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Being missional sounds like something for missionaries and pastors, and you’re correct. But it’s for every believer because doing ministry is about transformation. The reason you want to take the gospel to anyone is a missional mindset (Matthew 28:19-20). You want to imitate Jesus, who had a passion for destroying the works of the devil through the reclamation of souls (1 John 3:8).
Perhaps this aspect of the mind of Christ does not characterize you. That’s okay if you’re willing to change. Here are a couple of questions that will help you think about maturing into a missional mindset. Do you have a transformational worldview? How have you structured your life to be transformational among your friends?
All biblio-centric ministries will have this idea of transforming souls, either through salvation (evangelism) or sanctification (ongoing care), at the center of it. Without this mindset, your soul-care endeavors will fail. But if you do have it, even in an elementary form, you’re ready for the next step, which is having the right starting point for doing missional ministry.
The correct place to begin missional ministry is within your heart. Ministry does not start “out there” somewhere; it starts inside of you. If the message of Christ is not transforming your soul, you are not the best candidate for telling others how to experience transformation from Christ.
Missional work operates in concentric circles. At the heart of the first ring is your heart as you experience, relate, engage, and interact with our risen Lord. As you continue to develop and mature in personal application of your missiology in your soul, the next group of folks that you will be exporting the mission of Jesus to are those closest to you. If you are married with children, your spouse and kids are your next mission field.
Sometimes you will read over the exit doors of a local church, “You are now entering the mission field,” or something like that. This perspective has excellent intent, but it is incomplete and could send an unintended message that becomes weak envisioning for that local church. The mission field does not begin outside the local group of believers but inside their building.
If transformative Jesus is not transforming you, then you will export odd versions of chaos to your family, friends, and culture. You can discern this idea about “where to begin” by reading the opening remarks from Luke in the Book of Acts.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).
The Spirit must overcome us initially before we begin telling others about the transformative power of Jesus. Luke said after the Spirit comes upon you, first, you have your affirmation and release to start engaging the next closest outer circle in your life.
Paul gave additional clarity when he talked about our practical imitation of God within our spheres in 1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 5:1; Philippians 4:9. James 1:22 said it another way. As you think about this vital, non-negotiable step, will you take time to self-assess to see where you are?
With the right understanding of what ministry is and where it begins, you will be able to develop a comprehensive way of doing missional ministry in your most influential spheres. So let’s look at eight sequential steps for being the most effective kind of minister of the gospel.
Step #1 – Who Are You?
You cannot disconnect who a person is from what they do. Both of these aspects of ourselves—inside to outside—tie together as a unified whole. Collectively, they provide you with the most accurate assessment of the entire person. Who I am and what I do represent the totality of me.
Jesus told us about the continuity of self when He said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). He tied the heart to the tongue (behaviors). It is out of who we are (hearts) that our words and actions find their vitality, motivations, and “marching orders.”
This insight makes the character of a person the most critical part, a worldview that is hugely important when it comes to hiring or promoting someone within a ministry or business. Character is more essential than talent, as far as the initial priority that you want to know.
Too often, a church ministry will promote talent without spending adequate time assessing their character. This lack of understanding and temptation to plug a spot is a huge mistake if the character of the person is something other than humble and authentic Christlikeness.
How can you know them if you don’t discern them in multiple contexts and relational interactions? An average musician with a high Christlike character is better than an A-lister, who can “rock out” with the best of them but lacks biblical integrity. Any person who wants to have a transformative ministry must first address the condition of their heart.
This data point is also critical in dating relationships. Some girls can be easily duped by what they want to see in a guy rather than taking the time to get to know him. Then they marry that “perfect guy” and spend umpteen years wallowing in regret and anger as they beat themselves up for being shallow in their decision-making or unaware of the pitfalls of what was a “blind season of dating.”
Words and actions from the man of your dreams can quickly turn into a nightmare after you covenant with him and set up the house for a happily ever after hope. Judging a book by its cover, without doing the hard work of knowing what the contents are, can bring a lifetime of disappointment.
