Often we’re tempted to think that there are two different classes of Christians in the church. There are the super-elites who speak at conferences, write books, preach, and do the work of evangelism and discipleship, and then there are the rest of us who sit in the pews and, at best–if we’re really feeling brave–invite a neighbor or co-worker to a church service. This bifurcated spirituality is really unfortunate and unbiblical.
The apostle Paul did say that certain offices and leaders were given to the church, but he doesn’t say that they’re the ones who do all the work. He says, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:11-12). Church leaders do the work of equipping the saints (believers), but it is they (the everyday believers) who do the work of ministry. The primary way the gospel will be proclaimed to every people group (which Jesus said must happen before he returns) is through ordinary people.
When I was a kid, I distinctly remember the Sundays when the missionaries would show up to share in worship. They would bring with them cool stories about far away peoples and customs, strange clothing, and some sort of weapon or tool from the place they were ministering. The impact of these “testimonies” was that I viewed missionaries as radical and completely different from my family and me. I thought that to be a missionary I had to move to a far away place and begin to dress funny. The only consolation at the thought of becoming a missionary was that I might get to wield a machete or a spear.
But the truth is that we’re all called to be missionaries. We’re all called to share the gospel with people. Every disciple of Jesus is commissioned to make disciples and to teach others to obey all that Jesus taught and commanded, and this doesn’t mean that we all have to move to Africa…For some of us it could mean that God calls us to leave where we are to go where he’s calling us, and if he does, it’s the only option. Discipleship is surrender. It’s following Jesus wherever he calls and doing what he says…But for most of us that means staying right where we are and being on mission in our own back yard. Living an ordinary life is not counterintuitive to living as a missionary.
Living Ordinary Lives
What are the actions you think of that characterize living evangelistically?
Perhaps you think of a Billy Graham crusade, or passing out gospel tracts at a nearby mall, or street preaching. All of these have their place, and God has used them. But none of these, I believe, are the most effective way to reach people with the gospel. The most effective way we will reach our neighbors, coworkers, family, and friends with the gospel is through living ordinary life with gospel intentionality.
Think about the everyday rhythms of your life. What are the activities you find yourself doing in a regular pattern? Things such as eating, working, walking the dog, watching football, playing ultimate frisbee, going to the gym, celebrating a birthday, and hanging out at a coffee shop. What if you began to see these regular rhythms and environments as your mission field?
Who are the people you connect with in those regular environments? What if you began to pray and to ask the Spirit to give you a burden for them to know Jesus? What if you asked Him to give you opportunities to serve and bless these people and you began to look for opportunities to connect with them and to invite them into your life? What if everyday became an opportunity to be a missionary and to make disciples?
Making disciples of Jesus is not for a few super-Christians. It’s for everyone who confesses Jesus as Lord and considers themselves his disciple. And it’s not limited to certain time slots and programs. Everyday, in every environment, you have the opportunity to be an ordinary person living ordinary life with gospel intentionality.
If you would like to think through this concept further check Tim Chester and Steve Timmis’s book Total Church.
Tony Merida has also written a book called Ordinary that takes this concept and expounds on it in a really simple, helpful way.
Soma also has a video series called Ordinary People that highlights ordinary people living missionally in the rhythms of everyday life.