I have two basic assumptions that shape my commitment to making disciples. First, I believe that in every single city there are people that belong to Jesus, even though they do not yet know him (Acts 18:9-10). Second, I believe that God sovereignly determines and influences where and when I live (Acts 17:26). I can safely assume that there are people all around me that Jesus loves and wants to redeem and that I am situated where I am for a missional purpose. The Holy Spirit is at work in people’s lives around me and he can (and does) work through me to share the message of the kingdom, the story of Jesus, with women and men in the places I go and where I am found.
Imagine that: the people around you belong to Jesus, he wants them, and the Holy Spirit has you right where you are for a specific purpose.
I remember when I first started being influenced by these ideas. I had, for some odd reason, come to believe the exact opposite. I falsely assumed that no one around me would ever respond to the gospel because the Holy Spirit apparently wasn’t at work in anyone around me and I “knew” that God would never use me or have a purpose for me in regards to his mission. Yet the more I studied Scripture and the more I read good theology the more that I realized that what I believed was simply ridiculous. Thank God for good theology!
Years after abandoning my “defeatist” theology and embracing the message and reality of God’s kingdom, I have been consistently encouraged to find that, Yes, God is at work in the world around us and we have a very important role to play in his work of redemption. As N. T. Wright states:
“And the church that is renewed by the message of Jesus’s resurrection must be the church that goes to work precisely in that space, time, and matter and claims it in advance as the place of God’s kingdom, of Jesus’s lordship, of the power of the Spirit.” (Surprised by Hope, 265)
If you get anything out of reading Wright, you should understand the value of God’s mission and how this is related to, shaped by, and informs the people of God. We, the Body of Christ, are fundamentally a missional people. We are, in the power of the Spirit, sharing the words and doing the works of Jesus in order to see the world renewed and redeemed. It’s a beautiful thing.
Your Space, Time, & Matter… Matter to God
A few years ago I was approached by a pastor of a church in a small town. He was convinced he was “stuck” in a rural town and just couldn’t wait to “get out” to where God was at work. It was particularly troubling to me because I just happened to pastor in a small town and have found that God is at work in rural America, much like he is at work everywhere else.
This feeling of being “stuck” isn’t unique to Small Town USA. I’ve met people who, for whatever reason, are “trapped” in the city and can’t wait to get back to the small town they are from. Perhaps they are there for their education, a job, or because they married a “city slicker.” People in every context imaginable can feel like the space they live in, the time in which they live, and the matter around them… doesn’t matter. But it does matter. As Wright states, the Church must go to work in the world around us because God is at work in the world around us.
So wherever you live, you are invited by God himself to be a part of his work. And regardless of whether you are sixty-five years old, thirty-seven, or a young elementary aged student, your birth and life is not a mistake. And just as important, the matter around you is on God’s radar. Or, as the good Abraham Kuyper would say:
“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
Be encouraged. Your life and commitment to God’s mission, whether in a small town, micropolitan, or huge city matters because you and the world around you belong to Jesus!
A Missional Challenge
Because God has a purpose for you where you are, would you commit to the following:
- Intentionally develop relationships with people in the world around you.
- Tell people your story and how your story fits into God’s story. Share how Jesus has changed your life.
- Offer to pray for people, especially when they share their needs with you.
- Be sensitive to what the Holy Spirit is doing around you. How can you bless his work? What can you do to participate in his work?
- Pray for the people around you, the people you will encounter, and for the Lord to bless those relationships.
What else would you add this list? How have you seen these practices effectively connect you to God’s mission? How can we pray for you?
About the author
Luke Geraty is a young budding pastor/theologian who serves at Trinity Christian Fellowship. Husband of one, father of five, and deeply committed to proclaiming Jesus and the kingdom, Luke contributes regularly to ThinkTheology.org and Multiply Vineyard. Follow Luke on Twitter, Facebook, or send him an email.