Compartmentalization vs. Integration
Jesus’ activity is helpful as we consider our own. It’s especially helpful to see that most of what Jesus did, He did with others. Yes, there are glimpses of Him traveling and praying alone. A few times He sent everyone ahead and caught up later—once via an evening stroll on the sea. And we see Him pray in solitude. But not always. More often, Jesus traveled, worked, ate, drank, and even prayed alongside and in the midst of His disciples, the outcasts of society, and those in need. And while this is easy to miss, if He did these things with others then He did them with folks who weren’t Christians. Because at the time, that was His only option.
What’s the difference between Jesus and us? One, we’re not God. But two, Jesus integrated ministry and mission into daily life, while nearly everyone we know—including ourselves—defaults to the opposite. We compartmentalize ministry into certain times and activities, separate from the rest of our lives. If we’re not careful, “mission” is relegated to a Saturday morning time slot. We do nice things, check our watches often, then wrap up and go to Chili’s. Saturday morning we go do mission, Saturday at noon we go to lunch. Or we have a certain evening for our Bible study group to come watch a movie, but if a co-worker asks us what we’re doing, we make up an excuse and try to take a rain check. We have Christian friend nights and not-Christian friend nights. And so on. This easy mindset rejects the fact that we are missionaries, and relegates “mission” back to something we either do or don’t, or something we merely do then stop doing in order to do something else.
Mission is not alone; it follows the pattern of Western life: we have work or school hours, social time, a church block, our weekend chunk of time, and so on. When we started The City Church, we introduced people to new identities God gives us in the gospel: in Christ, we are disciples of God, members of God’s family, and missionaries to God’s world. Before we knew how to flesh those out well, many folks became very busy, planning separate events each week for each: discipleship nights, then family nights, then mission nights. We followed the compartmentalization we were used to. When friend and missionary Caesar Kalinowski was in town, he noticed that this separation made us too busy: we were doing many things—some good—but it was wearing us out.
Redeeming Everyday Moments
What’s the solution to compartmentalized, overly-busy mission, in the midst of our compartmentalized, overly-busy lives? Our intentionally cheesy answer that is to ask, with bracelet-wearing church kids of the 1990s, “WWJD?” Jesus didn’t compartmentalize; He didn’t try to fit ministry in between His “job.” He didn’t even seem to have specific events for one type of people, then other events for others. From rich to poor, from the Hebrew Law’s “clean” to “unclean,” and from doctor to fisherman, Jesus integrated people, life, ministry, and mission. He redeemed the everyday, normal moments of His life and used them for God’s mission. As we try to do the same, we can likewise redeem everyday moments and integrate mission into our ordinary lives.
What things do you do every day of the week? What classes do you take or teach every week of the month? What events do you attend you do every month of the year? There are normal, ordinary, sometimes even boring moments in our lives that can be redeemed for God’s mission. Here are just a few of the most common, redeemable moments:
- We eat about twenty-one meals a week: sometimes less, sometimes a few more than we should
- Many commute to and from work or school, or take children to and from school
- Lots of people do yard work or other chores on Saturday mornings
- Depending on where you are in the nation, you might play in your yard many evenings, or go for a stroll around your neighborhood
- Every fall, fans find themselves in front of a TV from Thursday until Monday, between college football and pro games
- If you don’t like football, you end up on the couch for your favorite reality show, comedy, or drama
- You likely eat out, at least occasionally
- You do something like going to the gym, getting your hair cut, oil changed, or car washed, or having nails done or tattoos redone
- You have hobbies: whether movies, train-spotting, music, hiking, surfing, baking, or even gaming, many can involve others
- Someone in your home goes to the grocery store, at least once every couple weeks—and other errands require you to walk, ride, or drive as well
- Many families go on at least a vacation or two each year
Mission in Everyday Life
Everyone in your mission field does at least one of these things, just like you. Each of these moments—and so many more—are chances to weave mission into everyday. Carpool to work or school, or walk or take public transportation. Invite neighbors over to watch the game you’re both planning to watch. Meet your coworkers for breakfast, even if once a month. Set up play dates for your kids’ classmates, with both Christians and those who aren’t. Would you ever consider vacationing with another family?
Just like Jesus did, we each travel, work, eat and drink, and hopefully pray. Each day is filled with ordinary moments and activities, which we often do alone, or with a certain “type” of friend. But even the simplest of activities are opportunities for worship and mission: “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” When can we integrate life and mission? Rather than segregating people into different time slots or adding things to busy schedules, everyday mission happens when we redeem everyday moments.
Ben Connelly, his wife Jess, and their daughters Charlotte and Maggie live in Fort Worth, TX. He started and now co-pastors The City Church, part of the Acts29 network and Soma family of churches. Ben is also co-author of A Field Guide for Everyday Mission (Moody Publishers, 2014). With degrees from Baylor University and Dallas Theological Seminary, Ben teaches public speaking at TCU, writes for various publications, trains folks across the country, and blogs in spurts at benconnelly.net. Twitter: @connellyben.
(Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from A Field Guide for Everyday Mission by Ben Connelly & Bob Roberts Jr. available from Moody Publishers starting June 2014. It appears here with the permission of the author and publisher. For free resources and preorders, visit everydaymission.net.)