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 3 ways to embrace the kind of God-ordained missional lifestyle described in a previous post.
A phrase like “a missional lifestyle” is both grand in scope and a little nebulous. A legitimately difficult part of going on the mission of Jesus is knowing how to take tangible, practical steps to focus your lifestyle for the sake of mission. This post will seek to give you three ways to begin to embrace a missional lifestyle in focused and practical ways.
Identify "Your Three"
As you prayerfully and lovingly engage the various lost people around you (see a previous post), God will give you favor with some and lay some especially on your heart. Identify three of these people (people that are local and that you see at least on a semi-regular basis) as “your three” and make three commitments before the Lord about them: first, you will pray daily for them and potentially even pray specific Scriptures over their lives; second, you will make “next steps” with them (this could be setting time-sensitive goals for loving them practically and creating opportunities for a Gospel conversation with them: going out to lunch, having them over, inviting them to a social event, etc.); third, you will set a time-sensitive goal to begin a spiritual conversation with them with the aim of sharing the Gospel.
Identifying “your three” will help you avoid the trap of simply becoming a generally nice and kind Christian person in relationship with unbelievers, but not actually taking specific steps to sharing Jesus’ love with specific people. “Your Three” helps us fulfill Jesus’ big mission to all with small steps to specific people.
Make Margin for Mission
In our busy culture you will need to make margin for mission and for ministering to your three. Margin means “edge” or “border”. When we use this word in reference to our lives we mean “free space” at the edges of our lives, time that is not filled up with activity. American and church culture are epically busy and without margin—to make margin for mission is to actively arrange your life to not be as busy with the non-essentials so that you can give time to the mission of Jesus.
Every phase of life has an intense busyness in American Christianity that must be fought against for the sake of mission: singles fill their calendars with social events (mostly with other single Christians), young marrieds “need” their off work time to exclusively be together and their weekends to take trips, parents of young children are swamped and want to keep precious kid-free time to themselves, parents of older children are running their children around to every conceivable extracurricular activity imaginable, and everybody “has” to be out of town at least a weekend or two a month to see family and friends (or watch college football games!). A typical church culture exponentially adds to this busyness. I’ve known Christians who attend as many as three to four regular weekly gatherings with believers (if you include Sunday mornings, small groups, Bible studies, and casual fellowship like dinner or coffee with other Christians, how many do you have?) without a single set-apart time for ministering to unbelievers.
If you’re going to take part in Jesus’ mission you’re going to have to make margin—in other words, you’re going to have to say “no” to a lot of good things lots of people do for the sake of the necessary thing, the best thing Christians are called to do. Craig Groeschel says that in addition to a “to-do” list, anyone who wants to accomplish anything of significance needs a “to-don’t” list: a list of good things we will not do so that we can be free for the best things we must do. Look around at your busy life for things that you do not have to do and ruthlessly eliminate them until you can say, in good conscience, that you have made room to intentionally pursue the mission of Jesus with your lifestyle.
Tithing Your Time
One specific way to discipline yourself to make margin for mission is to tithe your time to unbelievers. The method is simple: calculate the number of waking hours you have that are “free” (i.e. not sleeping, spending personal time with the Lord, working at your job, worshiping on Sunday mornings, or doing a specific God-given life stage responsibility. Consider everything else “free time”—even if it’s a church community group, service project, hobby, working out, etc.) Take those waking “free” hours and divide by ten. Whatever number you get (in some seasons of life it will be a large number, some seasons it will be a very small one), seek to intentionally spend that amount of time with an unbeliever (or pursuing/meeting non-Christians) each week. You can seek to include them in things you already enjoy, or set aside specific time to just spend with them. Be creative in this, plan ahead in the way you would plan to spend time with friends.
Start with one or two of these practical methods, and prayerfully expect the Lord to work!