Not long ago I was obese, at least according to my BMI number. I spent a year full of hard work in which I lost 65 pounds. I’ve kept almost all of that weight off, which has also been due to hard work.
In fact, when people have asked me what the secret to my weight loss was, I almost always answer one of two ways: “math” or “hard work.” “Math” because it’s all about tracking calories relative to the total needed to maintain your weight; and “hard work” because losing weight and keeping it off is no walk in the park (minus that actual walks in the park!).
In fact, hard work might be the best advice for losing weight ever. Keeping track of your food and exercise is hard work. Eating more reasonably when you’ve spent your entire life doing otherwise is hard work. Exercising is hard work. Dealing with the emotional issues along the way is hard work. Etc., etc.
As I’ve been thinking about being more a more missional follower of Jesus, I’ve started to realize that hard work is needed here too! Here are a few examples:
- It’s hard work reaching out to people who do not know Jesus yet. Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, connecting well with people who don’t know Jesus is difficult. Why? Mainly because many of us churchy people have almost exclusively surrounded ourselves with other churchy people. So we’re left with the problem of finding “natural” ways to encounter those who don’t know Jesus. Another issue is that in many cases those who don’t know Jesus yet have lives marked by different values and goals than that of a sold-out follower of Jesus. It can be hard work to connect over this barrier.
- It’s hard work bucking the attractional church model. Most churches in the United States use the attractional church model, which means that most Americans associate this model with church in general. A key idea of the attractional church model is that if we build it, they will come. This leads us to talk about “going to church,” as if church is a building that we enter. When we start trying to move away from this idea to a more biblical understanding of church as God’s people wherever he sends them, things get hard. It’s hard work not to talk about church as a location! Beyond that, it’s hard work trying to be the church among the people!
- It’s hard work not getting immediate, measurable results. I think most of us want Burger King Christianity, my way, right away. So if we take this same attitude with us as we start to shift toward being missional, we’ll be disappointed really fast. Being missional means building relationships that create safe and natural spaces for people to discover Jesus. That process can be slow and it can take time. In other words, it takes hard work and patience!
I’m sure there are a million other ways that being missional requires hard work. Can you think of any more? Share them below!