GCU’s mission statement offers a broad perspective on how we can live our personal mission to change the world. This is a call to all of us to shed the self-centered propensities we carry and to promote Christian community as a gift for everyone globally. But where does it begin? A previous article expressed looking into the mirror first. Good start. However, as we faithfully serve our churches, go to our jobs, even go on mission trips, do we forget about our street? As we back out of our garages to race off to change the world, have we paused to speak to our neighbor taking out his garbage or walking her dog?
In This Article:
- We Love Mission Trips, but We Must Return Home
- We Must Minister as a Missionary to Our Street
- The First Steps to Local Mission Trips
We Love Mission Trips, but We Must Return Home
In Luke 9, we see Jesus sending out the twelve disciples, giving them the authority to do the extraordinary for the glory of God. They were to travel lightly but carry the weight of a ministry to heal the sick, drive out demons and preach about the kingdom. They return to Jesus and have a powerful “testimony service” of all they accomplished for Christ’s sake. Just a few verses from that Luke passage, we see 5000 hungry people have amassed around them eager to be filled with the words of Jesus, but hungry all the same. When Jesus is reminded of the worldly hunger needing to be addressed (not just their spiritual hunger), he calmly looks at the united authority by which they had just been on their respective mission trips and states, “You give them something to eat,” (Luke 9:13, NIV).
Now we know that probably a few of the disciples were in their hometown or home area in which the feeding was to occur. Did “home court advantage” rob them of the authority God had given them? Could the same men that believed in casting out a demon in other villages not believe in the multiplication of bread in their town? They were powerful on the mission trips, so why are they so faithless now? How could they be effective on the mission field, but so impotent in their hometown?
We all love mission trips. New people and places tend to remove inhibitions to public ministry. I have seen “pew warming” Christians become powerful preachers, share their faith with others on the street, serve tirelessly and pray at altars with people. However, I have also seen them come right back to occupy their same distracted and apathetic positions in terms of building the kingdom of God.
We Must Minister as a Missionary to Our Street
Exotic people and places raise money and make great power-point presentations. As a former missions director for a missions organization, I know the impact these trips create in those that participate as well as the field in which they serve. The suburban neighbor down the street does not elicit the same visceral response as orphans in India. So, we forget at best, we ignore at worst. Teaching at GCU affords great opportunities to touch hundreds of lives every year. However, I am still a human, not merely an instructor. I am still a Christian not merely a scholar. I am still a teacher, but with a “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19) mandate.
Investing efforts of mission accomplishment on the GCU campus, as well as faithfully serving in church in preaching and teaching give a sense of eternal effectiveness. Going on a foreign mission trip to serve and teach gives us a passionate identity to God’s heart.
However, let me share my street with you. A few doors down is an older lady, desperately lonely, that is a hoarder, estranged from her children, who will hold you up as you walk your dog because she just wants to talk to someone. Another neighbor has been overcome with depression, and I just helped her find a Christian counselor to bring healing to her life. There is the couple across the street that have very verbal fights with each other and their children with the windows open late into the night. Also, there is a man that leaves his house, maybe only once a month. His only live interactions are with Amazon drivers, Uber eats and me (when I check in on him). Next to him is the lady with stage four cancer who is depleted from treatments and just copes with each day because she is the caregiver for her sicker husband. I wave on Sunday morning to the guy on my street polishing his Mustang before another car show as I am on my way to church. There is also the older lady behind me that just lost her 90+ year old father and is trying to cope with this void in her life.
No trip is necessary to fulfill the mandate of Jesus when he said literally, but also figuratively, “you give them something to eat.” There is enough hurt, pain and suffering, never going beyond a baseball’s throw from home. It is much easier to go to India and preach messages to large crowds than to live this each day and follow the mandate of Jesus when he stated, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” (John 15:13).
The First Steps to Local Mission Trips
- Learn to see: Jesus said, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They fields are already ripe for harvest.” (John 4:35) We must learn to see the needs around us. Look for the lonely, listen to the talker, stop being in a hurry. Jesus would have missed the woman at the well in John 4 if he had been in a hurry or staring at his phone all the time.
- Learn to love: Broken people may not be nice because, even if they want to be, they are not at their best. They may not be like us in speech, demeanor or smell. However, we cannot help those we do not love. We must learn to love first. It will cost you something, maybe everything.
- Learn to serve: Offer support, assistance, friendship and encouragement, not because they are a project, but because they are person. We are not just peddling the Gospel, we are weaving our way into broken realities, shining light into very dark places. Find that unique way we can serve someone and let them know they are important, valuable and of great worth. Be warned, that unique way will be the hardest thing to do because if it was easy, someone else would have already tried it.
- Earn the right to speak: Maybe, just maybe you will get the opportunity to share your identity and love of Jesus. Many times, they want to know the “why” behind “what” you are doing. This is where Jesus comes in and his love connects your hearts as they realize you have brought hope that transcends their present reality.
Let’s go be missionaries to our street!
Approved by the online full-time faculty for the College of Theology on Jan. 18, 2023.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.