We are living through a very difficult time in our country. Friendships are being strained. Children are being exposed to embarrassing information. Hostility is oozing (maybe even spewing) from every pore and crack in society. Old wounds are ripped open and old enemies seem to be mounting again.
It is frustrating.
It is frightening.
It is nauseating and exhausting
It is also tempting to wish we did not have to live here or, that we were not living here, now.
This temptation leads us to search for safe places to hide until the storm is passed. We want to protect our faith, our families, our way of life. These reactions are normal and to be expected; however, I want to suggest that they should not be the Christian’s response to our current cultural crisis. Rather than wishing for a different life in a different place and different time, let’s embrace these challenges as God’s mission field. Nothing we are enduring has voided God’s mission nor will it derail His plan. However, we are his body and his mission must advance through us. Rather than hunkering down until the storm passes, let’s step out into the wild weather and recognize that God’s place for us is here and God’s time for us is now.
How shall we live as missionaries in this current society?
Below I want to provide some lessons we teach to missionaries as they head to the mission field.
Learn the Language
Too many of us have spent our lives around people who are just like us. We know the jokes and understand the meaning of words and phrase. However, a missionary realizes that in order to communicate properly, she needs to learn how others talk. What do the words mean? We learn that, just because something sounds familiar doesn’t mean that it is the same.
A question we all need to ask is: “What do you mean by that?”
Enjoy the differences
Not everything that is different is bad. It is easy to feel attacked when something is unfamiliar. Sometimes this is true. However, this should not be our default attitude. Enjoy meeting new people. Enjoy new conversations and new entertainment. Don’t abandon biblical convictions, but enjoy what you can.
Seek to Understand before being Understood
Examine your FaceBook or Twitter feed. Do you see how many of us are actually talking past each other? Many are forwarding, liking, sharing, retweeting, just to amplify their position or to make themselves look important. It is time for us to slow down and listen. Listening and seeking to really understand a position, even one you may disagree with, is not the same as endorsing it. It is actually obeying Jesus’s commandment to “Do to others as you would have them to do you.”
As a missionary, your credibility does not rest primarily on your being understood. Rather, it rests on you being able to relate the gospel to the real hopes, concerns, fears, dreams of the people you are talking to. This requires listening and understanding.
Embrace the chaos as a challenge and opportunity
The chaos of these times is not an invitation for Christians to run and hide or huddle in our safe-places. The gospel of Jesus is the power of God to salvation. It is light in the darkness that surrounds us and remember, in the darkness the light shines best.
The chaos of our day presents tremendous opportunities for mission minded Christians to give a reason for the hope that is within us. Run to the chaos, not away from it.
Talk to God about the confusion and difficulty of the day. Prayer is our source of strength and it is a means for applying God’s promises. Don’t allow the strain of the day to force you to worry.
Let it lead you to pray.
Share Christ regularly, creatively, and boldly
You can be sure of this: where sin abounds, grace abounds even more. In our sinful society there is a vacuum of grace. Everyone is sharing opinions and advocating for one position or another. However, only Christians have the opportunity to present the hope for the world.
Don’t be distracted or fearful. Now is not the time to shrink away. Now is the time to speak often, winsomely, and with courage.
I challenge you to take your Bible (print or digital) and do a search of all the times it says “Fear Not” or “Do not be afraid.”
Seriously do it! Then ask yourself, what was happening at that moment when God told his followers to trust him and not be afraid.
Make a list and then ask yourself: “Why am I not able to trust God? Why am I living in fear?”
God has not abandoned us. Living as a missionary requires us to trust God for protection, success, help, and security. He is much more reliable than we are.
I like what Paul said about King David in Acts 13:36. For David, after serving in his own generation in God’s plan, fell asleep. . .”
What a challenge. David was faithful to God’s plan in his generation.
This is our generation – this is our time and this is our place. Serve God’s Plan!
Scott Hildreth is the director of the Lewis A. Drummond Center for Great Commission Studies. He frequently speaks on issues of missions, spiritual formation, missiology, and theology. Scott also contributes to SEBTS faculty blog www.betweenthetimes.com