[Editor’s note: P2C-Students offers opportunities for young adults to go on mission trips nationally and internationally. We want all people to experience God’s heart for the world. This blog series is one way to discover more about the what, how, and why of #globalmissions.
This article was written by Justin E. Chan. He leads PRAXIS, an initiative of P2C-Students that forms missionally-engaged people. For 15 years he’s helped young adults discern faith in Jesus and integrate the gospel into their lives. Horology is a passion; missiology the focus of his graduate studies; design shows fill his screen time.]
On a beautiful autumn day, I found myself approaching students on the University of Victoria’s quadrangle. I was asking to share with them the most inspiring and transformative story. I wanted to tell them the gospel.
Suddenly the drumbeat of a loud and growing crowd drowned out my voice. Students, marching in solidarity, were chanting, “Free the trees! Free the trees!” I watched long enough to figure out that they were going to chain themselves to the old-growth trees on campus.
I snickered, judging their actions as immature and misguided. If they really wanted change, they shouldn’t waste their time trying to do good without knowing God.
A week later, I sat down with Tim, a protester, and our conversation moved towards advocacy. He explained that when you experience ecological degradation, action should follow, not ambivalence. Tim, a Christian, was faithfully fighting for the stewardship of God’s creation.
I understood ministry as primarily talking about God. Tim understood ministry as demonstrating who God is. Together, we realized that we were both proclaiming God’s hope of renewal, restoration, and reconciliation. But we were doing it in different ways.
This interaction put me on a journey of reconsidering what it means to be on mission. I’m still wrestling. I started to ask questions like:
Is there integrity between what I say about the hope of Jesus and what I demonstrate?
Am I aware of, and contributing to, the work of justice, advocacy, and common good?
How will people remember me as I live out my faith?
I was also asking the question: What must we do to make the gospel more accessible? I want to share the hope of Jesus with young adults, and research reveals that they desire Christian witnesses to emphasize deeds over discipleship (Barna, 2020). Young adults question the effectiveness of the gospel message when the messenger lacks integrity.
Turns out that when you make ministry only about personal salvation, you ignore the good that can come from actions. Not only are actions helpful in themselves, but they also make your words credible when you do speak.
I started to see that Christian witnesses need to declare the truths of Jesus in what they say and how they live.
There are some Christians, like my new friend Tim, who generally prioritize good deeds as their way of helping others know God. However, although good deeds are important, I can see how they are not enough.
When you stay silent, you cannot help people understand where your lived-out hope comes from. You can embody the gospel, but speaking is what expresses that this hope comes from a security in Jesus.
Yet it can be awkward to share your faith using words. When are you afraid to offend, or be ostracized, because of what you say? How does your desire for approval abbreviate your Christian witness?
I’m still wrestling through the apparent tension between words and deeds. But I think I’m discovering that there is another way where these are in partnership, not tension: the kingdom mindset.
A kingdom mindset believes that God wants to involve you in his mission in everything you do and say.
As a citizen in the kingdom of God, you get to echo what God has already done. In his goodness and holiness, he entered into the trouble and tragedy of our world to offer people truth and primary care.
Christian witness is good news demonstrated and described.
At the heart of God’s mission is communication and community.
I long for people to recognize God’s goodness through the hands and feet of young disciples of Jesus. God’s kingdom is where social injustices of the world are actually righted and the goodness of God is articulated. People need to see this, and not just hear about it.
This kingdom mindset can require a heart change, so that Christian mission is no longer something that you do for a fixed amount of time, but rather the nature of Christian living.
However, this doesn’t mean that a kingdom mindset is easy to live out. The quest to make Jesus accessible through your social action and proclamation requires God-given wisdom and strength. It takes relying on the Holy Spirit and learning from Christians who came before.
I’m still trying to find a way to faithfully present and represent Jesus everywhere. But instead of missions/ministry/evangelism being one activity among many, I’m excited by the possibility that my whole life can be a witness.
One part of living with a kingdom mindset is learning to come with questions and not just answers:
- How well do your actions line up with what you’re saying?
- How are you serving others, stewarding God’s creation, welcoming diversity, and championing the voiceless?
- How is God at work around you? In light of your passions, gifts, and resources, how might God want you to partner with him there?
- Who is in your sphere of influence? How can you love them?
- What are the social issues around you? How can you bring Jesus’ hope?
Your apprenticeship to Jesus is evidenced in the way you live and speak. You cannot underestimate the importance of sharing a gospel that effectively pairs word and deed.
Tim and I, together, are learning to enact the gospel through what we say and do. I’m learning to be integrated. I’m learning to live out the gospel one day at a time.
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