Missional in the Moment

Confession: I sometimes struggle with what it means to live a missional life as an ordinary believer.

I can’t seem to find direction in the environment of Missional Gurus who challenge the fruitfulness of missional living and suggest that most of us are Missional In Name Only.  I don’t have a church, ministry, or project to list on my missional resume.

Sometimes I get an attack of performance anxiety. Recently my husband pointedly asked me, “Are you just looking for something to do to prove that you are missional?” Ouch.

So I threw out my missional resume and rather than redesigning my life in missional themes, I asked the Lord to begin teaching me what it means to be missional in my life and circumstances, not as an add-on feature. Unless and until God asks something bigger of me, I will try to live fully missional in the life I have.

Let me share a little of what I am learning. It isn’t earth-shattering, but for me it is a part of letting my life be transformed.

A few of the key ideas are that I try to be
more present
more aware
more sensitive
more intentional.

  • The main thing that I learned about myself is that in order to love others, I usually have to go one step beyond what I am culturally comfortable with. I was raised to respect other people’s privacy, to be non-intrusive, to be non-demonstrative, and to be somewhat introverted about approaching others. Not that I am now obnoxious, but in order to express care to others, I have to step outside of my comfort zone and risk stepping into theirs.
  • I have also discovered that I have to stay present in the moment and present to the people around me. Most missional moments appear fairly insignificant.
  • Missional moments look like an opportunity to let someone know that I care about them and what they are going through, sometimes just with words, sometimes with specific actions.
  • Remembering I carry within me the light, power, and life of Jesus Christ, the choice is always available to me to share that love with others or to withhold it.  I try to be generous with His abundant love.
  • I am sharpening my awareness that everywhere around me are people who need words of life and sharpening my sensitivity to where God is at work.
    ~
  • From a kingdom perspective, every act of love and care is an investment in eternity. I remind myself of the eternal significance of even the smallest opportunities to love.
  • That’s it. Learning moment by moment to hear from the Father, to follow the Spirit, and to share the love of Jesus in every imaginable opportunity that presents itself during my day.

Yes, this ought to be christianity 101. However, it took me five years to really remove the church-program lens from my understanding of how to live the christian life. My earlier attempts at understanding how to be missional were through that lens.

I am tempted to not publish this because it sounds so simplistic. Yet I know that there are probably others like me who are fumbling along wanting to be missional outside of a context that would programize or institutionalize their efforts.

In order for this to soak into the marrow of who I am, so that missional is more than an abstraction, it has to start at the most basic places.

The reminders that I give myself along the way are pretty simple…

Stay awake.
Love the one you’re with.
Take the extra step.
This is the reality of the kingdom.
This is eternal.

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28 thoughts on “Missional in the Moment

  1. It’s strange how such a central principle in God’s design for our lives – like being missional” can start out as an inspiration and deep conviction, and in no time become another point of measurement and cause of frustration.

    This was a very refreshing read! Like you said, God’s way of transforming our personal life may look very different than the focus and practice of currently popular Missional Gurus.

    If I’m not mistaken, the only striving that the New Testament encourages, is a striving to know Jesus and His love more deeply and to enter into His rest. Everything else flows from that centering of our hearts or it doesn’t flow at all.

  2. “Love the one you’re with.” So you’re saying that Stephen Stills was missional? :)

    Good thoughts. I’m with you in learning to see mission in the Kingdom from a day-to-day, non-programmatic point of view. I agree that our mission grows out of who we are and what we do as we are open to what the Father is doing.

  3. Grace can I recommend Anthony De Mello’s videos on the net.The series on prayer is ultra freeing from all this ‘have to’ stuff that lands on our fundamentalist programmed minds every other waking moment.De Mello’s book ‘Awareness’ is a gem.It will change your whole outlook.’Missional has become a new religious law with a trendy name!Same old law guilt trip though.De Mello’s thoughts have litterally kept me sane over the last number of weeks!!

  4. I believe you are familiar with ‘Doable Evangelism’. (http://doableevangelism.com/) They focus on deconstructing the high-pressure, formulaic evangelism paradigm and construct what they believe is the much more Biblical model that Jesus taught … they use the line “Evangelism for the rest of us”. Central to their curriculum is a concept called ‘Ordinary Attempts’ (OAs);
    1. Noticing (Where is God working and how can I participate?)
    2. Praying behind people’s backs (Through the increased awareness of #1, pray for God’s intervention into the situations noticed) and
    3. Asking “How are you?” and then actually listen (Don’t try to fix their issues and don’t offer the common useless platitudes).

