Do You Realise that You’re a Missionary?

It has become common for evangelical Christians to talk about their “frontlines”. The metaphor is a useful aid to help us realise that the front of God’s great mission runs right through the centre of each one of our lives. The truth is that we are overlooking something important when we speak about “the” mission field. If we are thinking Biblically, the mission field is no bigger or smaller than the exact dimensions of the world. Wherever there are people who have not yet professed faith in Jesus, that is the mission field – no matter if those people live far away in a jungle or in a neighbouring block of flats.

Once we grab hold of this insight, it revolutionises the way in which we think about ourselves individually and the church collectively. If the entire world is a mission field, this means that every Christian is a missionary. The title no longer refers exclusively to full-time workers being sent overseas. To profess Christ is to be given a mission, which is to say to share in the glorious responsibilities and sacred obligations of the Great Commission. We, too, are the vital workers whose job it is to make-disciples, and this work begins – not by looking to the faceless masses in hopes of reaching strangers – but rather by coming alongside the people we already know with Christian love, Christian hope, and Christian witness.

It’s important to be crystal clear that this missional calling does not conflict with, or compete with, the other roles and responsibilities that we have in life. One does not have to choose, for example, between the profession of being a teacher and the profession of being a missionary. Rather, the diverse hats we wear as we go through our weeks define the context of our “frontline”. Our roles as mums and dads, solicitors and joiners, neighbours and colleagues – these are the touchpoints that facilitate our witness. Each day as we go about our normal, “secular” lives, we should hear the following words of Jesus echoing in our eardrums: “As you have sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (Jn. 17:18). The stupendous truth is that we are commissioned in secular roles for a spiritual vocation. Our noble challenge is to take up the elements of a mundane life and to offer them as nothing less than a burnt offering to the glory of God. 

Now, here is a difficult question: how do we take this truth of frontline ministry and use it to shift the culture of our church? If we are honest, a lot of how we talk, and how we pray, reinforces an unhelpful distinction between fulltime missionaries and everyone else. If someone teaches in a college or university in a predominantly Muslim culture, he or she is a “Christian worker”. However, if someone teaches in a college or university in a predominantly secular culture (like Scotland), he or she is just a professional. The first receives copious prayers from church members, recognising the challenge and opportunity of the setting. The second is taken for granted without much consideration that being an isolated believer in Scotland may, in fact, be just as difficult as labouring in a foreign culture.

In order to rectify the balance, I want us to try something new in our weekly prayer bulletins. Each week, we are going to feature a “frontline” slot near the top of the bulletin. This will be a space for one of our members to describe in a few sentences their frontline and to list a few prayer points. I’m fully aware that this will not be a suitable space for names of colleagues or sensitive information to be shared. The goal is as much about shifting mindset as detailed prayer. We need to begin to view each other as missionaries – regardless of age, stage of life, family situation, or employment. We need to begin to believe that, if have 100 members in the church, we in fact have 100 gospel workers labouring throughout the city each day of the week.

For this small change to be successful, I need two things from our membership. First, I need you to change how you view yourself. I need all of us to grab hold of the truth that God has placed us in Edinburgh for such a time as this. Are you a Christian? Then let the penny of a remarkable truth drop into the treasury of your heart: you, too, are a missionary.

Second, it may just happen that sometime over the coming weeks and months you are asked to share some information about your “frontline” for the prayer bulletin. Please don’t decline this invitation. More importantly, please don’t think that your life is too “small” or “normal” to be worth drawing attention to. Your neighbours, grandchildren, and friends have eternal worth in the sight of God. Let the church family partner with you in praying for them. Such prayers may just be a means of opening new doors for conversation and witness. Such prayers may just be the means of feeling new urgency and courage to speak the truth with love.