Being an Imperfect Missionary
Heartlands Spring 2021
food for thought:
Mission in Tasmania
Jenna Blackwell ponders her frustration about mission in Tasmania
A friend once asked me when I first heard about mission or “felt the call”. I fumbled for words, speechless. No recollection, just compounding moments and realisations through teachings, coaching and mentoring.
It made me wonder: Am I a missionary?
Recently, I was sitting in my lounge room on a rainy morning, heater on, cup of tea in hand. I looked out at the blistering wind and thought of the people in my city – those without homes, without food, without heating, without safety, without peace.
I sat there in my frustration, guilt, and sadness.
Is it as easy as just going out into the streets and filling my lounge with people for a night, so they can get out of the ice and wind? What about the next night? What about the people fleeing domestic violence? What about those who are grieving loss?
There is so much hurt! How can I call myself a follower, while I sit in my comfort? Please, tell me you’ve wrestled with this.
Called to GO
As I reflected, I was reminded of my friend’s question about mission. We often think mission is about being overseas, or just for ‘really special’ people. But aren’t we all missionaries?
My workplaces are mission fields – full of opportunities to show the character of God, and to connect people to the Kingdom. But I so often fail my own expectations. There is still something in me that desires perfection.
While there is a balance needed, and while I cannot do everything, I also cannot excuse my own laziness and selfishness.
We are called to go – to the hurt, to the broken, to the lonely, to the messy. While I know this to be true, it is uncomfortable. So many of our churches are full of middle-class people. Have you wondered why? Have you considered how to change this? Do you even want to?
Recently, Denise Stephenson challenged us to consider “unfiltered” selves, and an unfiltered church. Maybe there’s a connection between this, and our comfortable churches. I like comfort. I like safety.
But God does not call us to be comfortable. He calls us to follow the feet of Jesus, who did life with those who are messy, who others thought were unworthy, and no one wanted to be around.
The hard work of WRESTLING
I am an imperfect missionary.
As I’ve sat in my lounge over the last few weeks, soaking in Luke 10 and contemplating all of this complexity, I have wrestled – with myself and with God.
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. Luke 10:2 (NIV)
It’s been uncomfortable. But I have resolved to not be unattached and ignorant of those most vulnerable in this city. I may not have the right words or actions to understand this fully yet, and it is terrifying! But there is nothing about me that makes this easy or special. Just a hesitant willingness to follow God into the difficult, heartbreaking and vulnerable places.
I don’t know what it is to live and relate without privilege, and I don’t have all the words, or a 12-step plan. But I know following God must mean changes.
My next step is to learn to be in the places my privilege resists, and do it out of an overflow of God’s presence. To be an imperfect missionary.
God’s presence is key
After spending time in Luke 10, it suddenly hit me one day that immediately following Jesus sending the 72 out with power and authority, he told a story about a foreigner/outsider being the one to sacrifice and help someone in humiliating need. (Luke 10:25-37) In so doing, he challenged the one who thought he was right to take that same position of vulnerability and humility.
Jesus then challenged the balance of being and doing. He reinforced that being at his feet was most important. To take the position of a humble learner who spends time and their teachers’ feet is to know the teacher and the ways of the teacher, so much so that everything one does is an overflow.
If life consisted of only being at Jesus’ feet, I think I would be at peace with that. It is my natural reflective state, and I could spend days in God’s presence. The challenge for me is to act, to do. But as I have been challenged to do, God has reminded me that doing is not the goal. Rather, it is about doing as an overflow of being – spending time at the feet of Jesus, in God’s presence, so that my life and actions may be an overflow, an extension, of the One that I live for.
I am an imperfect missionary, drawn to safety and familiarity. I am someone who, without compounding understanding, would not have called themself a missionary. But we are not on this Earth for ourselves.
We are called to be an extension of the Kingdom of God here on Earth – to spend time at the feet of Jesus so we may be filled to overflowing and transformed by his grace, ready to go about our daily lives, extending transformation to those around us – in our workplaces, in our homes, in our streets, in our cities and towns.
How is God calling you to be an imperfect missionary?
- How is your balance of being and doing?
- What does being look/sound/feel/taste like?
- What does doing look/sound/feel/taste like?
- What’s your next step?
- Who are you doing the journey with?
Jenna Blackwell is the Tasmanian Baptist Mission and Leadership Coach