Mission and Misery

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. … All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Corinthians 12:7,11 NIV)

A month or so ago, I wrote about being on a mission from God. Even though I think it would feel amazing to wake up every morning energized by the certainty that I’m living out his mission, I struggle with fatigue, discouragement, and deep doubt about my place in that mission. My time is consumed by taking care of my family and my job of writing. I didn’t want to take on one more thing to do.

Jani then wrote a lovely response assuring us that our small contributions matter because they accrue toward the larger, greater mission. She quoted Paul: “All are not apostles, are they?” (1 Corinthians 12:29 NASB). I wanted so badly to believe her that I figured she must be wrong.

You see, all the noble callings I heard about growing up were people leaving behind their worldly possessions and moving to Africa or the jungle. Since I truly couldn’t imagine anyone doing that with gladness, I internalized the assumption that God’s calling on my life would make me miserable. Believing that my small, daily contributions are important felt like trying to find a loophole—like I’d be letting myself off the hook too easily. If I couldn’t tie my activities directly to evangelism, I thought they must at best be “good things” distracting me from my true mission.

However, I then thought about a good friend of mine who has the gift of evangelism. For her, it feels natural to talk with everyone about Jesus. You would think that someone as extroverted as I am would surely be an evangelist, but I do not have that gift of the Spirit (yet, anyway). I can talk to anyone about anything—except to bring up Jesus when they didn’t ask. But when she does it, it’s from a place of joy, love, and giftedness, not just obedience and obligation, and it’s not weird or awkward.

I have in fact played a role in someone’s decision to follow Christ, but I didn’t do it on purpose. It was my college roommate. I became her friend and brought her into my social circle, which included a lot of church activities and conversations about God. Then one night, she surprised me by saying she wanted to commit her life to Jesus.

That showed me how to reconcile the truth Jani found comforting—we are not all evangelists—with my core belief that we are all commissioned to be God’s witnesses. At Dream Again, Mark Lanum and I were talking about how “intentional evangelism” really means “intentionally cultivating my relationship with Jesus until I can’t help talking about him.” I still believe I can become a better witness as I grow closer to Jesus, but I don’t have to be someone I’m not, and I definitely don’t have to fear that I’m not serving God just because I’m not miserable.

Abigail’s email address is in the directory. She looks forward to continuing the conversation on mission through the blog!

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