood in His church (Act 20:28)[2].
  1. This role of missionary is the primary gift given by Christ to His people (Eph 4:7-11- “evangelists” = missionaries. It is worth noting the order Paul places each role. Most likely, it is evolutionary. B/C the apostles’ duties included those of “shepherd-teachers” – i.e. pastors, the church needed “evangelists” -i.e. missionaries, before it did them). Evangelism is not only important to the advancement of God’s kingdom on earth (Eph 4:11 w/12), it is imperative to our salvation (Mat 6:9-10 w/12; also Mat 10:5-6, 14-16 – the setting for what Jesus says next in vv21-38 – taking up our cross incl. sharing the gospel w/others and being persecuted/hated b/c of it. If we do not endure it, Christ will reject us as His disciples).
  1. That one must share the gospel in order to effectively and faithfully evangelize others should be a given (Rom 10:14-15 – “good news” = the gospel – see v16). However, what is not so easily discerned, is that oftentimes (most of the time?) there are other things also necessary to being effective and faithful missionaries for Jesus – especially concerning America today. Fortunately for us, they are the same things that were frequently required in the first century as well. As such, the examples and instruction in the Bible (most esp. the NT) remains relevant to our evangelistic efforts in modern times. The only possible difference, would be in emphasis (to be discussed). That being said, the following represents what (I believe) to not only be what those in the NT held in common, but what else was necessary/required to be an effective and faithful missionary[3]. As missionaries (sharing the gospel):

4.1.  We must also be DELIBERATE.

We must view our relationships w/unbelievers as those God has placed in our lives for the purpose of sharing the gospel. In this respect then, our agenda w/them is deliberate unto this end – to evangelize them. This becomes our top priority w/ such individuals (1Co 9:23; Eph 5:11-18; Col 4:5; Phi 1:27-30). What this means also, is that we are taking the time to create relationships w/unbelievers. As Christians, it is very easy (and most of the time more pleasant) to spend our time w/our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. But God has called us also to this: to loving the world – just as He has loved the world. Though Jesus spent time w/His disciples, He equally made time to build relationships w/unbelievers in the hopes of converting them (e.g. Luk 5:27-32).

 4.2. WE must also be ADAPTIVE.

When we share the gospel, it should be adapted (i.e. customized) to the person or situation we are dealing with. We see this in the various different ways the gospel is presented throughout the NT. Based on the audience or circumstances the message changes. Not in its essential content, but in the way in which it is presented (e.g. Act 13:16-41 compared to Act 17:22-31). Adapting our message therefore requires we listen/learn where they are coming from; we ask questions regarding their religious past – as well as how they are perceiving what we are telling them. It involves using outside resources to better understand their current view and correcting their current view where wrong (Col 4:6 – “seasoned w/salt” = aware of their views and adapting what you say so that it directly addresses where they are currently at; e.g. Act 17:18 w/22-31; 2Co 10:3-5; 1Th 5:21).  In the words of Nancy Pearcey, “the first rule of effective communication is ‘know your audience.’ To get the message across to people, you must address their assumptions, questions, objections, hopes, fears, and aspirations. The gospel is not simple to those whose background prevents them from understanding it. Today’s global secular culture has erected a maze of mental barriers against even considering the biblical message. This explains why the great theologian J. Gresham Machen could write, ‘False ideas are the greatest obstacle to the reception of the gospel.’ We demonstrate love for others when we study their worldview to get inside their thinking and find ways to connect God’s truth with their innermost concerns and questions.”

 4.3. We must also be CONVICTING.

When sharing the gospel, we must never leave out the other thing necessary to their conversion: repentance. (IOW): We must also discuss that person’s need to repent of sin (i.e. confess and forsake their sins/sinful behavior – Pro 28:13) and be ready for the coming judgment of Christ (Mar 1:14-15; Luk 3:7-8; Act 17:30-31; Act 2:38, 41). The reason discussing these subjects is so important is b/c this is what the Holy Spirit uses to convict them – i.e. to prepare their hearts for genuinely receiving the good news of the gospel (Joh 16:8).

4.4. We must also be CULTURAL.

To be cultural means that we are relating to their given culture, rather than running from it. And the only way this happens, is by making sure that we (and our children) are in its environment, epicenters and economy; that we and our families are daily interacting and are a part of those places where the majority of secular society lives in a given region. To be more specific, that we are a part of its cities – living there, working there, building relationships there. Why is this so important? Because as missiologist George Peters states, “If man is to be reached, he must be reached within his own culture.” (IOW): No one is going to listen to the person whose vernacular, dress-style, hairstyle, hobbies, habits, interests and general behavior are completely out of touch w/the current culture[4]. The old term for such people was “idiot” from the word idiosyncrasy: behavior that is considered odd or different from the culture in which you live; a cultural outcast; a dork. Connection w/people requires connection w/their culture. This doesn’t mean stooping to their sin – or the sinful things in a given culture. It does however mean, learning from and conforming to those amoral aspects the particular culture we are a part of finds appealing or interesting – as well as acceptable. Not b/c they are necessarily things we like or are interested in, but b/c we are on mission, and it is no longer about us. It instead about advancing God’s kingdom through winning people to Christ. And to do that requires integration and infiltration of the culture where we are doing our evangelistic work (1Co 9:19-23 w/11:1).

