The first time I went on a mission trip to serve vulnerable people in another country, I came away with two profound experiences. One was how incredible it was to worship Christ very far from home with total strangers who spoke a different language. The knowledge that God is everywhere truly became real to me in an open-air Brazilian church where familiar worship music was sung in Portuguese.
The second was the awareness of how easily I could love strangers and share God’s love for them when I’m far from home. I came back from that trip pondering why it’s so difficult in my own culture, around the people I know and am comfortable around.
I realized that the difference was my own mindset. Going on a mission trip across the globe is intentional: it’s prayed over, talked about, and meticulously planned. I generally didn’t think of my day-to-day life as an intentional mission field. Second, I had no concern about how people would respond. I knew that everyone I met would welcome kindness and compassion.
The key to missional living, then, is keeping our hearts focused outward—toward Jesus first, and the people in our neighborhoods, cities, workplaces, and schools. It’s not about us or how we’ll be received. Missional living doesn’t require hours of planning, just a heightened awareness of the people around us.
If you aren’t sure how to live missionally day to day, here are a few simple ways to love and serve others right where you are:
Pray: The first (and best) step toward being intentional about missional living is asking God to open your eyes to the people and needs around you. It’s that simple. Ask Him to use you as you go about your daily life. Ask Him for opportunities, and pray in advance for the people He will put in your path.
Be kind: Kindness often can seem a sparse commodity in our busy, self-centered culture. It’s not that people aren’t actually kind, it’s that they don’t take the time to be kind. Asking how someone’s day is going when you’re busy at work or rushing through the grocery store is easy and quick. Express compassion when you hear someone say they’re hurting or fearful. You don’t have to fix their problem; simply say “I’m sorry” or offer to pray for them. Be generous with praise, and be a good listener.
Give: Give what you have. Is it an extra $10…or $10 a month? Pick a local or international charity you love and commit that money. Do you have on extra hour a week? Offer to be on a ministry team at church, volunteer for a local charity, or help a busy mom. Take 15 minutes to chat with someone who seems alone while you’re wandering a store or waiting for an oil change. Bestow simple blessings—mow a yard for a single mom or bake brownies for a neighbor. Your smallest acts of caring mimic those of Jesus and can make a big difference to others.
Invite: Loneliness is rampant in our culture and invitations are non-existent to many people these days. Even if you cringe at the idea of cooking for a crowd, you can ask someone to do something simple with you. Invite a coworker to ride along on an afternoon coffee run or take a short walk at lunchtime. Call a friend you haven’t seen in a while, or a new friend you’ve recently made, and set a date for breakfast or lunch. Ask a neighbor for their input on decorating or gardening (it doesn’t matter what). Invitations make people feel valued.
Serve: If you’re already helping your neighbors and your church but are looking for ways to reach people you don’t know, volunteer for a local charity you care about. You’re likely to work alongside—and provide support to—many who do not follow Jesus. There’s no better way to share Christ’s love than to lavish it on people who don’t know or don’t believe that it’s available to them.