    I have been practicing OAs for a couple of years now and it has markedly changed my Christian walk. Now, after patiently listening to people (often strangers I encounter in everyday situations), with intentional interest, I usually end the encounter with “May I pray for you?” Depending on the situation, either right there, or a promise to pray for them in my personal devotional time, I have yet to be refused.

    I just returned from vacation at a popular beach in Florida. OAs added an incredible dimension to my vacation. As I talked to people on my daily walks on the beach, you would not believe how quickly people open up and share incredible details about their lives when you just listen. Many people are hurting deep inside and are starved for attention. Just being able to talk to someone seems to take the pressure off and make it more bearable. I couldn’t possibly fix their lives in one short encounter – but I could bring their names before the One who can. I believe God still answers prayer.

  5. I think one of the things that gets us so twisted and turned in figuring what is and how to be missional is the multitude of books by very bright people and all of the very high minded bloggers we all read (i mean this in the best of ways). For example, Hirsch and Frost are phenomenal writers and have done great things in their spheres of influence. When I read them I feel small in comparison, and I suspect many others do as well. I think that because we know they are so brilliant (and I only use them as one example) we will never reach their heights and become paralyzed in reaction. It took me a little while to get past this and one thing that helped was to put the books away and go do the things that I knew I could easily do. We really don’t need the help of the brilliant people to love God and love others. They are just a convenient excuse for when we don’t feel up to all of this missional stuff.

  6. I’m slow on the take, but I was going to say what Raffi said. I think one of the reasons it’s so hard for us to focus on the OA’s that Ken beautifully described is that they are hard to identify to ourselves or others as “missional”. We long for that marker that puts us in the rights with the people we admire. But that plunks us right back into the scenario we’ve been so intentionally deconstructing for years. It’s tricky stuff, avoiding idolatry, because there’s always one more idol waiting around the corner. You remind us, Grace, that we can never forget we’re not supposed to prove anything to anybody. Just love like He loved.

    ps- If I had been there I’d have poked your husband for you. True or not, some comments –from husbands– warrant a poke.

  7. It’s great! I’m glad you published it!

    Interestingly I was just talking with someone at the weekend, who said how much we Christians just need to be reminded of the basic gospel. And that how good it’s done to her to just hear the basic message and get to the core again.

  8. Ken is on to something. We can all be missional in our daily lives, unless we spend our days locked in a closet. We can be kind, listen and respond to our neighbors, clerks in the store (and even the people in line in front of and behind us), waitresses, co-workers and everyone we come in contact with during the day.

    It helps to pay attention. I run past hundreds of houses every day. Almost everyone in all of those houses knows me. Recently I saw a woman wearing a head scarf who normally does not. I saw her husband in the yard a few days later, stopped, and asked him if his wife is o.k.

    She has cancer and is going through chemo and is scared to death. These folks on their own started talking to me about God. They’ve invited us into their home to talk. We’ve loaned them books and movies (not Christian at this point – I do not loan those out unless someone specifically asks, and they do). All because I took a moment to notice and then ask.

    We pick up trash in the neighborhood. People come out of their houses to say thank you, introduce themselves and talk. We talk, and try our best to listen.

    To us , this is missional. We never say we are followers of Jesus, give out books or anything of the sort until people ask why we do these things. Then we say because we are followers of Jesus and try to treat people like He taught us to, or something like that. We always get a very positive response. Remember – They ask us, and we are just answering their questions.

    Know what? – They don’t care about my theology, what books I’ve read or how many times I’ve been to church or seminars. They just know if I care about them. Then some of them have questions. The answer they are always looking for is the same “Yes, I care about you.” Some of them have more questions. The answer is usually the same – “Yes, Jesus cares about you.”

    To us, this is missional.

  9. A wonderful post that gets to the heart of my own wrestling these days.

    And a post that, I think, takes seriously not only the work we do for God, but more seriously than many missional musings, the work that God has done and is doing in putting us where he wants us. We’re so eager to serve God in ways that we think he needs, that we lose sight of the ways God has us serve him in where he has placed us.

