3 Pitfalls That Prevent Us From Living on Mission

Ben Connelly  and Bob Roberts, Jr.
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When Jesus sent His first disciples into mission, “he said to them, ‘Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart’” (Luke 9:3-4). The first Christian missionaries had no choice but to meet people wherever they went: if they didn’t, they’d have been hungry and homeless. Maybe we would meet people better if our lives—or at least a hot meal and good night sleep—depended on it. Today, politeness, introversion, and shyness are common reasons some Christians don’t pursue mission. Each often gets slammed as being bad or wrong, but while we guard you from the lie—“I can’t live on mission because of my personality”—we also want to free you to live on mission in your unique gifting, instead of telling you to overcome or change it.

1. Politeness

Politeness is good. The Bible celebrates those who consider others more highly than themselves. In fact, one reason many not-yet-believers dislike Christians is our lack of politeness. Politeness becomes a pitfall, though, when it slips into people-pleasing—the “fear of man” (Proverbs 29:25). When we make excuses against knocking on a neighbor’s door, convince ourselves of reasons not to talk to the new guy at work, and tell ourselves we’re a bother, politeness hinders us. Our mission meets the same demise as the teenage boy who never works up the nerve to ask out the pretty girl. But a healthy level of politeness in an everyday missionary is a blessing. As we’re honoring, respectful, and polite in our interactions, we build bridges instead of burn them. Politeness benefits mission.

“Praise God for the strength to obey Him in the way He’s designed and gifted you.”

2. Introversion

At least a third of the US population is introverted. So if mission can only take place with lots of people, by extroverts who love being around all those people, God’s mission is over 33 percent sunk! But introverts make great missionaries. You’re generally thoughtful, and while you may have fewer conversations than extroverts, those you do have are often deep. You likely listen well. This makes you a stellar missionary. An introverted friend is a wine expert. When he overcame the misplaced shame of not pursuing lots of relationships, he began inviting one person or couple at a time to join him and his wife for homemade dinners and wine tastings. Tastings last for hours and involve lots of talking. His hobby and personality make him an intentional listener, thoughtful speaker, and engaging friend. God has borne fruit through his efforts, one person at a time.

3. Shyness

Distinct from introversion, many people consider themselves shy. Striking up a conversation is simply something several of us aren’t comfortable with. John Mark is in my small group, and was once relieved to be on “dinner duty” the night a new couple walked in. He was able to stay in the kitchen instead of interacting immediately. John Mark can still live on mission; he just finds it helpful to discover a point of connection, like a common interest or shared acquaintance. Something to focus on—a TV or project—eases his pressure. And for many, mission in community is essential: others have initial conversations, while you listen and grow in comfort and relationship to the point you can engage.

If you’re introverted, shy, or both, be relieved: yes Christians are called to make disciples, but we are never given a quota or a step-by-step guide of how. Introverts, go make a disciple! One at a time if that’s what it takes. Shy? Take your time, and give yourself grace. Polite? That’s great news; just make sure you fear God more than man. And as you work through all three pitfalls, do two things: pray for ideas, boldness, and open doors—just like extroverts and less shy missionaries must do. And praise God for the strength to obey Him in the way He’s designed and gifted you.

For Further Reading:

A Field Guide for Everyday Mission

by Bob Roberts, Jr. and Ben Connelly

Surprise—if you call yourself a follower of Jesus, He calls you a missionary! You may never go halfway around the world, but because of...

book cover for A Field Guide for Everyday Mission