I used to think that being a “missionary” meant that you packed your bags to fly on an airplane to another country to do “missions.” In my mind, a “missionary” was someone who loaded his or her suitcase with American food like beef jerky and cheese crackers (just in case they didn’t like the local food), wore fanny packs and big straw hats with a camera around his neck, ready to take a picture of something exotic, and ready to do “missions” for God.
Thankfully, my view of what “missions” and “missionaries” are has drastically changed over the years! The world has changed dramatically and right here in America, we have hundreds of nationalities all around us. Did you know that Houston, Texas is the MOST diverse city in the world? In other words, right at our doorsteps here in Texas and America are the nations of the world, bringing with them all the many different cultures, religions and different ways of life. We must change our mindsets toward what “missions” really is so we can maximize our time and resources for the quickest advancement of the Gospel. Does this mean we only stay here in America to “do missions?” Or does this mean that we should go overseas to “do missions?”
The answer is both: yes, we should stay here and yes, we should go overseas. So, good news! If your church is planning a mission trip to the border of Mexico or a trip to Belize this year, that is a wonderful opportunity to experience and be a part of spreading the Gospel and expanding God’s kingdom in those places. Or, if your church is going to be doing backyard Bible clubs for children in a neighborhood around your church this summer, that is also an excellent way to be “on mission” right where you are. Reaching out right where you live and work may not seem as “glamorous,” but it is certainly an effective, long-term and beneficial way to be on mission for God because the relationships formed can continue on after the mission trip is over. But, we certainly can’t discount when God calls available and obedient believers to go overseas to fulfill the Great Commission, too.
Because we only get one life, being “on mission” must be a part of our everyday lives, not some other life we live. Summer is a great time of year to begin thinking “missionally” because kids are out of school, people are more relaxed, and there are lots of fun opportunities to gather together with various groups of people to fellowship and build community.
How can we be “on mission” in our everyday rhythms of life, both at work and at home, and how can we teach our kids that they can be “on mission” right now? Here are two thoughts:
- We need to look around at our neighborhoods with open eyes and hearts for something God might have us do this summer to reach out to our neighbors and then begin now to pray for open doors! My husband Ryan and I were discussing the other day how fun it would be to have a cookout twice a month in our side yard and invite our neighbors to come over. The cost? A few dollars for some hotdogs, chips and bottled water. The potential outcome? Building relationships with neighbors that could potentially lead someone to Christ!
- We need to give kids hands-on opportunities for missions and this will allow them to be messengers for Christ. This could mean a once-a-week “Make It Monday” event where together you bake cookies or cupcakes for people like your neighbors, community helpers or the ministers at your church. The kids could also ask the pastor of your church what they can do around the church to help this summer. The cost? A few dollars for a cupcake mix. The potential outcome? People are encouraged by your acts of kindness and your kids get to be a part of being on mission with the love of God, opening up doors to the Gospel!
There are hundreds of simple ways to shine God’s light and share His love with those around us this summer. If you are looking for more ways your church and family can be “on mission”, I invite you to listen to the latest Texas Baptist podcast called “GO: Family Missions” where Ryan and I provide ideas on how to take your kids along with you as you find ways to share the Gospel. Ryan also provides some valuable resources for ministers as they make plans for upcoming mission trips locally and abroad.
No matter our age or stage in life, we are all missionaries! Changing our own mindset to view “missions” as simply sharing Christ right where we live and work is what it’s really all about. And if a homemade cupcake made by a cute kid is involved in sharing God’s love, even better!
Joanna Jespersen is the wife of Dr. Ryan Jespersen, Director of Urban Missions at Texas Baptists, and momma to their two princesses, Rachel Beth (5) and Mary Kate (3). Being a pastor's wife in Dallas taught her a lot about the unique challenges and blessings of ministering in an urban setting. Joanna also serves as Minister to Children and Families at Shiloh Terrace Baptist Church in East Dallas.