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A Field Guide for Everyday Mission
30 Days and 101 Ways to Demonstrate the Gospel
By Ben Connelly, Bob Roberts Jr., Elizabeth Cody Newenhuyse
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2014 Ben Connelly and Bob Roberts Jr.
All rights reserved.
WHY SHOULD I EVEN CARE?
My daughters recently discovered The Sound of Music. Maggie is nearly two years old, and "dances," which consists of rocking side to side and spinning. But Charlotte—almost four—has memorized most of the songs. Her current favorite? "Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start ..." If you've never seen the musical—which Charlotte and many Americans agree is a travesty—Julie Andrews and the von Trapp children sing, "When you read you begin with A—B—C [but] when you sing you begin with do—re—mi"1. Without a strong foundation, the rest of this Field Guide crumbles. So this week is our starting block; our foundation; our "do—re—mi."
Generally the "Five W" questions begin with "Who?" But throughout the New Testament, the apostle Paul always starts with the heart before he speaks to actions. He always addresses the "Why" before he gets practical. And we feel like he's a decent example to follow. So we begin by giving you five reasons to care about everyday mission. Each starts with God and the story He wrote from Genesis to Revelation, and continues to write, in and through each of our lives.
SURPRISE! YOU'RE A MISSIONARY
LET'S PRETEND WE'VE NEVER HEARD OF JESUS.
As you pretend with us, here's a question: What defines you? Here's my answer even if I didn't know Jesus: I am husband to Jess, father to Charlotte, Maggie, and God willing, more kiddos in the future. I'm son to Dennis and Becky, a brother, brother-in-law, and uncle. And even if I (Bob) didn't know Jesus, I am husband to Niki and father to Ben (not my coauthor; a different one who looks like me) and Jill. I'm son to Bob Sr. and Gaye. I'm a brother, uncle, father-in-law, and nephew. And as of October 2013, I'm a granddad! We're both Americans, and we're both Texans. Yeehaw.
While these are marks of our identities, we both also play unique roles. Various titles describe us: we're both writers and speakers. Bob's 1 diplomat and resident of Keller. I'm a professor and resident of Fort Worth. We're both pastors that's weird since we're pretending we don't mow Jesus, right?). But while these titles describe is, and help direct where our time goes, they're lot our identity. They're roles we play. They're meaningful, and we both hope to continue playing our roles for as long as God allows. But roles change. Neither of us lives where we grew up; we have both worked for multiple churches. So our residential and pastoral roles have changed.
Unlike roles, identities are permanent. Deeper than roles, our identity is who we are. There was a time when Bob and I were both single. There was a time when neither of us had children (those were the blessed days we could sleep past sunrise). But at specific moments, our identities objectively changed. We became husbands and dads, and now we live as married men with wives and children. These aren't hats we wear when we want and take off when we don't feel like living them out. They're more like tattoos that cannot be removed. Even if we could cover them up or they fade over time, once there, they're always there. If either of us is on a trip without our wives, neither gets to act as if we are single. Even as our kids grow and start families of their own, we're still parents. And when we're in Europe, we don't try to put on accents to fit in. We'd make fools of ourselves. I often tell my wife, Jess, that if I could change one thing about myself, I'd have a British accent—it just sounds so jolly cool. But because of who I am, I speak Texan, y'all.
What about you? If you didn't know Jesus, how would you define your identity? And what are some of the roles you play in your day-to-day life?
WHO WE ARE DEFINES WHAT WE DO
Okay, let's get back to loving Jesus. As we said, in nearly every one of Paul's New Testament letters, he explains "who you are" before he tells readers "what to do." He starts with our identity before he explains our roles and actions. "Christian" isn't just a role we play; it isn't just something we do. It's deeper than that. Our very identity is in Christ. Because of God's work in us, we are each sons and daughters of God. We are followers of Jesus. To take it a step further, that's a more important identity than "spouse," "parent," nationality or culture, or any way we define identity.