The works of Jesus flowed naturally and consistently out of who He was. He was not just consistent inside and out, but the essence of “His consistency” was full of biblical character qualities. You will see some of those essential qualities in the “spiritual sphere” of this graphic.
Step #2 – What Do You Say?
You speak “connected words.” They start in your heart, run on a straight line to your tongue, and into your world. (See Luke 6:43-45). This wisdom is crucial when it comes to building long-term relationships. Parents can blow up this point with their children. If they are not exporting a humble and genuine representation of Christ, after a decade or more of “time and contexts,” the child learns the truth about their parents and rejects God, e.g., “If that is Christianity, I don’t want anything to do with it.”
Step #3 – What Do You Do?
Words are not the only “behaviors” that come out of your heart; they are actions, too. It is impossible to mask the authentic soul of a person. You cannot spend ten or fifteen years with someone in a one-thousand (or more) square foot home and not know that individual inside and out. It is easier, though deplorably unwise, for some ministers of the gospel to focus most of their ministry efforts outside the home because it is a more straightforward task to disguise yourself to others.
What Jesus was to the world was what He was in private. If you are not fighting to be consistent in private and practice, at some point along the way, you may irreparably damage some of our closest relationships. I’m not suggesting that you perfect this matter because that would be a ludicrous proposition. We have repentance for our mistakes. This infographic is another way of speaking to this problem.
Step #4 – This Is the Real You.
The previous three steps, whether good or bad, determine the kind of minister of the gospel that you are. It will also assess the effectiveness of the type of ministry you have on all those who come in contact with you. My appeal at this juncture is to take time to evaluate yourself.
Perhaps there is someone in your life who is not afraid to speak the truth in love to you. It’s rare to have that kind of person, but it’s rarer after you factor in any insecurities about asking for assistance. We can mess up this possible redemptive moment in several ways.
I like to impress folks, though I don’t like saying it that way. But it’s true. And if someone can see behind the curtain of my carefully edited representative of myself, I may defend, lash out, blame, run, or find someone who won’t speak the truth, so they make me feel better without challenging me to change. – The Voice of the Insecure
Step #5 – How Do You Affect Others?
Family members experience all the congruities and inconsistencies of our lives. If the disparity of our depravity continues, we may sabotage our first and primary mission field. But we don’t have to stop there; we can cause significant harm to other folks inside and outside the body of Christ.
Step #6 – You Export the Gospel Beyond.
All Christians are in the import, export business (2 Timothy 2:2). What God and others pour into you, it’s your mission to work it out (Philippians 2:12-13) and ship it to others. You have no choice but to live an “exported life.” I’m not suggesting that what you’re shipping is the right stuff, but you are exporting something.
Step #7 – You Ask Others to Imitate You.
Paul’s understanding of missional ministry was purposeful, powerful, and practical. He was Christ’s representative on earth, and therefore, he wanted to replicate himself in others. To reproduce himself in others was to replicate Christ in them.
When you tell your spouse, children, family, and friends about Jesus, you are pointing to yourself as an example of what you’re asking. You may not have ever considered how your life is a painting that others observe, and the validity and authenticity of your words gain or lose force by the vessel that is communicating them.
Through your character, words, and actions, any person should gain clarity on what Christlike life looks like in practice. Everyone thought about Christ that way. They either wanted what He had or rejected it, but it was the authentic Christ they were measuring.
We want to make sure that if a family member or friend rejects us and our lifestyle, they are rejecting Jesus, as observed by our Christlikeness, instead of rejecting a diluted version of Christianity. You have the resident power in you to determine what you’re going to imitate.
Step #8 – You’re Making Missional Progress.
The most effective witness to the truth claims of Scripture is the transformed life. If our immediate spheres of influence are not perceiving and motivated by our transformation, we are bringing irreparable harm to missions. Perhaps this article, podcast, and questions below will help you address any deficiencies in your life.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).