An epiphany is a moment of realization often experienced as a sudden, and perhaps surprising, insight. Earlier this month, Christians celebrated Epiphany, when the church reflects on God’s revelation through the coming of Jesus; I believe it presents us with an opportunity to reflect on how Jesus is speaking to us today.
As 2023 launches, one of the things I continue to reflect on is how we are called by Jesus to be on mission in our world. I am involved in a ministry called the Inspire Movement, which seeks to help Christians abide deeply with God and live missionally in the world. The goal is that people will become the kind of disciples who live as everyday ordinary missionaries. When we share this vision with people, they are often hesitant to embrace the idea that they are called to be a “missionary” or “evangelist.”
I think part of the hesitancy comes from two similar misperceptions about living lives on mission for Jesus. First, there is the misperception that we are not gifted in evangelism, and therefore cannot or even should not be engaged in sharing the gospel with others. While the gift of evangelism may not show up in our spiritual gifts inventory, Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew make clear that disciples are called to be engaged in the world: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13–17, ESV)
While being salt and light may not look like preaching on a street corner or traveling to exotic locations around the world to spread the gospel, the potential impact is still significant. We can still share the story of our relationship with Jesus with our neighbor. We can share how Jesus has changed us and invite that person to see how Jesus might work in their life.
Another misperception that prevents us from living a life on mission is the idea that the work of evangelism has to be done on our own. We may think that the work of evangelism and everyday mission is the stuff of superheroes, not ordinary Christians. But for Wesleyan-minded Christians, John Wesley’s teaching on prevenient grace makes clear that it is God who is on mission; we are invited to join God in his work. For Wesley, prevenient grace describes God’s initial work in our salvation, when the Lord is drawing us to himself and toward awakening and repentance. According to Wesley in his sermon, On Working Out Our Own Salvation, prevenient grace includes, “the first wish to please God, the first dawn of light concerning his will, and the first slight transient conviction of having sinned against him.” Wesley is clear that this is the work of God, and not by our own efforts or the efforts of others. We can be confident that God was at work in a person’s life long before we came on the scene.
However, this doesn’t mean we have no role to play. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, we may have different roles as we join God on his mission, but it is God who does the work: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” We are still called to share the gospel with others, but rather than having to be the “Lone Ranger” to invite someone to follow Jesus, we can trust the Holy Spirit to be at work in that person’s life drawing them and awakening them to the reality of the God who loves them.
How is Jesus calling you to join him on mission this year? As you reflect on your life with Jesus during this season of goals, I invite you to consider how Jesus may be calling you into mission in your community, school, or workplace. Take confidence in the fact that the Holy Spirit goes before you and will be with you as you seek to follow Jesus in mission.
Featured image courtesy Erica Nilsson via Unsplash.