"My Mission" by Steve Timmis
Bob Roberts & I were honored - or, “honoured” for today’s context - to include stories from various missional leaders in A Field Guide for Everyday Mission. Over several weeks, I’m glad to share some of those stories; I hope that these glimpses into others’ lives and mission fields further encourage you in your own.
Today features a story from my friend & in many ways mentor, Steve Timmis, who lives in Sheffield, UK, and serves as Executive Director of Acts29. The co-founder of The Crowded House and Porterbrook, among other initiatives, Steve has also co-authored Total Church, Everyday Church, and most recently, I Wish Jesus Hadn’t Said That. @STimmis.
I have to confess a bias toward a particular kind of mission. For me, it’s corporate all the way. I don’t despise so-called personal evangelism: the fact that the Lord could save an African aristocrat through the solitary witness of an itinerant evangelist who just happened to pop up alongside his moving sedan, should temper my preference. I remember being convicted at a very young age by the retort of D. L. Moody to a critic of his evangelistic methods: “Better the evangelism I do than the evangelism you don’t.” But, nonetheless, my bias toward corporate mission remains.
This is pragmatic, but it flows out of profound theological principles I won’t rehearse here. Exposing people to a diverse community of ordinary people in the process of being transformed by the grace that is theirs in Christ in the messiness of life cannot be anything but good. So the mundane and the ordinary excite me, because that is where the gospel is sown, grows, and bears fruit.
Take Josh. We’ve known him for quite a few years. His relationship with the gospel has not been altogether straightforward. At times he seemed so far away. His life was a mess, and his decisions foolish. Other times he seemed soft and receptive. But no real progress was made. But Christians kept loving and serving him, and picking up the pieces after him. Christians were always there for him. There was nothing dramatic, and no profound moments of revelation. Just a slow (even imperceptible) softening and warming. This culminated in him stopping by one evening with his girlfriend and her bags saying, “We both became Christians today! Obviously we can’t live together ‘til we get married so we were wondering if it’s okay if she moves in with you for now?”
Then there is Roxanne from South America, who was new in town and just happened to bump into a Christian who brought her along to a meal she was having with the rest of us. Roxanne had had a formal Catholic upbringing but had never witnessed a group of people who took the gospel seriously or who loved Jesus so deeply. She came to a church meeting the next Sunday and although she didn’t really understand a word the preacher said, she was impacted by his passion and intensity. She felt she had no option but to keep hanging out with these Christians, which she did in ordinary contexts like shopping, cleaning, drinking coffee, and walking. Again, there were no bright lights or sharp moments of clarity. But there was a steady thawing of a hard heart. She grew to understand grace through witnessing it in the lives of Christians who had become her friends.
I could tell you about Huw. He was really messed up when he just happened to sit next to a Christian at the bus stop. Broken marriage, no relationship with his kids, too much booze, too many drugs. He was intrigued by the book the guy was reading, and asked if he was one of those Christians who lived in the same projects he did. He eventually met the rest of them—ironically at the pub when he was drinking when he shouldn’t have been. Huw’s story is essentially the same as that of Josh and Roxanne, and countless others: real exposure to ordinary people living ordinary lives with clear gospel intentionality.
Mission isn’t just about evangelism. It is just as much about discipleship. Seeing the gospel impact everyday details of our lives is nothing less than a miracle of grace. Seeing Christians share their possessions, homes, affections, ambitions, and time for the sake of the gospel is a phenomenon of the ordinary, of extraordinary proportions.
Jake and Sarah have poured their lives into their neighbors. It’s as messy and broken a situation as you could imagine. I so wish I could tell you that it had a happy ending and they’ve become Christians. But they haven’t. In fact, they seem to have hardened their hearts and run harder after sin. But that’s everyday mission. But gospel fruit is still growing in the mundane soil of ordinary life—if not their neighbors, at least gloriously in the hearts of Jake and Sarah.
Don’t be impatient with the ordinary. Don’t be seduced by a lust for the spectacular. Of course God can do remarkable things in remarkable ways. But most of the time He works in the ordinary and the mundane. Most of the time He uses ordinary people living very ordinary lives to spread the fame of His far-from-ordinary Son. As a very ordinary man I rejoice at this. And I resolve with grace to live my ordinary life extraordinarily well to the praise and fame of the Saviour.