By Shannon Youell
The last weekend in January found Cailey, Faye Reynolds, Sherry Bennett, Ike Agawin and myself doing something we’ve not done before: (wo)manning a booth at Missions Fest 2017 in Vancouver.
With our theme of “Join us on mission in your neighbourhood” and our new engagement cards in hand, we handed out copious amounts of candy, CBWC pens and lip balms (very popular by the way!) and fielded all sorts of questions and remarks. Unremarkably, most of the questions had nothing to do with what we were promoting. In fact, many who stopped at our booth couldn’t quite make the connection between “mission” and “in your neighbourhood.” One man peering at our banner argued that “it’s not mission if it’s not in another country.”
This was surprising to me, inasmuch as Jesus called us to be on mission both where we live, in our city, in our nation and to all the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). I wonder how it is that many see missions as only in a foreign land, far away from where we are. My cynical side says it’s because when mission is seen as far away, we can stay comfortably home and support others to go–which, of course, we should be supporting! But using it as an opt-out to be a minister right here of Christ’s work of reconciling man to God and to one another, is a travesty.
But, I think it is more likely that because we’ve grown up into a culture of Christendom, we still consider our land, our city, our neighbours as already gospeled merely by where we live. Yet the times we live in, as I said to a pastor in India while I was teaching there, reflect that North America actually needs missionaries to come here from those far-off lands that we’ve been missioning for centuries. Canada needs to be re-gospeled!
Of course, I was being facetious, as in fact, God has called and placed missionaries all around our land. In all likelihood, if you are reading this, then you are one of them.
There were also the ones who stopped at our booth who were excited to talk about mission in our neighbourhoods. Those were, of course, the best conversations. The most memorable, at least for me, was a conversation Cailey had with two ten-year-olds. They, too, stopped and were perplexed about our banner, but once Cailey explained to them what joining God on mission in neighbourhoods is, they got it! I’ll let her convey their reaction…
After the youth rally one night, some grade 5 boys came up to my booth–pockets pull of pens, cheeks full of chocolate from other booths.
Kids: “So what is your ministry all about?”
Cailey: “In my job, we help people in Western Canada start new churches, and one of the ways we do that is by helping them love their neighbours, so that their neighbours come to Jesus. I believe that we are all missionaries where we live—in our neighbourhoods, our schools, and even our soccer teams.”
Kids: “I can be a missionary right now?”
Cailey: “Absolutely! You are a missionary. In what ways do you guys think you could be missionaries in your neighbourhoods?”
Kids: “Well, we could love our neighbours—like, be nice to them, and play with them. Or tell them Jesus loves them.”
Cailey: “See? You’re already a missionary.”
Kids: “Cool! What’s your biggest dream?”
At which point I scratched my head, wondering who had raised these boys to ask such deep questions!
Cailey: “My dream is that people in all of our churches in Western Canada would see themselves as missionaries, and as God uses them to bring their neighbours to Jesus, more and more churches will be born. Then, the new Christians would start doing the same thing: loving their neighbours and telling them about Jesus.”
Kids: “Wow. If everyone in Vancouver did that, and then Canada, and then America…we could infect the whole world!”
So of course, I pulled out a copy of Ed Stetzer’s Viral Churches for the boys to peruse…ok maybe not, but I was so thrilled to see these young men catching the vision and call of Jesus for us to be disciple-making disciples.
Mostly, what MissionsFest revealed to us is that there is still so much work to do as leaders. We must disciple others to understand the calling of Jesus to join Him at His work of delivering justice, mercy, hope, grace, salvation, and love to those whom these things have not yet been realized. To remind us that right next door to us—whether next door means our homes, our seat on our commute, our work place or where we hang out—there are people who are lost in the lost-ness of identity without Christ. Wherever we are, we are the one to help them find God.
God is a missionary God and He sends. He sent Abraham on mission. He sent the prophets. He sent John. He sent Jesus. He sent the disciples. He sent Paul. He sent Barnabas. He sends you and He sends me. On mission. In our neighbourhoods.