When you hear the words “missional living,” what comes to mind? As I speak and train on missional living, I find many people either have a wrong understanding of the mission or wrongly believe they can’t do it. However, as I define what it is, often their perception changes.
I define missional living as being continually-sent disciple-makers who live everyday life with gospel intentionality so we might both show and tell others what worship of Jesus looks like in the everyday stuff of life. It’s not a new program or event. Life is the program, and the everyday is the event. When we see disciple-making as primarily done in classrooms or events, we end up leading others to see following Jesus as a study or a program instead of an all-of-life kind of thing.
The Scriptures are clear. We are called to see people grow up in every way into Christ who is our head (Ephesians 4:15). In every way means in every thing. God intends to bring about the knowledge of his glory known everywhere (Habakkuk 2:14). And the hope of that taking place is Christ at work in us and through us in everything we do (Colossians 1:27). We need to learn to see eating and drinking, working and playing — everything we do — as the means through which we can both glorify God and show others what it looks like to worship him in all of life (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17).
Here’s the reality: All of us are always making disciples. The questions are: Who or what are we making disciples of? And what would people believe about following Jesus if they were to follow our example in everyday life?
The Normal Everyday
As I consider these questions and mission in everyday life, I am reminded of Kirby, a mother of four who moved to Tacoma with her husband, Charlie, to learn about missional living with our Soma family. They joined our missional community whose missional focus is Grant Elementary and the neighborhood surrounding it. They homeschool their children and Charlie worked mostly from home, so they were having a hard time engaging in mission with people who have yet to meet and follow Jesus. Since Kirby loves to play soccer and wanted to exercise anyway, she joined an indoor soccer team with my wife, Jayne, and a few other moms from our school. Kirby also enrolled her children in some of the arts classes Grant Elementary provided, and she served alongside of her children as a teacher assistant.
She took normal, everyday activities, such as sports and education, and engaged them intentionally.
It was only a few games into the season when Kirby injured her knee badly. She was unable to move around for a while and needed others to care for her. When she told us how she was doing, she remarked she was very discouraged because she was just starting to make some new friends and now was incapacitated. However, one of the moms and fellow players decided to organize the team to provide meals for Kirby and Charlie.
Kirby was even more discouraged as she believed she was supposed to serve them — not the other way around. We reminded her that Jesus himself was served by the Samaritan woman before he served her the good news. Sometimes allowing others to serve us provides an opportunity to demonstrate humility; to show we are also in need. Besides, Kirby now had the opportunity to show what it looks like to follow Jesus and depend on Jesus when things don’t go as we hoped or planned. Over time, one mother and her son began to join Kirby and Charlie for meals at their home. She joined them in what they were already doing — eating meals — and they included and loved her and her son like part of the family. The woman and her son learned what it looked like to commune with Jesus at the table and to follow Jesus as a family.
Wherever We Go
Eventually, she and her son began participating in our missional community’s weekly meal, as well. Previously, most of her spiritual direction came through tarot card readings, horoscopes, and intuitive directions. She had never been taught the Scriptures or heard the gospel. So we invited her to join us as we walked through the “Story of God” (a verbal ten-week telling of the overview of God’s redemption from Genesis to Revelation). She was open to it because she loved being with us around a meal and had grown to love and trust us.
Sometime during our journey through the story she came to faith in Jesus and is now regularly telling others about Jesus. Recently, she told all of us, “I don’t understand why people don’t talk more about Jesus. I’ve been telling people everywhere. People need to hear about him and they will listen. We should just do it every day, wherever we go.” She then proceeded to tell us of the recent conversation she had with someone in the grocery store. Up until that time she had never come to one of our church’s weekly gatherings on Sunday, but she was already engaging in the first steps of being a disciple who makes disciples.
I’ve been privileged to see many, many lives like hers changed by the gospel in everyday life. Each time I watch a follower of Jesus engage in everyday life with gospel intentionality with one who has yet to meet and love Jesus, I see a common occurrence: When the person comes to faith, they already know what it is like to follow Jesus in the normal stuff of life because they’ve been watching a follower of Jesus doing it all along.
When discipleship happens in the everyday stuff of life, disciples learn how to follow Jesus in the everyday stuff of life, as well.