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Monday, January 25, 2010

Developing the Missionary Mindset Redux: Question 3: Did I Take the Initiative to Love and Serve Someone New to Me?

On December 6, 2009 I published on this blog a post entitled: To Help Us Grow a Missionary Mindset. The post came from a simple tool I created to help folks on our team think and act as missionaries in Northampton. If you read it you would have seen the 8 questions I invited team members to measure their weekly progress against. It was designed to help us all really become missional rather than talk about it. Talking about it is easy to do and weirdly emotionally satisfying. It can take the place of actually doing it. I know, I am quite brilliant at giving lip service.

From looking at the tool lately I have decided to put some flesh on each of the questions I outlined. I will do so in 8 posts detailing one question at a time. I hope you all find it helpful in your own missional development. Remember it is about gradually developing a missionary mindset, i.e., way of life.

This next question pokes at the heart of being a Jesus-follower. It is part B of the "The Great Commandment:

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind . . .you shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Mt. 22:37-9)

The question quickly leads me to: is my "neighbor" the stranger as well as someone I know and relate to already? Is it' akin to the notion of being my "brother's keeper." Who can I ignore or can I really ignore anyone in need or trouble? Am I supposed to be a servant of everyone? Is that the attitude Christ wants me to assume every day? Is it even possible today with "hurry-up" being our American way of life. You know . . . Alice in Wonderland's Mad Hatter exclaiming:

"I'm late! I'm late for a very important date! 
Hello! Goodbye! Goodbye! Hello! 
I'm late! I'm late! I'm late!"
At the very least. I have found trying to love and serve people I don't know as being damnably challenging. Self-absorption has found a favored place of refuge in me . . . most times anyway. And I'm an introvert so remember I have an air-tight alibi! I can't be expected to violate my nature, can I, hmmm?

In reality, I understand our neighbors are many more people than we generally notice. We are used to being commanders of our own time and attention. We will notice what we prefer to. And it is exquisitely selective, allowing us to feel firmly in control of our time and energy (an illusion to be sure).

The deal is the Kingdom of God operates on love and service. We need to live this way as our "prime directive." We need to learn to think and act daily  like this no matter what we are doing. Such a mindset should be how we engage the world most times. We should have our radar up all the time looking for chances to express the love of God to people we do not know - whether they accept it as such or not. Serving can become one of our deepest joys and most transcendent pleasures as we become more aware and responsive.

Probably self-evident to most, I need to add that acts of loving and serving can be quite simple and small. They can be done without the person even noticing. They can a take a minute or a day in someone's life. They can be an expression of what you do well or just "being a warm body" in a task needing little skill. They can be the beginning of building a relationship (highly missional), or a one-time deal for a stranger you will never see again.

Yes, it might be just plain hard work, thankless at times, mundane, inconvenient, pushing our hair-trigger annoyance buttons, and nothing to add to our resumes. But is it our calling. It is to be the normal Christian life as defined by the Kingdom principles outlined in the Scriptures . . . the missionary mindset is the normal Christian life.

 So what are you living these days? Take a minute and take stock. Ask God to open your eyes. Ask the Holy Spirit to hive you "Performance Review" in this area.


The following points I hope will guide our growth toward loving and serving people we don't know or avoid. May the Father use them to free us into his purposes..

3. Did I Take the Initiative to Love and Serve Someone New to Me? 

  •  Praying for Opportunities: Ask the Holy Spirit to open them to you and make you able to respond.

  •  Paying Attention: Ask God to help keeping your eyes peeled for opportunities to help a stranger(s) he picks for you.

  • Getting the Word Out: tell people youknow will pray for you that you are working on this.

  • Keep a Journal of Encounters: Note the encounter, what you did to help, how God was present, and what he showed you in the experience about yourself or how the Kingdom operates.

  • Finding or Creating a Group: Get together with some people who want to develop a missional mindset and will help each other practice and stay accountable to growing together.

  • Always Be Looking for the Chance to Begin a Relationship: The deepest hope in this is that you will be able to grow a true relationship with someone you get to love and serve. Something real and life-giving, such that when it makes sense you can share the reason for the hope that is in you and help them be found by that same Hope.

  • Hold a Light Heart About This Experience: See that you and Jesus are doing it together. Let it have the feel of lightening someone's load, giving relief, showing someone she matters and is cared for, offering a cup of cold water or putting a smile on someone's face.

  • Thank God for Every Opportunity He Gives You to Do this in an Ordinary Day: Whether you think you responded well or think it made any kind of difference for someone, thank Jesus for the chance to serve him as you tried to love and serve the person.

  • Lift Your Failures to Jesus That He Might Redeem Them: When you blow it big-time (and you just might . .  and more than once), lift it to Jesus that he would overturn your failure toward the person's need and meet it in a way that brings them nearer to him anyway.

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