 4.5. We must also be a close FRIEND.

Today, the number of people the average person knows is greater than ever before in history. At the same time, however, what also is breaking records, is how few close friends the average person tends to possess. Though they know a lot of people, few – if any of those people, exist as anything more than superficial acquaintances (e.g. Fb “friends”). As such, the influence or power for change one individual is able to exercise in relation to others has also become extremely limited. And that because when we are not building the kind of deep relationships that make someone a close friend, rarely, will we become the kind of people they welcome to speak into their lives. This is why then the majority of those who come to Christ, are not the result of “drive-by” evangelism (e.g. street preachers, door-to-door solicitors), but the witness of a close friend[5]. Becoming a close friend to the lost, should therefore also be what we as Christians are committed to in our endeavor to be faithful and effective missionaries. What this looks like is: 1) showing/communicating affection for them (1Th 2:8 – “being affectionately desirous of you…you had become very dear to us”) 2) sharing your life w/them (1Th 2:8 – “We were ready to share w/you not only the gospel but also own ourselves”; e.g. having them in your home, talking about your hopes, dreams, experiences, personal history, love for Christ and conversion to Christianity, the love, goodness and mercy of God to you – Mar 5:18-19), 3) showing genuine interest in their lives and listening to them (e.g. 2Co 6:11-13; Rom 12:15; 1Co 9:19, 22 – “I have made myself a servant to all…become all things to all people” = this requires getting to know the person), 4) spending money on them (Luk 16:1-9 – notice Jesus teaches that our use of money in this way also reveals who we truly serve in this life – and ultimately whether or not we wb saved – vv10-13; e.g. taking them out to eat – a way to a person’s heart is thru their stomach – Phi 3:19).

4.6. We must also be REASONABLE.

God not only created all that exists, He made sure that it was all connected. As such, what He requires of us is very much in sync with our spiritual hardwiring as His image-bearers. In other words, though God’s Word and ways may (at times) seem weird – or even scary, they are instead incredibly reasonable to how He has made us. Therefore, one of the most important tasks in learning the Bible, is demonstrating this particular aspect. This then becomes our goal in evangelism as well. In sharing God’s Word and gospel, we must also demonstrate how what God demands (or does) is reasonable. Jesus did this through the use of parables (e.g. Mat 21:33-43). Paul says it is to be what exemplifies our interaction w/others (Phi 4:1; e.g. gospel demands of faith and faithfulness w/marriage; church discipline w/discipline of children; Christian separation w/someone who slanders your spouse; commitment to the church w/commitment to your spouse).

4.7. We must also be RESPECTABLE.

From the standpoint of missions, it is not enough to simply infiltrate our culture through the process of integration w/our culture. We must also be able to influence them. This however will not happen unless they respect us[6]. Hence why Paul calls the leaders and mature among the Body of Christ (i.e. those most likely to influence others) to be “respectable” or “dignified” (1Ti 3:2, 8, 11). Another word used to communicate this particular attribute is honorable. Paul says this is to be our behavior not only among Christians but w/outsiders as well (2Co 8:21; etiquette – the code of respectable behavior adopted by a society/culture; e.g. personal hygiene: showering, wearing cologne/perfume, deodorant, chewing gum/using breath-mints). As such, what this means is that where there is no conflict w/His Word, God is calling us to adopt those qualities, careers, lifestyles, etc. the culture views as respectable. Likewise, we are to do the same in jettisoning those things the culture does not find respectable. No doubt this was also what Paul has in mind when he speaks of becoming “a servant to all” and “all things to all people” for the sake of bringing people to Christ (1Co 9:19, 22). Consistent w/this goal, Paul also instructs older Christians to: 1) give up immature thinking and behaviors/hobbies (1Co 13:11, 20; e.g. contra: mid-life crisis and the 40 yr. old raggedy Anne), 2) gain good reputations in their communities/workplace, competency in caring for themselves/their families, honest and sufficient income from their labors (1Th 4:11-12 – notice the things Paul urges them to aspire to are not only for the purpose of independence – but also respectability and influence w/the lost – “so that you may walk properly before outsiders”). From the perspective of God, being respectable means honoring/respecting Him above all else through faithful obedience to His Word (Isa 66:2; 1Sa 2:30). This (too) however is something that affects our witness to others. (IOW): People are drawn to those Christians (and churches) who demonstrate strong respect and obedience to God and are repelled by those don’t (Act 5:1-14; 1Jo 2:10; Jud 1:18-19). Understand then, that like our cultural connection, respectability is not optional! We (as Christians) do not have the right to choose lifestyles, careers, dress-styles or hobbies based on the simple fact that we find them appealing. Because of our identity (and call) as missionaries to our culture – and b/c we no longer own our lives (we are the purchased property of Christ – 1Co 6:19-20), we must also make sure that our choices (in these categories) are deemed by both God and the culture as respectable. And again, get rid of those things they do not. Where to look if our discernment is lacking in this area (Heb 13:7; pop culture – what kind of people does it make fun of? Rom 12:16).

[1] As a formal confession, the gospel is “the good news of abundant life (God’s forgiveness, justification, present blessings, and the hope of eternal life) in Jesus Christ (God’s Son Whose sacrificial death has secured abundant life) if we submit to Him as Lord before Savior in the relationship of Covenant through His Church.” As we shall see however, what we share with others will oftentimes be different in its presentation.

[2] This understanding of what it means to be a missionary does not take away from those functioning abroad. In those cases, however what is also often required is ordination since in such cases, the planting of a church is also necessary.

[3] For those under the faulty impression that what we do doesn’t matter since God is sovereign in salvation consider that Paul did not view it that way. He saw himself/his actions as key to others’ salvation (1Co 9:19-21 – “that I might win more of them…that I might save some”; see also 2Ti 2:10).

[4] Some have attempted to posit John the Baptist as an example of someone God used evangelistically – yet was “out of touch” w/his culture (due to his dress). It is however just the opposite. John’s appearance identified him as the prophesied Elijah to come. Through his dress, John was making a powerful cultural connection.

[5] According to the research of Thom Rainer (High Expectations), it is the difference between 1.1% and 48%.

[6] Influence is so closely associated w/respect that it is actually a part of its definition: to be regarded as worthy of influence.