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Living As Missionaries

When I was 14, I went down to Monterrey, Mexico with my church for my first mission trip, and then I went back every summer for the next 5 years. Monterrey is a large metropolitan area that is located at the base of a mountain. One night, we drove up to a lookout point over the city, and I remember seeing what seemed like millions of streetlights sprawling out in front of me. As I began to think about how many people were represented by those lights, I was overwhelmed with the reality of hell and a desire to tell people the good news. I prayed then that God would help me to live with eternity in mind and that he would use me however he wanted.

To this day, it doesn’t take much to ignite my heart with a burden for the lost. But I can quickly feel overwhelmed with several different emotions: concern, burden, desire, excitement, fear, guilt, helplessness, defensiveness, etc. The Bible teaches that there is an eternal judgment, the wrath of God, the lake of fire that awaits the lost. When I really think about this and believe this, my fears and excuses seem so trivial.

I know that the Bible teaches that we should preach the gospel. I know that Jesus gave us the Great Commission to make disciples. I have the burden and desire, but here come my excuses. I have a wife and three kids, and this stage of life is busy. I don’t have unsaved coworkers. I’m a pastor who spends a lot of time with people who regularly attend church. I really don’t have many friends outside of our church.

Many of you may have similar excuses. We can get busy with family, church life, and existing relationships and become unintentionally isolated from the world around us. We’re too busy. No one wants to talk about religion. We aren’t good at it. And our list of excuses grows.

Since Dave DeHaan is planting New City Church in Elgin, one of my new pastoral responsibilities is to help give vision and oversight to the ministries of evangelism at New Covenant. But though I have a great burden for evangelism, I don’t think I have been doing it well. How can I lead our church in an area that I don’t feel like I’ve been doing well?

If you’ve been keeping track, so far, I have desires and burdens, but I also have excuses. And I have new responsibilities to help lead others, but I also have feelings of guilt and inadequacies. That is essentially a summary of the background story. Now, I want to begin to share with you what God has been teaching me over the past few months.

In October, some of us from New Covenant attended a one-day conference about the mission of the church that was taught by Jeff Vanderstelt, a pastor and leader in a family of churches called Soma. The essence of the conference was to remind us that we are called to view ourselves as missionaries right where we live. At New Covenant, we have been talking about this a lot recently with our Institute for Disciple Makers. Jesus has called all of us to be disciples who are making disciples.

If I were moving to a different country to become a “missionary,” what would I do? I would pray and ask God to help me to learn the culture, meet people, build relationships with them, love them and show love toward them, and tell them about Jesus, and teach them to do the same. My life would be oriented around those things. And that description isn’t very different from the way that we should be shaping our lives here as we live our lives on mission or as missionaries.

New Covenant is not seeking to become a “Soma” church, and that wasn’t the point of the conference. But they do have some helpful resources that are helpful to equip us to think more intentionally about our call to make disciples. They call their small groups “missional communities.” Each missional community seeks to gather together to be a family of servant missionaries together. They identify a certain “mission field” to help them focus on a certain group of people to love as they seek to make disciples. For example a group might focus on a neighborhood, a school, a sports team, a business, a club, or basically any other type of a group of people. Then as a group, they pray and try to identify ways to love and serve and share the love of Jesus with that group of people.

Holly and I are now leading a CareGroup that has this kind of a focus in our neighborhood. We have realized that our first step is to pray and ask God to give us deepening relationships with those around us who do not know Jesus. For Halloween, we passed out invitations to many of the people in our neighborhood to stop by for chili and cider and some from our CareGroup came as well. Through that we were able to meet new people. We helped my neighbor remove a tree that fell on his shed. Holly has started to provide after school care for a neighbor family. We have had others into our home along with some from our CareGroup.

I don’t say all of this to say that we are now doing everything perfectly. But these are just some simple ways that we are beginning to pray that God would help us to meet people, build relationships with them, love them and demonstrate that love toward them. And we pray that this would become a more normal and regular part of our lives.

I would encourage you to watch some of these Soma videos to hear testimonies of how others are thinking about living on mission and seeking to make disciples. I think you will be encouraged and motivated and filled with hope as you see them.

“Living With Intentionality” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8b2yxKwiD8

“Missional Moms” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cF1m0A6frg

“What is Missional Activity?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6hMZZz2jbA

Joyfully serving with you,
Dan Leeper