By Thom Rainer
The word missional is a popular buzzword in the church today. Living missionally simply means having a Great Commission and Great Commandment mindset in all your encounters.
It’s easy for church members to grow accustomed to spending most of their time with other Christians. But living on mission means spending time with the unchurched. The local church cannot rely on the pastor to evangelize the entire community. Everyone in the church must work together.
So how can a pastor motivate members to live missionally? Lead by example and with enthusiasm. A pastor must live missionally before leading others to do the same.
Here are some practical ways to live on mission. Practice biblical hospitality by inviting non-Christian neighbors into your home on a regular basis. Find ways to invest in the community—become a member of a civic organization, attend community functions and local sporting events. Some might ask “how do you balance that with family?” Take them with you. As a family, integrate yourselves into the community and get to know people.
For a pastor to be missional, it means being present in the community, living like a missionary and loving like Christ. A pastor also must embrace missional activities with such enthusiasm it’s contagious.
As you lead by example and with enthusiasm, here are some ways your church can be on mission.
1. Love your community.
I’m encouraged to hear about more and more churches meeting needs in their communities where people work, live and play. Consider adopting an under-resourced elementary school. Offer to paint classrooms in the summer or provide ESL classes and after-school tutoring.
If you’re not sure where to start, ask key leaders in your community what your church can do to help fulfill a specific need.
The old cliché about showing people you care before they will listen to what you say is ringing true in today’s culture. But let me be clear: a verbal witness is absolutely necessary to the mission of God. The non-Christian will never hear the gospel unless we share it. But too often we fail to show Christ’s love along with His message. It’s not either/or; it’s both/and.
2. Live incarnationally.
The word incarnational means “in the flesh” or physically present. But for the church, it has the deeper meaning of being present as a representative of Christ. You cannot be missional unless you are present. When you are in your community, try to see the people you encounter through Jesus’ eyes. It makes all the difference in the world.
3.Develop true friendships with non-Christians.
Building relationships with non-Christians is vitally important to leading them to faith in Christ. More often than not, we have to develop authentic relationships with people before they will ever listen to us talk about our faith in God. But remember, people we befriend may never accept Jesus. Investing in others for the sake of the gospel often involves disappointment. Yet, we are still called to live missionally.
Living on mission is difficult in today’s culture. America is clearly becoming less Christian, less evangelized and less churched. Many around us have no desire to hear what we have to say about Christ. But there are those who are open to relationships with Christians and over time their hearts will be softened to the gospel. In the meantime, it is my prayer that we ask God to give us the strength to live and love like Jesus.