That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life...
Philippians 2:15-16a

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Be A Missionary Everyday: My Missionary Journey...

Have you ever wished you could do more for God, but felt like you were limited by your circumstances and position in life?  I have.  Sometimes I wish I were a man because then I could be a pastor.  Then I could start a church.  Then I could be an evangelist.  Then I could be a missionary.  Then I could start a youth ministry.  Then I could... the list of possibilities is almost endless.  BUT I am not a man.  That's a pretty big BUT.  That's something that's not going to change regardless of how much I pray or wish for it to change!  I've pretty much resolved myself to the fact that I will never be a church planter or pastor, and I'm perfectly okay with that.  Let me just say though, that if I were a man that's exactly what I would be doing!  So, come on men... let's go!  I can't, so you better!!!  

Beyond being limited by my gender, I have often wished I could do more for the Lord, but felt limited by other circumstances.  By the way, I'm not complaining about being a woman.  I am very happy with the fact that I am a female!  OK, moving on... I've often felt that if I were to go on deputation and be a missionary I could do more for Christ.  I mean a missionary dedicates their whole entire being to the work of the Lord.  They basically live, eat, sleep, breathe evangelism.  As a missionary you're pretty much guaranteed that you are doing absolutely as much as humanly possible to serve Christ.  Every aspect of your life is focused on Him and His work.  

When I was in Bible college and even before that I was definitely open to the idea of foreign missions.  I had already done two short term mission trips when I was a teenager.  During missions conference every year, I would pray and ask God to reveal to me which field He would have me to serve in when I would graduate.  I remember several missionaries stating the need for women on the mission field to work in orphanages, teach, and/or assist in music ministry.  I was absolutely surrendered to wherever God wanted me to go, so it was just a matter of Him revealing the geography.  Africa, India, Europe, South America, I was willing to serve in any of those places.  God didn't call me to any of them.  

I remember asking missionaries how they knew it was God who had called them.  The typical answer went something like this, "You just know when it's God's will.  You will have peace."  Being a very "black and white" "cut and dry" kind of girl, I found it hard to accept the you'll-just-know kind of answer.  I mean, I needed something more concrete than that.  Like a verse, or an experience, or maybe something like "If you pastor tells you then you'll know."  Not you'll just know!  What's that supposed to mean anyways?

I already mentioned how God never called me to a foreign mission field.  Oh, I was willing to go, but He never okayed it.  How do I know?  I just know!!!  Ahhh... now it's me using that phrase.  Honestly, I can't explain it, but it's true.  I just know.  As much as I wanted to go to the foreign mission field, I could never get Canada out of my mind.  I somehow knew that God wanted me in Canada.  When I was in Bible college and people would ask me what I wanted to do after I graduated I'd always, without fail, say that I wanted to work in a church in Canada.  Once a pastor (who I'm sure meant well, but I had trouble taking it that way) suggested that I be willing to date a certain young gentlemen.  The thought had been presented to me before by other "well meaning" individuals, and I always resisted.  It's not that I didn't like the guy, but he had made it clear that his call was to be a missionary on the foreign field.  I knew God wanted me in Canada, so I wasn't about to pursue a relationship with someone headed in the completely opposite direction.  Unfortunately, that pastor was not impressed with my reasoning for not dating this guy.  But when God calls you to something, you must be faithful to His call!

However, I had a problem.  I couldn't be missionary in Canada could I?  I mean, it's kind of dumb to go on deputation to be a missionary in the town where you grew up.  At least in my mind it seemed a bit unreasonable to do that.  So, I didn't do it.  Deputation was not part of God's plan in my missionary endeavour. What was I supposed to do then?  How could I fully dedicate myself to the work of the ministry (like a missionary does) and still survive?  One does have to have some source of income.  I'd have to work at some sort of job, or live with my parents for the rest of my life :).  But if I worked I wouldn't have the time to dedicate to ministry work, and then I wouldn't be able to be a missionary, and I knew God wanted me to reach Canadian people.  Then the perfect solution came along, or at least what I thought was the perfect solution.  I got a job, that paid actual money, in a church!  Perfect!  I could work in a church, full time ministry, and make money at the same time, so I could live.  Problem of being a missionary solved!  Or so I thought.  

