Everyone, All the Time

Here’s an observation about today’s society: We live in a culture of specialists. In the previous generation, many like my dad and father-in-law (who both are now in their 60s) were generalists. On top of their day job, they could change oil, replace spark plugs, lay flooring, fix minor plumbing issues, install crown molding, etc. Likely, I could learn many of those things and more by just watching YouTube, but the problem is that I don’t want to take the time to learn. I simply know there are professionals who can do it and can do it much better than I could.

The notion that we live in a culture of specialists—or professionals—also has infiltrated the church to the degree that many people do not see mission as their job. Mission is the duty of those who have been “called” or hired.

The Bible has a very different view of mission: It is for everyone, everywhere, all the time and to all places and peoples. And this vision of can be traced back to the Old Testament. In Exodus 19, while Moses is on Mount Sinai, God speaks to him and at one point says, “You will be my own possession out of all the peoples … and you will be my kingdom of priests and my holy nation” (vv. 5–6).

God’s vision of mission is spelled out in Exodus 19:4–6, which Peter revised and adopted in his epistle (1 Peter 2:9–11). It has a more comprehensive overture: everyone, every sphere of life, all the time.

How can pastors and church leaders flesh out this vision within a local church? While the following application is in no way comprehensive, here are three ways we can exhort believers to engage in this vision of mission.

1. Personal Holiness

If the central aim for God and his mission in the world is his glory, it would only stand to reason that personal holiness is paramount to being an active participant in God’s chief aim. In fact, the root meaning for holiness, according to David Peterson, is separation. In both the Old and New Testaments, there is the command for the people of God to be holy for God is holy (Lev. 11:44; 1 Peter 1:16). Holiness is to be a distinctive between God’s people (both corporately and individually) and the rest of the world (Exod.19:5; Matt. 5:16; 1 Peter 2:12).

What does personal holiness look like enacted? Christopher Wright suggests in The Mission of God’s People, “The strong ethical demand of holiness in Old Testament Israel meant living lives of integrity, justice and compassion in every area—including personal, family, social, economic and national life.”

Michael Goheen, in his book Light to the Nations, highlights the following areas where holiness is to be exercised: family; freedom from idolatry; concern for the poor, the vulnerable, the elderly and the foreigner; fairness in economic dealings; interpersonal integrity; justice in courts and in speech, concern for the well-being of neighbors; sexual faithfulness; care of the nonhuman creation; and commercial honesty.

2. Work and Rest in a Godly Manner.

In creating humanity in his image, God made us with the natural instinct to go to work cultivating the raw materials of the world. He equipped us to make something of the world that he had created through nothing.

I love that God told Moses that he has filled Bezalel “with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs” (Exod. 31:2-4). We have to teach our people that whether they are in education, the arts, politics, the service industry, the medical field, technology, or serving at home, God has breathed in them certain gifts and skills to, as John Stott noted, expend energy in the service of others, which brings fulfillment to the worker, benefit to the community and glory to God.

After expending energy for a week, the pattern is to rest in an attitude and posture of worship. And in our always-on culture, this is most difficult to do. Yet, we have to exhort our people to R.E.S.T.—recharge their bodies, extol the Lord with others, surrender their work and life to God, and trust him for ultimate provision.

3. Godly Hospitality.

Ultimately, the people of God in both the Old and New Testaments were to be priests. Priests mediated between God and others. Therefore, as an element of a comprehensive vision of mission, pastors can encourage believers to embody the gospel by loving and caring for those around them—whether it be people of other races, ethnicities or socioeconomic statuses, or the sick, marginalized or orphaned.

In addition, sharing a meal with others also can embody the gospel. Craig Blomberg describes Jesus’ meals with sinners as acts of “contagious holiness,” because the table fellowship Jesus shared with outsiders became an avenue to accomplish his mission. We can encourage people to be intentional with their meal planning. Urge them to invite a family they met through their kids’ school out to dinner, have a coworker over to the house, or ask neighbor in the subdivision over for a cookout.

Implementation of a comprehensive vision of mission is a discipleship issue. Discipleship is the collision of the imago Dei and the missio Dei—as it is the process of learning what it means to be human after the likeness and image of Jesus. As we are formed in Jesus, the Spirit of God forges the character of God in us that we might be a light to the world in the way we live, in the way we work (and rest), and in the way we relate to others. How we live in all spheres of life matters missionally. And everyone can participate in this vision of mission.

Josh Laxton
Josh Laxton

Josh Laxton is the assistant director of the Billy Graham Center and assistant director of Lausanne North America at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.