    And while this isn’t as seemingly as grand as some other stories, the amazing thing is how much we just don’t know. By being with God, where we are at, and being reflections of God, where we are at, we may have significant influence in touching lives that touch other lives that touch other lives that touch other lives, participating in a chain of the Spirit’s mission.

    And God gets all the glory for it, since we don’t really have a story to tell except what might seem mundane in our moments.

    That’s probably how it should be.

  10. looking back, my most missional moments have been when i didn’t even think about it. they were moments when the spirit of Christ overflowed. thinking of when i worked in public sector service industry and i used to give out these free gifts to the children who came to visit of that town – underprivilidged kids. the gifts were there for the giving but they just sat in filing cabinets .fellow-workers would’ve preferred they sat there than went to these kids. got alot of joy doing this – the kids just loved the gifts and most of all i think the spirit of Christ must have brightened up their dreary days. i think overflow has alot to do with being missional. your entry made me think about these matters yesterday.

  11. Confession: I sometimes struggle with what it means to live a missional life as an ordinary believer.

    you had me on the first word, confession, and then the next to last word, ordinary.

    You lost me on the word missional.

    I know words help us identify trends and ideas. What happens though is that an idea becomes stifled by the words. Are you missional? I don’t know. Am I? No flippin’ idea. Was Jesus? Was Paul? What about Billy Graham? Mother Teresa? The guy at the 7-11 who buys coffee for homeless alcoholics? A shy teenager who serves a meal to those who live outside? Who is ever missional and if they are, who is ever missional enough???

    Are you missional? I don’t know. But clearly this is a concept that has riveted you for some time. What is the Holy Spirit up to in that tender heart of yours???

    Come to Portland. Hang with me and the HOMEpdx crew. Find out what a simple pair of socks and a chat can mean for some guy who sleeps on concrete. And then go to an AA meeting with me.

    {hug}

    (God is up to good things in my tender heart, too!)

  12. grace, your post made me feel as if I were reading private thoughts in your personal diary or journal. Thank you for sharing your thoughts so candidly.

    I could most certainly identify with it. For me, it was finding a way to be a witness, to be effective, to be recognized is something I have thought about through the years from my early childhood. I was a daughter of missionary parents. I always wanted to be a missionary since my parents instilled in me this ideal, desire, life-goal. But when I grew up.. to actually do so through the church, as everyone seemed to encourage, meant to be a part of the ‘inside’ group. And to jump through a bunch of hoops to be qualified.

    I begin to see that I was looking thorough the glasses of human achievement. Yet, it is still frustrating for me because I know things, I see things and understand things I can not share because I am not qualified, ‘not educated’.

    As I was reading your post something you said made me think of something else I would like to share. First of all let me quote you for reference,

    “So I threw out my missional resume and rather than redesigning my life in missional themes, I asked the Lord to begin teaching me what it means to be missional in my life and circumstances, not as an add-on feature. Unless and until God asks something bigger of me, I will try to live fully missional in the life I have.”

    What you said that made me think was “Unless and until God asks something bigger then me”. I guess question would be, what is “bigger”? Something ‘appropriate’? Recognized by the organized church? Something acceptable by church community? What proves that it IS bigger?

    Thanks again for posting, what you had to say was very thoughtful.

  13. Mak, kathy, David, Raffi, Mimosa, Shaun, Mark, Tom,
    Thank you for taking the time to comment and let me know that you can relate to this.

    josh and charlie,
    I try to be aware of not confusing the line between intentionality and striving.

    Fred,
    LOL. Those are my mental post-it notes.

    ken,
    Thanks for sharing that. It is surprising the amount of pain that many people carry. There are so many opportunities to care.

    I have heard of the doable evangelism concept, and it didn’t really hit me right before. Apparently the planets had to line up just right before if finally clicked with me that living in these moments is what life in the spirit is all about.

    rich,
    Very insightful. Sometimes when we imagine big things out there we lose the ability to see the little things in front of us.

    cindy,
    Consider him poked. ;)

    sam and anon,
    Thanks for sharing your experiences. When the “agenda” is simply to truly care, people open up quite readily. It is a joy to be able to share the overflow of Christ’s love with others.

    patrick,
    Great comment. It’s true that we may never know the long-term outcome of our mundane moments. But as you say, the moment is ours to share, and the outcome is God’s.

    pam,
    This is in response to your comment and the post at your blog. Yes missional = love. And missional = being a christian, a disciple, a believer. So why not just drop the term?

