This blog post is in a series of posts designed to help Christians develop a proper heart posture, lifestyle, and method for evangelism. This particular post describes the kind of lifestyle God would have us embrace for the sake of mission.
What is a Missional Lifestyle?
A missional lifestyle is a lifestyle that seeks out intentional, loving, and evangelism-aimed relationships with unbelievers. Many Christians are happy with the idea of evangelism as long as it is something we do “over there” (on special occasions, perhaps as a church activity) or “when God gives an opportunity” (by which we most nearly mean— “when someone asks me to tell them about Jesus”).
Embracing a missional lifestyle means embracing the fact that God has called me to leverage my entire lifestyle for the sake of evangelism and mission and that He has ordained all the spheres of our lives (work, family, hobbies, where we live, etc.) to be caught up in Jesus’ mission to the lost. It embraces how God has providentially placed all of the unbelievers in all of the various aspects of our lives and that He calls us to intentionally love and seek to share the Gospel with them. One only has to read a little ways in the Gospels to see Jesus taking up many providential encounters with strangers for the sake of the Gospel.
For example, a Christian who loves the Lord but isn’t living missionally might view their career like this: “I’m thankful for a job that I (mostly) enjoy and that provides decently for my needs. I’m going to work hard, be honest, and be kind to my coworkers and those I serve in my vocation. I’m going to glorify God in the way I do my work. I’m going to pray that God gives me strength to do my work well and that He gives promotions and opportunities in His timing.” A Christian who has embraced a missional lifestyle says, in addition to all the above: “God has placed me here in this particular workplace to be a witness, in word and deed, to these particular people. I’m going to pray for their conversion daily. I’m going to relationally engage them at work. I’m going to sacrificially spend time with them and invite them into my life outside of work in love. By God’s power I am going to speak to them the word of life, the Gospel.”
A missional lifestyle embraces this attitude—“God has placed me here to be a witness”—in every sphere of life—how you relate to nuclear and extended families, how you relate to your neighbors, how you vacation, how you view your community or HOA, etc.
Start Where You Are
If you want to be faithful to Jesus and embrace a missional lifestyle, start where you are. Specifically, begin with your providential acquaintances, the unbelievers you have relationships with through the various parts of your life. Examples include: neighbors, coworkers, and people in your affinity/interest groups (people who enjoy the same hobbies as you, or have kids who are on the same sports/whatever teams as yours are). Engage these people by seeking out an intentional relationship with them—getting beyond casual conversation and seeking to care for them as a person. Invite these people into your life in love in various ways (a future post will have more details). Make practical goals, like learning one new significant thing about these people in each interaction.
Second, start with “providential strangers”. Even the most insulated of Christians (like those who work at church and have Christians for neighbors) interact with lost people every day—baristas, waitresses, grocery store clerks, people sitting next to us in public places, etc. Lovingly engage these people in conversation. Ask a waitress how her day is going. Memorize the names of the baristas at your favorite coffee shop—and frequent the same places so you can be around them often. Refuse to be glued to your phone (or Heaven help you, have headphones in!) while standing in line or in the first 5 minutes of a flight.
As the Lord gives you favor with some of these people you are engaging, seek to include them in the things you are already doing. The utter loneliness of American culture means that many people long for company and community and will take you up on it when you invite them into your life. Do you go to the gym before work? See if a coworker wants to start going with you. Are you really excited about a group from church going to the beach this weekend? Invite your unbelieving neighbor. Getting an unbeliever around your Christian friends is especially helpful because it helps your Christian friends see your missional lifestyle and helps your unbelieving friends see the blessing of God’s people. Do you really enjoy __________? See if there are any unbelievers you know who enjoy that too and do it together.
A bonus to embracing a missional lifestyle is fulfilling the most basic of Jesus’ commandments: loving your neighbor as yourself. Noticing, engaging, including, and caring for people is fulfilling the Golden Rule and aiming at fulfilling the Great Commission.