I’ve never liked the word “missionary”.
It’s a loaded word.
It makes people act funny.
We’ve watched our friends meet other missionaries and noticed that sometimes when they hear that word, something weird happens. We’ve seen couples who are simply living together suddenly become husband and wife, foul mouthed jocks suddenly wax eloquent, beer aficionados become teetotalers for the moment, and raunchy stories about what happened last Friday night get tabled for another time.
In my experience, it seems the only people who feel excited to cross paths with a missionary are other missionaries, and people who feel a religious kinship with missionaries.
Everybody else just feels judged, like they might be at risk of becoming the next missionary project. I don’t blame them.
If there is one thing I’ve learned about loving people in the last five years, it’s that nobody wants to be featured as a prayer point in your newsletter. Nobody wants your unsolicited, but loving Christian counsel. Nobody wants your corny Bible tract.
Indeed, nobody wants to be your pet-project for Jesus.
People aren’t meant to be projects.
Even people who have a desperate need, even people who are achingly afraid, even people who are longing for a Savior will feel the sting of loneliness that comes with being turned into a project for the sake of missions.
Nobody wants to be your project… but everybody wants to be your friend.
Ok, fine, maybe not everybody wants to be your BFF. There are plenty of people I plain old don’t like and don’t want to be friends with. I think that’s allowed. But, the point is, most people would prefer your friendship to your “evangelism”. Of course, friendship requires a lot more of you. Friendship must be nurtured. Friendship must be mutual and reciprocal. Friendship needs time and effort and, eventually, the sort of transparency that allows people not to see through you, but to see Jesus in you.
It’s a lot harder to make someone your friend than to turn them into your project. But, I’ll tell you the truth, if you know how to be a good friend, then you’re more missionary than a lot of missionaries.
Love people, not projects.
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Have you given or received the kind of “Christian good will” that makes people into projects?