If you intimately know whom you want to reach, then you will be better set up to engage people effectively with the gospel of Jesus.
An inability to interpret the signs of the times is … to be guilty of what we might call the “Great Omission.” — (Kevin Vanhoozer, Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends, 17)
Over the last few years, the word “missional” has gained particular amounts of attention. However, defining missional can be a complicated process. For example, this week I had a conversation with an aspiring church planter who wants to plant a church in a bar in the southeast as I did a few years ago. He’s been reading, praying and thinking about what a man on mission looks like.
Let’s say you’re in this boat too: being convinced by Scripture and convicted by the Holy Spirit to step out, deeply burdened to see lost people in your neighborhood, bars, coffee shops, gyms, grocery stores and schools meet Jesus. This means you have to think like a missionary — a mindset that requires both studying the culture you find yourself in, as well as engaging with it.
A call to lead is a call to prepare.
For starters, identifying the needs, the idols and the history of the city must become part of your routine thinking. This is the prep work, and oftentimes the success of your ministry rides on it. That’s not to say that God can’t use you or accomplish his will, or that all the pressure is on you, but a call to lead is a call to prepare.
A call to obediently make disciples as Jesus commands (Matt. 28:18-20) is also a command to focus on what’s in front of you. This part of the job can be really fun! Most of it can be done by using a concept already in your vocabulary. No, it’s not what some long-word theologians constantly debate over — e.g. sublapsarianism, variegated nomism or penal substitutionary atonement — rather, it is a simple, but often overlooked word: intentional.
Know People to Reach People
All missionaries (and if you’re a Christian, you are a missionary) have got to be the most intentional people in the world. Asking questions, studying demographics and making note of trends help make this possible! If you intimately know whom you want to reach, then you will be better set up to engage people effectively with the gospel of Jesus.
As missional Christians, we don’t want to be stuck in the past, speaking to where culture was 10 years ago. We don’t want to answer questions that nobody is asking — we need to be relevant today. We need to speak straight to real people in real space and real time with real questions. We need to provide informed, timely and biblical reasons for why whatever or whomever they are currently worshiping pales in comparison with our Lord Jesus!