Mission Trip vs. Lifestyle of Mission (Part 2 of 2)

Local Immersion – Creating a Lifestyle of Mission

In my work, I’ve observed this local mission effort as something I call a “Local Immersion.” Since the Immersion’s aim is to immerse people in their own context with an awakened sense of sharing their faith, the end goal is for a lifestyle of mission to begin to emerge. When you’re repeatedly challenged to weave the Gospel into your daily conversations over the course of several consecutive weeks (as a group), it can be a very powerful practicum for anyone desiring to grow as one who proclaims the Gospel.

To do a “Local Immersion,” you need to have four main things:

  1. A specific vehicle (teaching series, thought provoking t-shirts, compelling stories, service projects, a cause-based campaign, etc.) that challenges people to share their faith.
  2. Several weeks/months committed to an intensified effort.
  3. Training tools, teaching and coaching to refine the participants’ ability to share.
  4. People who love each other enough to hold one another accountable to the challenge and grow as a group.

This effort could happen immediately after a traditional mission trip, or during a different season of the same year. Some participants may need more practical tools and resources to make it happen. Others may need more on the job training – where you spend more time intentionally ministering together. Whatever you do, repetition for several weeks can definitely help cement a habit (experts say a minimum 21 days).

Here are three benefits of a Local Immersion:

Benefit #1: Mission efforts are more easily applied and repeated because they were designed and practiced in their own context.

Benefit #2: It’s local focus makes it a more sustainable mission effort because discipling relationships can continue to develop after the 4-6 week focus.

Benefit #3: The group context of accountability/encouragement still exists but there is time for individual and group practical application in between weekly meetings.

Traditional, cross-cultural, overseas mission efforts have greatly built up the Global Body of Christ in monumental ways and are still very much necessary in the global effort to bring the Gospel to unengaged people groups. But as we learn to grow as missionaries in our local context, I believe we need to borrow the power of intensified, focused effort to create habits of mission where there are currently little to no habits at all. This is critical to becoming a fruitful disciple of Jesus who fully embraces the joy of letting the Gospel affect every area of your life. Here is my prayer for us:

“Lord, help us embrace your calling to live as missionaries in the everyday rhythms of life. Help us stay alert to the ways You, Holy Spirit, are already working in people and situations before us so we might joyfully proclaim Your goodness, Your Truth and Your Gospel here on the earth.”

To see one example of a Local Immersion, check out Walking Proclamation’s Local Immersion on my website at www.walkingproclamation.com.

Patrick Lowndes is an adopted son of God, husband and father of two daughters. As an evangelist and entrepreneur at heart, Patrick is the Founder and Lead Mobilizer of Walking Proclamation, a missional t-shirt company that seeks to provoke curiosity that starts conversations about God and His Gospel. Patrick is a part of a church plant in south Seattle and seeks to equip the believers in the Kingdom through entrepreneurial and evangelistic gifts.

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Mission Trip vs. Lifestyle of Mission (Part 1 of 2)

We, as Americans, are living in a difficult but exciting era of God’s mission. Difficult because our culture and peers often scorn our devotion to Jesus, yet exciting because we no longer have to travel far away to share the hope of Christ with someone who has never understood it.

Several hundred of years of emphasis on cross cultural, overseas “mission work” coupled with an increasingly godless American culture has developed a renewed focus toward local mission efforts. More and more, we are hearing about ways to leverage the opportunities in our everyday lives to share the Gospel, right here in our own “Jerusalem” – our own backyard.

Short-term mission trips have done wonders in helping “globalize” the Body of Christ into longer term work in those areas, but I’d like to challenge us about how we can catalyze a lifestyle of mission in the very context where we live.

First, let’s observe some strengths and weaknesses about the traditional “Missions Trip” model (where you leave your normal context and travel to a different one) in order to glean a better understanding about how to live on mission locally.

Strength #1: The heightened sense of purpose and focus for participants to live as a missionary has done amazing things in many individuals. In my story, it was after I went on my first missions trip to serve a very poor and dangerous indian reservation that I came back to my school with a new boldness for Christ. I was so grateful for how I was challenges to share the Gospel while I served, looking for ways to speak of Jesus.

Weakness #1: On the other hand, many of the practical tools and experiences I had were highly specific to that group of people, making it difficult for me to translate how to speak to my friends in the same way.

Strength #2: Going away into a different context to minister can be the perfect time to re-evaluate your life and how you’re living in your own context. The Lord often uses a change of scenery to open our eyes to a new way of living upon returning to “life as usual.”

Weakness #2: Coming back to your own context can be a cultural shock by itself if the re-entry training isn’t done well. For many people, besides a 45-minute debriefing talk, they are left without the ongoing support needed to continue on in their local context living as a missionary.

Strength #3: Many times, “Mission Trips” are done in a group context where the added synergy of believers working together makes it easier to share the Gospel. They will know we are Christians by our love (John 13:35). This is also why “Missional Communities” or “groups of ‘sent’ people” are so critical when creating a lifestyle of Mission: because the group can witness better than any individual usually can.

Weakness #3: Many times in those group settings, only the leader gets a chance to articulate the Gospel – making it difficult for the participants to go back into their own contexts and find ways to articulate the Gospel.
I know not all short-term mission trips have the same weaknesses (or strengths for that matter), but I am convinced that there is a new way we can train people to live intentionally in our own context. Go ahead and click on Part 2 of this blog to continue reading about the “Local Immersion.”

