“You’re going on a Mission trip? Let us pray for you!”
It was a Sunday evening service at a Baptist Church in Surrey. A group of 15-18 year olds were invited up to the front of the church. They each got a couple of minutes to speak to the crowd and list prayer requests. The church leader invited members of the congregation up to pray individually for what these teenagers were about to begin. A good amount time was spent praying and encouraging these young adults for what they were about to embark on… a two week mission trip.
That was me a few years ago. Feeling so important that I was brave enough to go to Morocco (with three youth leaders and close friends from church, including my brother) for a whole 10 days on a Youth Mission where we would be in a sunny coastal city by the beach leading a kids’ camp.
There were other young people sitting in that church congregation too. One who was just about to start a plumbing apprenticeship and one who had started as a hairdresser the week before. Another had just moved to the area to be a nurse and one was off to London to work in the finance sector. I can’t help but wonder now, why weren’t they up the front receiving prayer for what was arguably going to be a much tougher challenge than me hanging out with my friends and enjoying tagines and Moroccan sunsets for a couple of weeks?
Now please don’t get me wrong; I think mission trips, short and long term, are hugely beneficial. I really felt my time in Morocco was worthwhile and I learnt so much from it. Long-term missionaries really do help reach the poor and support and change communities for the better. But why is that so often the Church gathers around people before they go abroad to serve, often in environments where they are in teams or supported by other Christians, and does not pray for those who enter into a career where they may be the only Christian in an entire company?
Is teaching English to poor school children abroad more important in God’s eyes than serving your office colleagues by making the coffee and bringing in a pack of digestives to share? I don’t necessarily think so. I think both are important ways of showing Jesus’ heart and love to our neighbours. The UK today often spends so much time focusing on reaching the poor in Jesus’ name abroad (and rightly so) but often completely forgets about the poverty – both literal and spiritual – right on its doorstep.
The church has a role to realise that its congregation’s mission extends to where they are 9-5, Monday to Friday. In our lifetime we will spend around 90,000 hours with our work colleagues.
“But that’s not mission is it?” Some might object. “No… mission is that money you donated at the youth fundraiser car wash or that Friday evening when you help out with street pastors or at a Foodbank.”
I think many people have lost the concept of what true mission is. It should be something we never stop doing. Mission should be something we live out every day of our lives.
Now thankfully my church back in Surrey did understand that mission extends into the rest of the week and started something they called ‘TTT’ (This Time Tomorrow). During the morning service they invited a member of the congregation to be interviewed and asked what they would be doing ‘this time tomorrow’. It was great to have businessmen, teachers, nurses and stay-at-home mums come up and share about what mission looks like to them and how they are serving God where they are during their week. It was great to empower these individuals, but it also inspired the congregation that being a Christian wasn’t all about singing the songs, attending church services, men’s breakfast and women’s walks. It emphasised the importance of mission.
God’s people, the Church, is such an amazingly diverse family. A couple of months ago I was speaking to a leader at my church about the diversity and I loved his response: “We are all here drinking tea and coffee in our jeans, but tomorrow some will be wearing suits, some scrubs and other’s will be wearing their Tesco’s uniform”. It’s great how we can all gather together on a Sunday looking very similar but on a Monday we are actively pursuing a very unique and important role in our own mission field.
That’s why work matters… it is part of our own mission! So let us follow what it says in Colossians 3:23: “whatever you do, (whether you are a hairdresser, a lawyer, a teacher or on a short term mission) work at it with all you heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters”. My prayer for myself and for all of us is that whatever mission field we find ourselves in, we would find opportunities to be salt and light there for Jesus Christ.
Image: Office by Lisa Larsson, used under CC