The relationship began 9 years ago when I brought my vehicle into the shop. Dan was a shuttle driver, taking people to work after they dropped off their car for servicing. Sometimes there were a number of people in the shuttle, but most of the time it was just Dan and me. Nine years of five minute conversations each way ended this month when he told me that he was retiring. On the last drive, he used his own new truck, as all the other drivers were out and he wanted to make sure I got to my appointment on time. So on the final drive back to pick up my vehicle I ended by giving him a gospel booklet with a reminder of our conversations throughout the years of the importance of knowing Jesus. He had always shown minimal interest—“I am a Catholic and I am good.” He simply did not want to talk any further. No matter, we kept up a good friendship and talked about life each time he drove the shuttle. He thanked me for the booklet and stuffed it in the console pocket…
I share this story as an example of the joys and challenges of being an everyday missionary. As I reflect on this topic, I want to share a few key things I have learned.
1. Be real with every person you meet. That is, live your life authentically. People can sense when someone is a fraud. Don’t be discouraged when you sin in their presence. Confession and forgiveness in our public lives is rare, yet very powerful. Remember, even in our sin, we display the power of the gospel in real time. That is authentic. That is attractive to a lost person.
2. Be patient with people. Good relationships take time to gain permission to talk about any form of spirituality. Jesus is not the first topic that many people want to talk about when engaging in a new relationship. Be willing and patient to engage in a variety of subjects. It is not unspiritual to talk about baseball, gardening or politics.
3. Be curious about people. We are interesting creatures and everyone has a story. Lean into their lives. People desire to talk about themselves and to be heard. James reminds us that we should be slow to speak, and you will have many opportunities to do this when living out the gospel in your context. It is amazing how the Spirit will open doors if we just listen well.
4. Be intentional, but not agenda driven, in articulating the gospel. Don’t force it when the person is not ready, but trust the leading of the Holy Spirit for opportunities. The door knocking, cold turkey evangelism is the least effective method of sharing the gospel. The statistics over the years bear this out. So, don’t “cold-turkey” the person you are talking with when the depth of relationship is not there. It takes time to build trust.
5. Be joyful as you live and meet people that God brings into your life. Living in joy as everyday missionaries only happens when we trust our sovereign God for his ways, in his timing and his direction in all we do. Our job is to be ambassadors. It is God’s job to bring the dead to life. His Spirit convicts and leads people to repentance. That truth allows us to joyfully trust his timing in salvation and live in the moment with everyone around us. I trust that I will see Dan in heaven. I pray that I can fellowship with him for all eternity. But that is God’s call, and not mine.
This truth helps me understand my ambassadorship: I serve the King who has a plan that is beyond my understanding. My role is to love people, and love them enough to want to share the hope of reconciliation that is possible with their Creator through the stunning work of Christ on the cross. Let’s serve with joy the King who places us around his planet to live, and who commissions us to take his message to a broken world.