Patrick Lowndes is an adopted son of God, husband and father of two daughters. As an evangelist and entrepreneur at heart, Patrick is the Founder and Lead Mobilizer of Walking Proclamation, a missional t-shirt company that seeks to provoke curiosity that starts conversations about God and His Gospel. Patrick is a part of a church plant in south Seattle and seeks to equip the Kingdom through entrepreneurial and evangelistic gifts.

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5 Practical Tips for Caring While Sharing the Gospel

Have you ever met one of those door-to-door salesmen who immediately start talking about his product and his company and why you should buy from him? How inclined were you to “hear him out,” let alone buy anything?

Have you ever approached someone you thought you trusted and confided in them with some deep struggles and been met with a rather cold statement like, “just believe this” or “just fix this part of your life and everything will be alright.” How did that make you feel?

All too often, when people share about Jesus, I believe they could care less about what the person is actually going through before they start sharing the hope they have in Christ.

Looking back on my life, I’m burdened with the reality of many times when the Lord gave me an opportunity to share about Him, but I tainted my message by my uncaring delivery of it. But ask yourself this, “Is this person a project for me to apply some Gospel truth to or is he a living, breathing person with a real story, real hurts and disappointments, real dreams and ambitions and a real purpose that God has set in motion from before he took his first breath?”

I’m afraid that when we overlook the person we’re talking to, our lack of care for them, their story and their experiences discredits us and the message we bring by the way we’re presenting it . I’m not talking about not preaching or teaching the Gospel to large groups of people. I’m talking about in one-on-one conversations, when we have a real and tangible opportunity to show someone the warmth and love of Christ. There is a careful art in being quick to listen and slow to speak, especially with someone who might not even know you or your intentions.

How do we start conversations with acquaintances at work, neighbors taking the trash out, or even a stranger on the bus or in a community setting? How do we have conversations with non-yet believers about our faith or the Gospel that demonstrate real care about them as a person.

Here are a few practical tips for how to share the Gospel while demonstrating you care about the person:

Start with a question about the person or their experience

CONTEXT is critical! If you can get a little better understanding of what kind of experience this person has had with religion, church, God or Christians before you share about those topics, it will go a long way in communicating you actually care about them. You might ask something like, “What’s been your experience with church/Jesus over the years? Was your family involved in any of that when you were growing up?”

Ask for some clarifying details

The more you learn about their context, the way it made them feel, what it was like to be in that situation or family or church or environment, the better you’ll be able to empathize with them and what that is like. It’s like being blindly dropped into a town without having any bearings on your coordinates. Get your coordinates!

Empathize/Sympathize before continuing

After they’ve shared their story/experience and  before you launch into your experience, take a second to acknowledge what you just heard. How many times do we, in our culture, just rush into what we want to say before truly acknowledging what was just shared? Are you running past powerful moments of really hearing and understanding someone?

Share briefly about your experience

Sometimes the best way to connect with someone is to share a story about your own life. Try to keep this short and to the point. It might help to, while you’re listening to the person, ask the Spirit “What’s one thing they might need to hear about Jesus or from the Gospel in this conversation?” People aren’t going to stay with you for long if you jump up on a one-sided soap box about the topic. This is why it’s important to give a relatively short and relevant explanation of the Gospel – noting how it answered their question/concern or simply how it’s helped you.

Tie it back to the person

Once you’ve shared, find a way to engage him with what you just shared so it’s not all about you sharing what you want to say. It’s about them hearing the Gospel and being engaged with it, encouraged by or even challenged by it. This might be the most important part of helping the person feel like you heard him , because it shows that you really do want to connect with him , not just talk at him. It might sound like, “I’m not sure if that answers your question, or not. Based on what you told me, I’ve found that the Gospel shows me that ____ or helps me to ____.”  Or it might sound like, “I’m not sure if you’ve heard Jesus’ message explained like that before, but it seems like based on your experience, it might be a new way to look at it. Have you heard the Gospel described like that before?”

Next time you get the chance to share about Jesus with a co-worker, despite the temptation to get overly focused on what you’re going to say, try and ask God for His love for this person to well-up inside you so you can actually care about him while you share with him.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” – John 15:12

May we spend more and more of our energy in the work of love, trusting that the Gospel will come through our genuine care, as if God Himself was speaking to him.

Patrick Lowndes is an adopted son of God, husband and father of two daughters. As an evangelist and entrepreneur at heart, Patrick is the Founder and Lead Mobilizer of Walking Proclamation, a missional t-shirt company that seeks to provoke curiosity that starts conversations about God and His Gospel. Patrick is a part of a church plant in south Seattle and seeks to equip the Kingdom through entrepreneurial and evangelistic gifts.

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My Story

In my desire to share my faith with onlookers in a variety of different settings (on the bus, at work, at school or my neighborhood) I’ve found myself caught between a few difficult realities:

  • It’s not easy to share your faith with strangers, much less people you know
  • Many Christian stereotypes posted on shirts or other apparel places a target on your head that says “Christian”, sometimes spoiling an engaging first impression.
  • Relationships are key to making disciples, and getting them started can be difficult.

I saw a neon t-shirt one day that said “MADE FOR GLORY” and thought, “Hmm, I wonder if I can use something as simple a t-shirt, with a carefully crafted message, to start conversations about God and the Gospel.” It was from this idea that I searched and struggled to find them, and eventually the Lord birthed this “Walking Proclamation” apparel company in my heart.

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