A month ago I posted the first part of the case for missional margin, beginning with my confession that too often I should hang the hotel door hanger around my neck which says, “Please do not disturb.” As much as I would like to admit that I make time for people, the sobering fact is oh so contrary to my good intentions.
Missional margin is all about creating white space in the life of a 21st century Christian who has more than enough distractions to anesthetize him from the call to be actively on mission with God. Is it any wonder, then, that Paul would admonish Timothy as a good soldier not to “entangle himself in the affairs of everyday life” in order to please his commanding officer (2 Tim. 2:4)? But what do you mean Paul?
I think what Paul means is that we must tune ourselves out from our own agendas and tune into the mission of God. It is setting parameters for seeking first the kingdom of God in a way that it becomes more than a byline or theoretical assertion. It means paying careful attention to the way we live our lives, not allowing ourselves to dance around the mission but dive right into the heart of it. I am reminded of what Robert Coleman once said about Jesus. “There was nothing haphazard about his life–no wasted energy, not an idle word. He was on business for God” (The Master Plan of Evangelism, 24). His business was to accomplish the mission for which He was sent.
In the same manner Jesus was sent into the world, so are we. Jesus was tuned into the mission the Father had given Him and committed Himself to the accomplishing it with those final words, “It is finished.” There will come a time when there will be no more races to win, no more battles to fight, no more need to keep the faith, and were it possible to look back, my fear is that our biggest regret would be having not participated more in the mission of God, to feel the weight of the words, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
So how can I cultivate missional margin in everyday life? How can I remove the “please do not disturb” sign with one that says, “you are welcome here”? How can I practice personal hospitality which embraces hurting humanity rather than writes them off? Allow me to offer a few suggestions, and perhaps you could share some yourself.
When you are around other people, take out your headphones, turn off your iPod, and reserve phone calls when you are alone. Tuning out the world around you takes whatever margin in your life and makes it about “me.” Friends, don’t waste that margin!
So many of us have no idea what is going on in the lives of a coworker, friend, or complete stranger we happen to bump into. Around every corner could be someone struggling with hurt, pain, loss, and most importantly life separated from God. How will you know unless you first listen? How will they know you care unless you actively, intentionally choose to make them a priority?
By this, I mean compassion tangibly felt. When the heart of Christ ached, He did something. One of the excuses I gave to people who needed or asked for financial assistance was that I never had any cash on hand. I did this intentionally. Now, I make it my goal to carry $20 cash (in 5s and 1s) that I call “margin money” to be used to bless others. The same could be said for time.
Prayer can become mechanical and reserved, rather than spontaneous and continual. What missional margin does is challenge you to think and pray specifically for specific people you encounter. Cultivate a prayer pattern that coincides with a missional pattern, so that people and places are considered not centers of goods and services, but outposts for the kingdom of God.
5. Arrive Early, Stay Late
If you are the last to arrive and the first to leave, how are you going to be available to minister to anyone? How can you seek the advance of the kingdom in the hearts of men when you are seeking first the door with an exit sign? If it is work, school, church or wherever you might be engaging people, be the first to arrive and the last to leave. Those times of margin before and after “scheduled” times are often the greatest opportunities to sow gospel seed and cultivate relationships.
In our culture today, we have neighborhoods that are gated communities with fenced-in yards full of strangers (with gated lives). Our conversations are reduced to text messages and “pokes.” We are a community that no longer communes. We are a society with a mediated social life (computers, phones, etc.). We want “MySpace” that brings a life without friction and full of ready-made fun.
In such a context, the goal behind all this is to pay attention to God’s heart for people and place ourselves where we can best participate in the mission God has given us. If we could build more margin in our lives and so use it to regularly and routinely tap into and find traction for the mission, then I believe there would be more signposts that point to the open arms of our dying Savior.
The last commentary on the early church and Paul’s ministry was:
“He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:30-31).
May we welcome all who come to us, proclaiming the kingdom and teaching them about Jesus!