How can I think like a missionary?
Missionaries live with a deep love and compassion for those who are far from God. They are burdened for those who are lost — those who are like sheep without a shepherd. They live by the words of Jesus when He said, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold” (John 10:16). They are driven by the fact that there are people out there who are not yet brothers and sisters in Christ, simply because they have not been given an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel. With this great burden comes three questions that are usually on the forefront of missionaries’ minds:
1. Who lives around me?
Missionaries want to discover the people who live in their city. They want to know the number of people, commonalities, diversities, languages, cultures, joys, hopes, fears and struggles.
2. Who goes to my church and the other churches around me?
Missionaries want to understand who their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are in their city. They want to know the number of believers, the health of the churches and the reach of their ministries.
3. Who is left?
Missionaries want to devote their time and resources to those in their community who are unbelievers and have not yet had an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel.
How can I live like a missionary?
Once a missionary has asked these three questions about your city, then what would they do?
- Be fervent in prayer.
- Seek to enter into the lives and communities of people who are far from God and have not had opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel.
- Be bold and frequent in the proclamation of the gospel, calling people to repent and believe.
- Disciple those who come to faith, teaching them to obey all the commands of Christ.
- Gather new believers together to form healthy churches, growing them up together into maturity in Christ and developing from among them those who will lead these newly formed churches.
- Eventually partner with churches and leaders they formed to press into other communities where they gospel had not yet gone.
Is this not exactly as the first missionaries did in Acts 13-14?
What would our cities look like if we saw ourselves as the ones Jesus sent to seek and save the lost in our own communities?
Eric Boykin, director of The Hope Initiative, developed an acronym called the P.E.O.P.L.E. plan. This acronym, taken from the life of Jesus, gives practical steps to live like missionaries in our community. There’s no better missionary example to look to than that of Jesus.
Jesus taught His disciples how to pray missionally for the advancement of God’s kingdom (John 17:20-23, Matt. 6:9-15). Saturate a community with prayer by walking the streets and praying for the people you see.
Engage the people
Jesus entered into the lives of the people He was seeking to save, meeting them where they were in their brokenness (John 4:1-42, Luke 10:1-20). Engage with people through social, service, support, sports, seasonal or study activities. The goal is to build relationships and credibility with people in your community.
Open the Word
Jesus proclaimed a message of hope and life found in Him (John 3:1-21). Open your mouth to share the gospel relationally through conversations with people in the community. Open the Word through simple Bible studies for those who are interested in understanding more about the gospel.
Prepare key leaders
Jesus developed His disciples as leaders (John 21:15-19). Invest in new leaders to equip them to minister in their own communities.
Launch a ministry
Jesus commissioned and empowered His disciples (John 20:21-22). Begin a sustainable ministry alongside leaders in your community (e.g. a kids club or an adult Bible study).
Exit with care
Jesus commissioned and empowered His disciples to continue in the work He began (John 14:12-17, Acts 1:8-9). Continue to invest in leaders while passing the ministry to them.
What would our cities look like if we saw ourselves as the ones Jesus sent to seek and save the lost in our own communities? Imagine how our culture would change if we began not only to think but also to act like missionaries in our cities, towns and neighborhoods. The P.E.O.P.L.E. plan gives simple steps for us to live missionally — a life centered around the gospel.