    Do you remember when we used to talk about the church bubble? That is the only way that I knew to live the christian life. All of my defaults were set to that familiar pattern.

    For me, missional is not a word that represents a theology, a movement, a trend, or an idea. It is a word that expresses my intention to live my life with an outward focus. Perhaps when that becomes the norm for me, I can drop the term. But for now, I keep it around as one of my mental post-it notes.

    Ideally, living missionally would be the magical fruit of my super spirituality, but I’m not there yet. I have to consider, decide, remind myself, then remind myself again to make this a real part of my daily life. For now, that’s how and where it needs to happen.

    quacinda,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Those are great questions. We really don’t know what is bigger. The things that I shared in the post are mostly about what happens in the course of my daily life as it is. I guess what I meant is that unless God directs me to step beyond this realm, I will try to be diligent here. There are other ministries that we support financially, but my hands-on personal involvement is with the people in my sphere. They are the ones that I can touch.

  14. For me, missional is not a word that represents a theology, a movement, a trend, or an idea. It is a word that expresses my intention to live my life with an outward focus. Perhaps when that becomes the norm for me, I can drop the term. But for now, I keep it around as one of my mental post-it notes.

    Totally. I was talking with someone from The Ooze at Convergence about terms, such as Emerging Church, Missional, etc…and they were using these terms quite easily in the flow of conversation. Words have power, and words are vehicles that carry ideas and also stifle ideas. For me as a writer I am thoughtful about the words I want to include in my signature vocabulary. Emerging Church movement is already a cluster of terms that is becoming jaded as it appears to have become branded. Language is a tricky river to navigate.

    I respect and completely get that we develop words, slang and coin phrases to help us define what we think within ourselves and to communicate that to those around us. A common language helps create tribes.

    For the benefit of your readers here’s an excerpt from my blog post on being missional (which was inspired, in part, by this posting of yours….)

    I understand the need for defining concepts and trends. Missional is simply a word, and words are vehicles to carry forth ideas. What concerns me is when there is a lot of energy spent on theorizing about a word that far outruns the practice of it. For example, I can sit around and talk about love in coffee bars all day long. What is love? What does it look like? How do we do live out love? But really, the best way to discover the true meaning of love is to love and be loved. To integrate the act of love in our lives requires Acts of Love.

    And so it is with this idea of being missional. Talking about it is good, even necessary, very necessary in many corners of western Christendom. But the capturing of what it means to be a missional follower of Jesus Christ is, in my opinion, going to be realized when by our lives we Act Missional.

    I love that you wrestle with all of this in a public forum. And I am inspired that in your corner of the world you are determined to let the goodness of God flow out of your life to those around you. It might not be addicts and street drunks, which we have plenty of here in Portland, but that’s not your city. I’m comfortable hanging out with marginalized people. But it would be a total project for me to tromp out into the countryside or the suburbs and find some people to get Jesus’ish on.

    (come to convergence next year! Plan on it for Feb if you can make it. Bring a friend or two or three. The hotel is reasonably priced and the registration fee is totally affordable. Flights..I know, I know….but pray on it. I think it would be incredibly eventful for you to mingle with so many like-minded women. Rose will probably be there next year. I know she was bummed to make it this time……think about it and pray on it…..)

    {hug}

  15. After so many wonderful responses there isn’t much I feel I can add.

    This post made me feel relieved. And happy. And convicted. And inspired. And energized. And relieved. And hopeful. And determined. And loving. And did I mention relieved? :-D

    I’m relieved because I’ve been beating myself up over what I think I should be doing (based on the grand actions of so many), as opposed to what I’m capable of doing in my current circumstances.

    I’m relieved because I know that God can (and will) use me exactly where I am.

    Thank you.

  16. Thank you for this post. I just share part of it with my high school youth group. Here are the parts I shared (And I mentioned your blog! :):

    A few of the key ideas are that I try to be
    more present
    more aware
    more sensitive
    more intentional.

    And…

    The reminders that I give myself along the way are pretty simple…

    Stay awake.
    Love the one you’re with.
    Take the extra step.
    This is the reality of the kingdom.
    This is eternal.

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