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think like a missionary

Have you learned to exegete your place of mission? (Photo: Rafael Fabricio Chiti)

Learning to think like a missionary is an essential skill for anyone who wants to make disciples amongst the unchurched.

If we are trying to reach people who have no intention of ever coming along to our church building and services, we must become the ones who do the cross-cultural jump. Effective missionaries learn how to study the people and place where the Lord has them placed, in order to exegete (explain and interpret) it.

This analysis — as we think like a missionary — will lead us to identify what is ‘good news’ to that place, what church needs to look like in order to reach the people there, what that sub-culture values, where are the open doorways of opportunity.

[Tweet “Missionaries study where the Lord has them, in order to exegete (explain & interpret) it.”]

A True Story

Mike and Nannette moved into their neighborhood 5 years ago, and quickly recognized God’s call to change the spiritual climate of their new community, especially amongst the families. They wanted to find a way to seed a neighborhood for the Kingdom of God – in other words to:

  • Increase receptivity to the Gospel
  • Open up spiritual conversations
  • Spot at least one potential Person of Peace
  • Make disciple-making disciples
  • Do all this in a highly relational manner

They have seen some incredible fruitfulness, with whole households being impacted.

Curious to learn from what they did?

Then do this quick exercise:

How To Apply Their Lessons

As you view this 5 minute interview (which is a fun watch!), jot down the instances where they chose to THINK LIKE A MISSIONARY.

Then scroll down and see if you can beat my list of 9 things! I’ll be sharing reflections and lessons that we can take away and apply to ANY situation.

9 Ways To Think Like A Missionary

Did you notice how Mike and Nannette chose to think like a missionary in their neighborhood, by operating in a proactive manner? Here are some examples:

  1. “We knew God had something more than a new house” — Missionaries recognize that their home, whether a shack or a mansion, is a base of operations and a resource for ministry.
  2. “We noticed there were a lot of young children” — Often it is the thing that is right in front of your nose that we are meant to be be noticing! Don’t try to be too clever as you observe your context.
  3. “God put it on our heart to share Jesus in a fun and engaging way” — As the video indicates, they are a fun couple, and they love working with children, so this totally fitted who they are! As you look around, what feels like a natural thing for you to be doing?
  4. “We’d heard about VBS, even in people’s back yards” — They took the idea of the Vacation Bible School, then adapted it and made it work for their context. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just contextualize it.
  5. “There’s a snack, of course!” — Make sure you present Jesus in a warm way. OF COURSE Jesus does great snacks! Remember the wedding at Cana – He brings the party! And when you are at elementary school, there is no greater party than the one with the best snacks!
    [Tweet “OF COURSE Jesus does great snacks! Remember the wedding at Cana – He brings the party!”]
  6. “At the end of the week we have a cook out for all of the families. It’s just a way of making more contact and building relationships” — Again, nothing radical here. Mike and Nannette grill out at end of the week, in order to build on the favor they have gained. Relationships, relationships, relationships.
  7. “We walk a lot in the neighborhood” “[We use] the community pool and tennis court” — In order to be intentionally present, they make sure that they are present and available on a consistent basis. This requires deliberate choice, by recognizing and utilizing the natural gathering places for the people you are called to reach. Don’t create your own private version; instead, go and redeem where people are already engaged.
  8. “We not only talk about golf and yard work, but it has also opened up a door where I can share the Lord and listen” — We talk about regular things, but also spiritual things. There is a time when we need to share the content of the Gospel (but not necessarily all in one download!).
  9. “The ones who are 7th and 8th Grade can come back and help” — Good missionaries are flexible with their plans. The goal is not to complete the program; the goal is to make disciples. If that means you create a special category of helpers in order to allow kids who are “too old” to still come, then that’s what you do!
    [Tweet “Good missionaries are flexible with their plans. The goal is not to complete the program; the goal is to make disciples”]


“We are not working for God, we are working with Him” — There’s a reason it’s called co-mission! God has already gone ahead of you into your place of mission. Your task is spot what He is up to and to join in. That is a very freeing thought and principle by which to live as a missionary!
[Tweet “God has already in your place of mission. Your task is spot what He is up to and to join in.”]



From the ‘9 Ways’ list above, which do you most need to work on? What would you add to the list?

Use the comment section below to share your thoughts and experiences.

Want More On This?

  • Check out my post on the Person of Peace, called The Love Heart of Mission — click here to view it. Then make sure you’ve signed up to receive an email each time there’s something new here!
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