During the process of reaching the community around us, we must each move from thinking like a missionary to engaging like one. While it can be intimidating to make the transition from theory and strategy to actually entering the lives of people, it is well worth it. To make this transition, there are four characteristics we must embrace.
Be a person of prayer
Simply getting to know a person or plugging into a community is crucial, but it’s not the only goal. We must engage with people and communities in such a way that our hearts become connected – we must pour ourselves out before the Lord in prayer on their behalf. To do so, we need to plead with the Lord to draw our hearts to them in love.
Be a learner
A key aspect of thinking like a missionary is humility. We must be aware that we have much to learn about the beautifully diverse cultures and communities that God has created. If we are not careful, we can subconsciously impose our desires, ideas, preferences and systems onto the people we are hoping to engage. As humble learners, we can look for opportunities to meaningfully and lovingly serve the people or communities we are seeking to engage.
Here is a helpful list of categories for potential pathways of engagement:
Seasonal – Are there certain times of the year that present unique opportunities for engagement in contextually appropriate ways?
Social – Are there opportunities to provide or enhance experiences to build meaningful relationships and community?
Sports – Are there sports or athletic opportunities that resonate meaningfully that could be offered or enhanced?
Study – Do you have the skillset to provide support or share a desired knowledge to the person or community? Be careful not to assume that the desire to learn is there.
Spiritual – Are there cultural expressions of worship that could foster discussion where you can learn as well as provide a reason for the hope that you have in Jesus?
Service – Are there needs that you have the capacity and skills to meet?
Situational – Are there certain needs based on a crisis or situational occurrence that you have the ability to step into?
Answering these questions thoughtfully and humbly will provide countless ideas for us as missionaries to die to ourselves for the sake of the gospel. After all, this is how they will know what love is (1 John 3:16).
Be a seeker
One of the key purposes of intentional engagement should be to identify a “person(s) of peace.” This was a vital component to Jesus’ missional strategy in Luke 10. A person of peace in a community is a gift from God and an open channel for living water to saturate a community. This person can offer credibility within the community, as well as offer insight into how the community operates.
Be a friend
One of the most profound ways to reach those in your community is to be a true and courteous friend. When we speak to people, we should ask their names and pronounce them correctly. We should do whatever is necessary to remember them. Ask meaningful questions and listen intently to the answers. Allow people to share their stories as they are willing.
Inhabit these characteristics and engage with those in your community with boldness and humility knowing that the risen Jesus is with you always.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Maye is the pastor of Rise Church, Winston-Salem. This article originally appeared in ncbaptist.org.)