By Jeff Goins, Editor
Summer is a time when people’s work and school schedules tend to loosen up. It is a season of life, of renewed vigor, and of rest. But summer is also a season of opportunity. It is a time when our lives are less bogged-down, and we can explore more meaningful pursuits.
If you live in a warmer climate like I do, the summer can be a rough environment for many urban poor and homeless people, as this news article suggests. Where there are those who are suffering and even dying from the heat, there is opportunity for the Church to be the Body of Christ. Since the winter is often a major season of concern for homeless fatalities, shelters often neglect equally-threatening hot weather in the summer, particularly in the southern and western parts of the United States. There are plenty of people out and about, looking for refuge and refreshment.
What an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus. The season of flowers and exercise can be an amazing chance to see God’s kingdom come in new and exciting ways.
Three things that you can do to have a missional summer are:
1) Get outside. It seems simple enough, but how many people will burn up their electric bills due to increased air conditioning use? How many will forgo an afternoon in the park for crashing on the couch with a movie? Do yourself a favor this summer and get outside. Throw a frisbee. Cook some hotdogs. Interact with people. Many who dream of living more “missional” lives fail to make the simple choices each day of intentionally engaging in their communities.
2) Give something away. A couple summers ago, I had one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. What was it, exactly? I cooked up a bunch of hotdogs and brats and gave them away to anyone who passed by in a local city park. Many of the people were homeless and would have no other meal that day, but others were just passersby. All were astounded at why I would just give something away. In this consumer-driven culture, many were waiting for the sales pitch, the bait-and-switch, the delivery of whatever my agenda was. I didn’t give one. Many were so intrigued by someone who simply gave something away that they asked me all kinds of questions, which eventually led to a discussion about faith – something they started, not me.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be food, and it doesn’t have to be anything remarkable. Just give something away: a drink, a sandwich, a moment of your time. I learned this from my dad, who used to throw a public music festival where he gave away all kinds of food to anyone who came to listen. All summer, he and I would solicit donations in kind from grocery stores, caterers, etc., collecting enough food to throw one of the biggest parties our little farming community had ever seen. We used the opportunity to invite all kinds of churches, Christian music groups, bikers, hippies, preachers, storytellers, puppeteers, and anyone else we could think of who was interested in giving back to the community.
This summer, give without any kind of clever metaphor for grace and just see what this does to people. See what it does to your heart. I’ve learned so much about generosity through this discipline of giving something away.
3) Go on a mission trip. One of the best ways that you can lead a more missional and meaningful life right in your own community is to leave it. It doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense, but we often neglect the needs that are closest to us. Periodically, our hearts need to get rejuvenated. We need to step out in faith and see God meet us there. We need to get some new perspective. If you read Matthew 10 closely, you see Jesus doing this with his disciples. He’s less interested in the ministry fruit than he is in the impact the experience has had on his followers. It’s pretty simple: mission trips make better disciples. Don’t believe me? Try it and prove me wrong.
Short-term missions can wake us up to a world of poverty and need to which we were previously blind. We leave home, not because there are not needs in our backyards, but rather because we fail to see them. Setting aside some intentional time to live missionally with a group of other believers brings your heart into alignment with the missionary God who longs to bring hope to both the nations and the suburbs.
There are a lot of things you could do this summer, and please don’t forget to rest. However, don’t miss your opportunity to reach out to a lost and broken world with the redemptive hands of Christ that long to heal a hurting Creation.
Jeff graduated from Illinois College, a small liberal arts school, with a degree in Spanish and Religion. He lives in Nashville, TN with his wife Ashley. He works for Adventures in Missions, edits this silly little magazine, and loves to do new things. Check out his blog: Pilgrimage of the Heart.