Sending as a Way of Life

Ultimately a Christian's missionary status is measured by the degree to which they have purpose; not by the distance physically or culturally which they have traveled. For many people the expression 'the missionary life' conjures a picture of an elderly lady in a floral print frock in a mud hut surrounded by malnourished children of a different race. I am quite certain that some people in that situation are living a missionary life. However Christianity is rarely about the outward appearance and it is quite possible for someone to be an active missionary in a pin-stripe suit on wall-street. This brief paper aims to address the question of what really constitutes missionary living.

Ahijah in 1 Kings 14 is a beautiful illustration of how our standard missionary notions fail. He is the only Old Testament example (in the Septuagint) of someone that is apostolos which means sent. Yet he specifically stayed in his house and the party being spoken to came and found him. However he was sent because he had a purpose from God; he had a message to deliver. Thus we see that someone who is seeking to be sent of God may not have to move location to do so.

This raises the question: how does our sending relate to our calling? One way of considering this is that we are called to a Christian life and this results in us being sent from time to time as the Lord wills. Again the sending does not mean being moved around. This should not surprise us; we do not physically relocate when we are called so why should we when we are sent? Rather that in an entire life that is submitted to God on a daily basis there will be times when God has a specific and noticeable purpose that He is using our actions towards.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges faced by a believer in this situation is to know how to handle both everyday life and those special instances of sending. Indeed it is even a challenge to know if a given happening is just everyday life or a special event. Of course the pert answer is to say that we should always be giving one hundred and ten percent; but the reality is that if we are doing it all the time then we are not excelling by definition. The danger of accepting the alternative is that we may miss some prime opportunity by dismissing it as the norm.

The solution is sensitivity to the Spirit. The Spirit was instrumental in the archetypical sending of Paul and Barnabus and it is Him that will be used of God to send us when a particular circumstance arrives. However part of the act of being sensitive to the Spirit involves being open to the breadth of urgings He may be giving us. We would all be alert to a calling to a foreign place or even some major visible work within our church. But how many look to being sent to fetch the donuts or clean the restrooms? You may immediately recoil from my examples on the basis that they are obviously cases of everyday life rather than the special. But can we reasonably assert that is true? May it not be in the donut shop that we invite the seeker to church? May it not be a germ that we wipe up that prevents a patient on chemo from contracting a fatal illness?

In conclusion I might almost suggest that this has been an empty paper. Rather than giving some indication of a magic formula for constructing a missionary life it has suggested that we are, or should be, leading missionary lives today. A missionary is someone that has been called by God and is actively seeking daily to lead their lives for Him. By doing so everything will be useful to Him and when a special project comes along we will naturally move to fulfill the purpose He has for us.


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