Working as paid staff in a church and Bible college ministry was great, but when I look back on things now, I did very little "missionary" work as paid church staff.  Ministry very quickly became just a means to an end (making enough money to live on) rather than ministry.  In other words it became a "job", and I was no longer a "missionary" like I had thought I would be.  Now I'm not saying this is the case with all paid church staff, I'm just speaking about my own personal experience.  I worked with Christians all the time, and as a result I came into very little contact with unsaved people.  Employees at this particular church were discouraged (nearly forbidden) from taking supplementary employment at secular jobs, even if they were only part time.  We were to give 100% of our time and effort to the church; and thus, contact with the unsaved was minimal.  Although I didn't realize this so much at the time, I was in a bubble, and reaching lost people while in that bubble was very difficult to do.  Oh sure, I did door-to-door visitation every week.  Staff were required to do that.  I was also involved in the bus ministry, but those brief times were hardly sufficient to develop meaningful relationships with unsaved people to the point of being able to show them Christ.  I was able to plant seeds, but I believe now that my missionary work was actually hindered in that environment rather than helped.  I'm not entirely blaming the church I was in for this.  I could have worked harder at meeting unsaved people.  I could have joined some sort of group or volunteered at some organization like the Red Cross.  But, let's just say, the level of my involvement in the church left very little time for other activities. 

All this time I still felt a great desire in my heart to minister more fully to Canadians.  I especially had a burden in my heart for small churches. God led me back to a small church in 2006.  It was the church my parents attended.  I've been here for 4 and 1/2 years now working in this church, and I must say, my understanding of being a missionary in my home has deepened.  I used to think I couldn't be a missionary if I had to work for a living.  That's why the church job seemed such an answer to prayer!  It was at the time, but now I've come to realize that my secular job is actually my mission field.  Having never worked a secular job much before my current one, I never knew what it was like to mingle with unsaved people on a daily basis.  Now I do, and now I know what it's like to build relationships and to have opportunities to share my faith because people actually see a difference in me.  All I can say is the opportunities are endless now!

I've learned so much about being a missionary from my experiences in the last several years.  God had to do a lot of house cleaning in my life after I left my Christian job.  See, in that Christian bubble it's hard to develop a love for lost people because you're never around them.  Without even realizing it, I viewed unsaved people as dirty, almost inferior in some respects because they did things that were wrong.  I had to change my perspective, or I would have no chance of anyone ever listening to me present Christ.  Yes, the sin is wrong and should be hated, but the person is a lost soul whom Jesus loved and died for.  Believe me when you aren't around lost people very much it takes some time to get used thinking about loving them.  

I'm not really a missionary in the sense that most Christians would think of a missionary.  I'm not on the foreign field.  I don't receive financial support from other churches.  I don't write a prayer letter.  I own a house.  I have my own business.  I go to church Sundays and Wednesdays. I teach Sunday school and play the piano. I tithe and give my faith promise.  I want to start volunteering at the local hospital this year.  I shop in the mall.  I go to the odd symphony concert.  I drink Tim Hortons coffee almost every day :).  I live... here... it's my home. But I am a missionary.  Every day my life is a witness for Christ, because every day I constantly rub shoulders with unsaved people.  Over the last 4 and 1/2 years God has deepened my desire to show Christ to these people.  I answer questions about God when people ask me.  I sometimes give out tracts.  I pray for the lost people I know. I invite them to church.  It's not much, but it is  the work of the ministry.  I don't get paid for my ministry, but that's not what being a missionary is.  God has called every, single Christian to be a missionary.  You don't have to go on deputation.  You don't have to be in Africa.  You don't have to write a prayer letter.  You just have to be obedient and be what God has called you to be: a witness to the lost people you see every day.  
Every Christian has the power to do it, and that's what being a Christian is all about!

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8).

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