There is a misconception that exists among Christians that says the highest calling you can have as a Christian is to be a pastor or a missionary. That you can’t really impact the world for Christ and contribute to the expansion of God’s Kingdom without being a “professional Christian”.
And it goes even further, doesn’t it? If pastoral or mission work is the highest calling, then the highest of the highest callings is to be a missionary to – where? …to Africa.
Well, I’ll tell you: I’m a missionary to Africa, and I’m nothing special. I’m not any better or worse than any other Christian, and my calling isn’t any better or worse than yours – as if our callings from God could somehow be “ranked”.
No, my calling is to know, love, and live for Jesus, and to be faithfully obedient to do whatever God leads me to do, wherever He leads me to do it. And that is the exact same calling you have as a Christian: to know, love, and live for Jesus, and to faithfully serve Him and His purposes, right where He has you.
The Church’s chosen approach to ministry is an incarnational approach. The word “incarnation” means “in the flesh”, and it comes from the most crucial moment in all of human history: when God became man – Jesus of Nazareth.
Sometimes we forget how amazing it is that Jesus was a real, in-the-flesh person!
- He was born.
- His diapers had to be changed.
- He cried when He was hungry or sleepy.
- He had to learn how to talk – imagine that: God, who spoke the universe into existence – put Himself into a position where He had to be taught how to speak!
- Someone had to teach Him the names of animals He made, the names of the planets & stars He made.
God became a real man, in-the-flesh. And He lived & He walked & He worked among us. As one of us.
He could’ve just shouted from heaven: “Hey! Hey, people of earth! I love you! I want to share close, loving, unbroken fellowship with you!” This is called “proclamation”, where God’s love and truth are proclaimed from a distance. And there are a few instances in the Bible where this happens.
But God, in His infinite wisdom – first through the judges, then through the prophets, then ultimately through Jesus, chose to come to us, Himself – in the flesh, incarnate – to demonstrate His love to us in person, face-to-face.
He left a very comfortable heaven – to come share life with us, and to communicate His love and truth to us, in person. That’s what the Incarnation was.
And that is what the Incarnation continues to be today. As people who have accepted the Jesus of the Bible for who He was and is as Savior, Redeemer, and Lord, we have Christ’s own Spirit living and working within us and through us.
And so through mission work – both short- and long-term missionaries follow Jesus’ incarnational example today. We leave our comfortable homes for a time, and we come ourselves – in the flesh, incarnate – to demonstrate God’s love to suffering people around the world – in person, face-to-face.
But, really, ALL Christians are incarnational ministers, wherever they are. I recently heard a sermon by Pastor Craig Groeschel in which he said, “Working as a pastor or missionary is not the highest calling a Christian can have. Faithfully serving God right where you are is the very highest calling.”
I’ve done some research, and let me tell you: the top mission fields in America are not the homeless shelters, the prisons, the abortion clinics, and the rehab centers.
No, the top 3 mission fields in America are:
Let’s do a quick exercise together: if you live in a home – any kind of a dwelling – and there is at least one other person living there with you, could you please raise your hand? Now, if you attend or work at any kind of a school – nursery, pre-school, day-care center, all the way up to university – could you please raise your hand? Finally, if you work at or frequently visit any business of any kind, could you please raise your hand?
The Lord Jesus has hundreds of missionaries strategically positioned all throughout your city in the most important mission fields there are! It’s you! It’s the followers of Jesus living and working all around you, on every side of you right now!
YOU all are strategically positioned – by the Lord Jesus – in homes, in schools, in businesses – for Kingdom impact in a way that pastors and missionaries like me long for! We wish we could have the impact in homes, schools, and businesses that you all have!
But God has not called us to serve there. He has us serving in other places. Instead, for now at least, He has especially called YOU there.
God may call you to foreign missions someday. If so, I pray that you will heed His call. We need you out there. The nations need your faithful obedience to God. Maybe He will call you to full-time pastoral ministry here at home. If so, take that step of faith and do it – trust Him – obey His call!
But what if… What if… What if you are exactly the minister God wants – serving Him – serving His people – right where you are – right now?
See – you are not merely what you do. You are not the position listed on your ID badge at work. You are not merely the tasks you perform. You are not just a contractor, just a salesman, just a teacher, just a stay-at-home Mom. You are not just an administrative assistant or a waitress or a student.
You are present – in your home, in your school, at your place of business – you are present there as people – as individuals, made in the image of God, and redeemed by the grace of Jesus – living and serving outward from a Community of Faith that exists there within your Church.
As a Church, we stand with each other – we support each other, uphold each other – in authentic, Christ-centered community. From this place, we are unified and strengthened to serve the people in our homes, schools, and businesses with God’s love.
We know we are successful in our incarnational mission when any person who interacts with a member of this Church – far beyond the walls of the building – is changed, not by some church program we perform for them, but by encountering the living Presence of Christ in us, as individuals AND as a unified Christ-centered community.
That is what the incarnational mission of the Kingdom of God looks like when it is most truly fulfilled.
You can do it. I believe in you. The leadership of the Church believes in you. They labor, daily, week after to week, to equip YOU for Kingdom service, right where you are – right where God has you, right now.
And – God believes in you. Whether you are where you are today by choice or by circumstance, God has a purpose for you there, and it is to be an incarnational representation of Jesus for the other people in your home, school, or business: your family members, your roommates – your fellow faculty members, your students, your classmates – the people in your office, your work-group, your sales district, your boss, your clients, your customers.
YOU are God’s plan for reaching your city with the incarnational Gospel. He has strategically positioned you to express the real Presence and love and grace of Jesus to people He loves all throughout your city. “Working as a pastor or missionary is not the highest calling a Christian can have. Faithfully serving God right where you are is the very highest calling.”