Equipped for a mission-focused
Journey With Jesus

Mission Simplified

A mission opportunity right in my front yard.

By Rick Shallenberger, Editor

Because I travel a lot during the summer, I hired a guy (Bill) to mow my lawn when I’m out of town. For the first year, I rarely saw Bill and my interactions with him consisted of sending him a check each month. He did such a great job, at the beginning of year two, I asked him to take care of my yard throughout the summer. This meant there were times he was mowing while I was home. During these times, we started chatting a bit, primarily about the yard, the constant battle with moles, the bushes and trees that needed trimmed.

A change occurred in year three. As we chatted through the summer, Bill asked what I did for a living, which was an interesting conversation as he admitted he didn’t have a relationship with God and was “sort of a Catholic.” We talked about our kids, shared a few personal things about our families, and he shared that he was struggling with a health issue, I told him I’d pray for him. He kind of chuckled, saying  that’s what he expected me to say. I asked, “Can I pray for you now?” That shocked him and made him a bit uncomfortable. He was expecting a platitude; I wanted to show him I believed God was real … and good. I said a short prayer over him, just asking God to be with him and encourage him.

We began talking about God a bit more after that. He shared his reluctance to talk about God or religion because he didn’t want to be judged. I told him I certainly had no reason or right to judge him. He said, “I know God is my judge.” I told him God’s judgement wasn’t a judgment of condemnation because the condemnation of sin and death had been taken care of in Jesus. God’s judgement was of Bill’s value, worth, and identity. He wanted Bill to know he cared about him; he loved him.

That fall Bill didn’t show up for a few weeks and I was worried about him. I called him and he said he was going through some stuff and would share with me later. He asked me to be patient with him and said he really wanted to talk with me.

When he did show up, he shared that his wife had passed and he was mad at God, at the hospital (she died during a minor surgery) and at everyone. I just listened; it was not a time to preach. Then he asked, “Do you think God took her because he’s mad at me?” That opened the door for me to share that’s not how God works.

At the beginning of year four, Bill shared he was going through prostate cancer. He asked me how I could follow a God who allowed so much bad to happen to people. That was an open door to another conversation.

A couple weeks later Bill was mowing when I pulled in from a trip. He waved, I walked over and could tell he was going through a rough spell. I invited him up on the deck, and I just listened to all he was going through with his health, his kids, his finances, the works. As I listened, I asked God to give me whatever words I needed to say. All I said was, “Bill, I’m so sorry you are going through so much. I wish there was something I could do to help.”

He looked at me and said, “Rick, you don’t know how much of a help you are. You are the only Christian I know who has never judged me or made me feel badly about not going to church. When I told you I was mad at God, you never corrected me, you simply told me it was OK, God created our emotions, and he understood them. You have made me look at God differently.”

I realized how simple mission can be. I’ve had the opportunity to be on mission in several countries around the world, but I can’t help but wonder if the biggest impact I’ve made is in my front yard.

I encourage you to read or reread Michael Morrison’s recent Update article, “Healthy Churches Have Purpose.” In that article he posed the question, “Do we care?” Do I care enough about the person fixing my car, working at the grocery store, working beside me at the office? Do I care about my neighbor, my coworker, my extended family? God has indeed called the church to mission, but he has also called you to join him in mission. Ask him to reveal who he has brought into your mission field and watch transformation take place – in you, and in those you care about.

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