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Ordinary Missionaries

Let’s say you’re convinced by Scripture and convicted by the Holy Spirit to step out and be an ordinary missionary; you're deeply burdened to see lost people in your neighborhood, workplace, coffee shops, gyms, grocery stores, and schools meet Jesus. This means you have to think like a missionary - a mindset that requires both studying the culture you find yourself in, as well as engaging with it. So how do you step into the role of "ordinary missionary"?

For starters, identifying the needs, the idols, and the history of the city must become part of your routine thinking. This is the prep work. A call to obediently make disciples as Jesus commands (Matt. 28:18–20) is also a command to focus on what’s in front of you. In other words, you have to be intentionally outward-focused in your everyday, routine life.

All missionaries (and if you’re a Christian, you are a missionary) have to be the most intentional people in the world. Asking questions, studying demographics, and making note of trends help make this possible. If you intimately know the people you're trying to reach then you will be better set up to engage people effectively with the gospel of Jesus.

As missional Christians, we don’t want to be stuck in the past, speaking to where culture was 10 years ago. We don’t want to answer questions that nobody is asking - we need to be relevant today. We need to speak to real people in real space and real time with real questions.

Acts 17 gives us a glimpse into the work of a missionary. “His [Paul’s] spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. . . . So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus said: ‘Men of Athens, I perceive that . . .’” (Acts 17:16, 22)

Paul was perceptive. He was paying attention to where he was. He was fully present. He wasn’t thinking about another missionary post he could serve, another church he could plant, or where else he could be on the map. He was fully present where God had led him to live, work, and hang out.

Are you present in the ministry or context you’re currently serving in, or are you only planning and daydreaming about what could be?

The broad questions you can ask are:
What are the goals, values, and beliefs of your city?

The more specific questions you can ask are"

What’s happening in my city?
Who’s moving into my city?
What buildings are going up in my city?
What buildings are coming down in my city?
How many schools are there in my city?
How many people are here in my city?
What is the crime rate like in my city?
What is the history of my city?
How long has my city been a city?
At what times and days does everything come alive in my city?
What do the people in my city love about my city?
What do people despise about my city?
What’s the media saying about my city?
What do people in my city put their hope in?
Who’s hurting in my city?
Who’s succeeding and thriving in my city?
For everyday missionaries, the questions are endless.

Bank clerks, grocery store checkers, hair stylists, and property development workers can tell you so much of what you need to know about your city because they are in the city, working in the city, and up to date on what’s going on in the city.

Perhaps if you don’t know where to start, you should go get a trim and practice asking the person cutting your hair questions.

Dear Christian, are you studying your city?
About the Author:
Michael Cox is the Discipleship Pastor at Living Stones North Valleys and serves on staff for Living Stones Churches as the Art and Series Director. You can reach him at