Is it ok not to be a missionary?

Coming from a charismatic background, I know we are usually encouraged to give up our desires and who were are to become a super Christian that takes risks, changes the world, pursues God, and stays away from sin. We hear it in songs like

“Rid me of myself, I belong to you,” and “break my heart for what breaks yours… everything I am for your kingdom’s cause.”

And in some other denominations, though not directly said, we are generally left with the impression that having an ordinary life is not good enough for God. That if we are not saving the lost, if we are not going to other countries and performing miracles, then somehow our existence is wasted and pointless. After all, our whole purpose here is to save as many people as we can before we die right?

Now, I don’t know any pastor who would want us to have that impression, but none the less some theology leads us to that conclusion.

The result is pressure and discontentment. We make assumptions about what God wants for our lives. If it doesn’t sound hyper-spiritual or risky then God is not in it.

In my own case I felt a lot of pressure to not be a web designer and instead be a pastor or missionary, though web design is what I love. The idea of “rid me of myself” meant I had to lay down my ambition as a web designer and pursue what God was asking me to do. However, God saved me from that course one day when I decided to actually ask him personally instead of listening to my discontent conscious. The Lord rebuked me saying,

“What if I told you that if I’ve called you to web design then being a pastoral major is actually dishonorable and pointless to me?”

That thought rattled my mind. Maybe that line did or didn’t come from God, but the point is valid.

God has made us each unique with special talents and purposes.

1 Corinthians 12:14-26 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

A few of my other friends and friends of friends have been tempted or given into the pressure to toss aside whatever ambitions they have whether God given or not and try to become this super model christian.

But, the past few years for me has been a journey of discovering how easy, free, and ordinary a relationship with God can be.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

Working an ordinary job, in an honorable way to please the Lord is just as noble and meaningful as being a missionary in another country. God is not trying to get rid of all of you so he can only see himself. He wants you to be fully you and He wants to be fully Himself to you! He wants you to have desires and ambitions and invite him into every area of your life. Whether as a missionary or a teacher, or a waitress or a banker, God wants to show you kindness and purpose in any area you ask for his help.

Am I saying God does not call people to be missionaries? Not at all. We need missionaries, just as much as we need bankers. Both have a noble purpose in serving the Lord.

I used to believe our main purpose in life was saving the lost. But now I do not think that, though that is awesome. I believe our main purpose here is to enjoy a relationship with God no matter what we do. To experience how amazing he can be in big things and in small ordinary life. To enjoy his love and let that inspire us to show his love to others, whether it’s leaving 10 dollars for a stranger, buying a friend a coffee, encouraging someone who is discouraged, or helping someone who is needy. And that allows us to be content and casual in our relationship with God. Casual?! Wow! It’s hard to think that is how I would describe my relationship with God today. Not fire-burning, not sold-out, not all-of-him, just casual best of friends. I love him with all my heart and I know he loves me. I live in a way that honors him as a web designer and that has become enough for me and I know that right now that is what is pleasing the Lord.

So whatever the Lord has called you to, whether it’s a busy mom or dad, a blogger, a businessman, a teacher, etc… let yourself be content with where God has you without comparing yourself to other christians. And if it’s your ambition to do something greater, tell the Lord that and maybe he will direct your life in that direction.

Proverbs 16:3 “Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.”

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4 thoughts on “Is it ok not to be a missionary?

  1. Jon Paul, thank you for the refreshing post. What you described, the idea that we aren’t pleasing God unless we are the idealistic super-Christian, had me in bond age. There is much manipulation involved in these hyped up messages on being a radical, sold out generation or whatever. The thing is, the people who are doing the radical looking stuff typically were just getting to know God and the stuff happened naturally.

    I would add that the people who preach the need to be a super Christian seldom offer any practical advice on how to attain the grandeur of what they are preaching. So sincere believers end up hyped up and confused rather than enriched in their relationship with God.

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    • Thanks John! I can understand the heart behind that kind of preaching. I love it when people want to passionately pursue God and make their life about him. There can be wholesomeness in that. It’s just that when you approach God, you’ll find he’s not always asking you to give up everything and before we make assumptions about what God wants we need to talk to him and ask him personally. It’s easy to be mislead with that kind of Christianity that doesn’t allow for casual lives.

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  2. Amen, I think it all comes down to this: there’s a difference between being driven by a living relationship with God and being driven by ideas about God. Both the radical and ordinary could come from either one of these sources. Blessings!

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  3. God is a God of Surprises. He wants us to relax in His Presence and not strive. When we truly believe that as a believer our past, present and future sins are forgiven by the single act of the death and resurrection of our Savior. Living a life of Grace brings joy and growing to know our Savior more and more. I believe that the Bible teaches that each of us have been created for a purpose that only we can accomplish. Life has it’s good days and hard days but as we rest in Grace we realize that we are surrounded by the Father’s love and because of our place of Grace we can rest and not strive. We are all to share the Gospel of Grace no matter where we are. Some are to be on the “mission fields” and some are to be blessed and prospered to support missions. But wherever God foreordained us to be we are to show and tell the Gospel of Grace.

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