Michelle Sanchez: Expand Your Missional Imagination

Is your view of the mission field too small?

I currently serve as a senior leader within a thriving North American evangelical denomination—and it has taken me a while to get over my disappointment about that.

You see, for years I wanted to be a missionary. A real missionary. French was my favorite subject. In college I majored in international business and explored global companies in Japan, Italy, Spain and the Czech Republic. I studied abroad in Hong Kong and dove into Spanish immersion in Ecuador. Eventually, through a course on world missions, God showed me that my love for the world was powerful not only for engaging the global marketplace to make money—but also for engaging the global mission field to make disciples.

I was sold—I would be a missionary. I simply could think of no greater adventure, no better way to spend my life than traversing the globe on mission with and for Jesus.

My dream was to serve in southern France or North Africa, a region where I could combine my French skills with the opportunity to reach Muslims. Eventually, my husband and I embarked on our first global mission trip to Marseilles, France, where we finally got a taste of the ministry that had for so long captured my imagination. I was in love.

Yet, in this case, I also was misguided. Through a challenging and surprising discernment process, we ultimately came to the conclusion that the Lord was calling us to stay put and minister in North America. It took me years to get over the disappointment of not being able to serve as a missionary. That is, until God began to spark my missional imagination.

I currently live and work in Chicago. Have I not been sent here, just as surely as I was hoping to be sent to North Africa? Why does my location make such a fundamental difference to my missional self-understanding? What if I understood myself to be a missionary—a real missionary—right here at home?

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In their book Sentness: Six Postures of Missional Christians, Kim Hammond and Darren Cronshaw state, “There are two competing postures for the people of God today: a church of consumers, demanding goods and services, and a church of missionaries, sent and sending into the world.” It is our mindset, not our location, that makes all the difference.

The missionary adventure is available to anyone, anywhere. We simply need the missional imagination to see and embrace it. This is harder to do at home because home is so familiar. Yet we are not alone in facing this challenge of imagination. A growing number of movements and resources are tailored to foster a missional imagination for the places in which we have been planted, movements that include the Art of Neighboring (ArtOfNeighboring.com), the Parish Collective (ParishCollective.org) and more.

With God’s help, I eventually got over myself. My view of the mission field was simply too small. Yes, God called me to be a real missionary, just as he has called us all. “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21). It’s time to wake up, church. Wherever you are, you have been sent. The missional adventure awaits. Do we have the imagination to see?