Living on Mission Every Day: Minding the Gap between Living On and Off the Mission Field

How do we mend the gap between our lives “on” the mission field and “off” the mission field? I wish we could carry the same passion, purpose, and identity that we feel “on” the mission field as well as we do “off” the mission field. Among many short-term missionaries, there seems to be a disconnect between these two experiences.

But what if we changed our perspective and we never got off the “mission field” in the first place? Aren’t we always supposed to be on mission, anyway? Jesus left us with plenty of tasks to engage in as our mission. As good as it is to travel overseas and serve, we should serve no matter where we are. We should carry the mission mind with us no matter where we are.

Here are some key ideas to keep in mind in order to ground your missional living every day:

1. Carry the phrase, “in light of the gospel,” with you always.

I’ve heard it said that the missional life is living each waking moment in light of the gospel so that it increasingly affects every part of our lives for the glory of God. Let this phrase be the phrase we use in guiding our decisions: “In light of the gospel.” What should I wear in light of the gospel? What should I eat in light of the gospel? Where should I give my money in light of the gospel? Who should I spend my time with in light of the gospel? How should I speak in light of the gospel?

This has the potential to transform our lives and the lives of others. This also echoes the words of Paul: “Set your heart on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-3).

2. Carry the citizenship of the kingdom of heaven everywhere.

When traveling to a different country, it’s easy to feel like you’re living between two cultures—your own and the culture hosting you. Everything you know can change in one plane ride and for most people, that can be very disconcerting. Some people experience culture shock when arriving at a new place while others experience re-culture shock when returning to an old place.

It’s easy to feel the tension between two cultures. But what if we claimed the kingdom of God as our citizenship and culture instead of the world? Here are three points from Scripture that may help reorient our cultural identity: Peter calls us sojourners, strangers in the world, as if we are aliens (1 Peter 2:11); In Philippians, Paul tells us that our citizenship is in heaven (3:21); John records Jesus’ saying, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world” (John 15:19).

3. Carry the tools of restoration for all people.

We each have a role to play in bringing the kingdom of God to earth. It’s part of the mission Christ has left us with. The story of God doesn’t end with our personal salvation, rather, with the restoration of the entire world. God uses us to restore broken places and broken people until his return, at which he will make all things perfect.

Each of us have a role to play in bringing restoration to the world. What are your gifts? Who in your life needs restoration? Start with who you know, and use what you know. “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11) “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

4. Carry on with your calling back home.

It’s hard to leave people behind no matter what season of life you are in. But the deeper the relationship is, the harder the goodbyes will be. During one of my visits to Ghana, my mentor, Hugh Griffith, pointed out that the part of our heart that we “leave behind” is the part that the Holy Spirit works with in our absence. Part of trusting God is allowing him to complete the work that was started in your faithful ministry overseas (or wherever it may be), which often means carrying on with your calling back home.

Paul reflects this trust in God’s work when he writes the Philippians: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” (Philippians 2:12) Also, it was his programmatic strategy to entrust gospel work to others (see 2 Timothy 2:2).

5. Allow yourself to be carried.

Allow yourself to be carried in the arms of Jesus wherever you are. It is there that you will find rest.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-29).

Image attribution: RoterPanther / Thinkstock

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