As I write this article it is the day after our 2013 Missions Conference – A Mandate and a Mindset. In the previous four days many of us heard from one of our workers in an undisclosed Muslim country who spoke to us about the slow, hard, yet encouraging growth of the church in that foreign land. Steve Reynolds shared similar stories of the trials and joys of planting the Gospel (which will hopefully sprout into a church!) in Fort Myers, FL. Miriam Rockness told tales of the missional-mindset-adventures she is experiencing in retirement in Mt. Dora, FL. We were blessed to hear from Matt Joldersma about his journey to Zimbabwe in January, where he visited one of World Vision’s area development projects. Finally, Andy Lewis preached four messages from God’s Word challenging us to have the mind of Christ when it comes to missions right here in our own community by initiating with others, identifying with them, and invading their lives with the Gospel.
So, what now? This is always the question I ask of myself and of our church following the Missions Conference. What now? Do these updates and messages translate into anything tangible in my life? In yours?
The thought of initiating, identifying with, and invading the lives of our neighbors and fellow community members for the sake of the Gospel can be a bit daunting and scary to us as individuals. Most of us shrink back in fear from this. We fear that we will fail. We fear that they will ask a question we cannot answer. We fear that they won’t want to be friends with us any longer. All of these fears and others hold us back from proclaiming the Gospel to a people that desperately need to hear it. Yet the mandate remains, “Go… and make disciples of all nations…”
In our church’s vision statement we espouse “personal evangelism.” Evangelism is always personal, but that does not mean it is an individual responsibility. It is always personal but it most naturally takes place in conjunction with the corporate body of believers. Let me suggest a few ways you can come alongside of some other Christians to grow in grace and courage when it comes to evangelism.
First, let your pastor do some (not all!) of the talking. There are any number of ministries here at First Pres to which you could invite a non-believing, or seeking, friend. There are monthly concerts (see the concert series info on our website) where the Gospel is concisely presented. There is Ekklesia, our Wednesday evening discipleship ministry, where various classes are offered. There are frequently classes available that would be great for unbelievers to attend and hear the Gospel. The Inquirers Class is another opportunity for you to bring a friend or neighbor. The class is often aimed at potential new members, but it would be equally appropriate for those seeking to know more about the Gospel. Students, you can (and frequently do) invite your friends to Night at the Rock or WhoU to hear the Gospel declared by Matt or another leader.
These are great ways for you to personally live out a missional mindset while utilizing the gifts of others. There are also ways for you to be a bit more active in the mission mandate alongside of your brothers and sisters in Christ. You could come to Thursday Night Soccer. Start by simply coming (initiate) and getting to know the people. Then see how the Lord can use you to share the Gospel. Soccer may not be your thing. Perhaps it’s kids? You could help out with Good News Club. Emma Pike would love to plug you in with one of the teams that is weekly sharing the Gospel in some of the elementary schools in our city.
These are just some suggestions. In no way do these exhaust all of the opportunities the Lord has given you to personally live out and declare the Gospel. It may be in your role as a next door neighbor, or as a Little League coach, or as a study partner in AP Calculus, or as a tutor, or as a carpool participant, or as a Thursday morning golfer, or something else that the Lord puts someone in your life with whom He is calling you to initiate, identify with, and invade for the sake of the Gospel. Think and pray on these and other ways in which you can live out the mandate of the Great Commission with a missional mindset here in the community of Lake Wales.
We will explore these and many other aspects of this mandate and mindset in an upcoming class I will be leading at Ekklesia starting Wednesday, March 13, 2013. This issue is so important that it will be the only class offering for adults in the fourth quarter of Ekklesia. I hope you will make plans to join me and your brothers and sisters in Christ as we seek to continue growing together in the grace of Christ as we live out His mandate and mindset!