Before Jesus intervened in our lives, we were each, among other things, "a sinner ... idolater ... of our flesh ... in darkness ... slaves ... children of wrath ... [and] dead." But in Christ, God has given us a new identity. We've been "transformed by the renewing of your minds"; God has removed the heart of stone from our flesh; we're now "children of light, a new creation ... alive in Him." Nearly every reference to salvation in the Bible speaks of a transfer of identities: we were that; by God's grace, we're now this.
That's the first reason we care about everyday mission. We have a new identity, and that new identity shapes our lives. God's gospel work doesn't stop at the moment of change. In fact, that new identity is just the beginning of God's work in and through us. Second Corinthians 5 explains our new identity, and reminds us that it's only through Jesus that this is possible. But Paul doesn't stop there. What else does God do? He "gave us the ministry of reconciliation." He entrusts us with his "message of reconciliation." He calls us His "ambassadors." Many Bible passages that speak of salvation echo the idea that our new identity calls us to demonstrate the gospel: in Romans, the gospel—"the power of God for salvation" —also enables us to live by faith; in Ephesians, the same God who saves us by grace, through faith also calls us "his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Throughout most of the Bible, we see that our decisions, actions, and even roles stem from that new identity.
Our identity leads us to demonstrate the gospel. This isn't just true for the tiny percentage of Christians who actively choose to call themselves "missionaries," who get on a plane for the more traditional picture of "mission." It's true for everyone redeemed by God.
LIVING OUT OUR IDENTITY IN OUR ROLES
Gabe and Alison are actors in The City Church. They have helped me see the dangers of defining ourselves by the roles we play, instead of the identity we have. A professor once told Alison that any play worth watching is about an extraordinary day, be it triumph or tragedy. While that may be the formula for good entertainment, Alison explains the downside: "it fosters a false expectation of reality [for actors], leaving ordinary day to day seeming like no life at all." Christian actors must cling to something deeper, something realer, as they rest in Christ and demonstrate the gospel in the dark world of professional theater. They can't be defined by critics' reviews, audiences' responses, or roles they play—because those change every few weeks. They live out their identity in Christ, in their roles as actors. This is true for every Christian, in every role we play. I'm paid to teach college freshmen about public speaking—or how to "talk good," I often joke. But I cannot ignore the fact that I am first a Christian, and God's missionary. I live out my identity in that specific role. I'm open about my faith from the first day of class. I get to know students. I try to model integrity, and to talk about Jesus when I can do so naturally. I seek to display grace and truth—which can be especially difficult when it comes to final exam grades!
Whatever we do in life, we are first and foremost disciples of God. We are members of His family. And we are missionaries to His world. It looks different depending on our place in life. But in whatever role we play—and even in lesser elements of our identity—we don't get to disregard to our deepest identity. We do business differently. How we treat others changes. The way we respond to frustration is redeemed. Our roles are renewed: they're each opportunities to live out our faith.
THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS IS BIGGER THAN YOU
If you were asked, "What is the gospel?" you'd probably speak of who God is, who He originally designed mankind to be, what sin did to distort our original purpose, and how Jesus is our only hope for eternity. And praise God—you'd be right! But the gospel doesn't just call us to God, to spend the rest of our lives as we please. God doesn't change our identity so that we can hide away from the world and wait for eternity. No! In our conversion, God changes our identity; our identity impacts our roles and changes our actions. The gospel is not just for the purpose of individual reconciliation; the gospel does not just call each of us out of our old identity. The gospel also calls us to participate in God's reconciliation of all things. The gospel also calls us to live out our new identity, every day as His ambassador. Why do we care about everyday mission? Surprise: by the fact that you call yourself a Christian, God calls you a missionary.
Excerpted from A Field Guide for Everyday Mission by Ben Connelly, Bob Roberts Jr., Elizabeth Cody Newenhuyse. Copyright © 2014 Ben Connelly and Bob Roberts Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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