Basic Tools 3A: Hints for Discerning Your Present Daily Missions

 for use with the worksheets of Basic Tools 3B

Introduction

Experience has called for a user-friendly workbook for When the Members are the Missionaries. These paragraphs from the Workbook clarify the discerning of your daily missions. In Basic Tools 2 and 3, you saw that all you are doing right now to make life better were missions and part of God’s mission. This resource helps you to complete the worksheets of Basic Tools 3B.

Before you start the worksheets, here are some hints and suggestions that may help you.  If a question stumps you, take a look at the two examples for that question.  One is from a mother who looks at her home life.  The other is from a postal worker.  Do not feel intimidated if your life is not full of exciting examples of God’s work.  God gladly accepts and works with you wherever you are and in whatever you do.  Think afresh about Jesus’ story of the harvest (Matthew 20:1-16):  Each laborer received the same pay even though some toiled all day in the fields and others only an hour.  All contributions both great and small were needed to complete the harvest, and all laborers were given the same reward for their service.  It’s your service that counts whether you’re eight or eighty.  Take your time with these hints.  They become the helps for the worksheets that follow.

As you start, a few examples that point to areas of action or to specific actions in each of the six daily mission fields might help:

Home—parenting, marriage, friendships

Work—solving job-related issues, managing the home, taking on volunteer work or working through issues in it, fulfilling school responsibilities for students

Local Community—soccer referee, elected town official, school board member

Wider World—writing a letter about a social issue to a newspaper, working in an environmental group, working for a political party

Leisure—hobbies, favorite recreation, puzzles, rest times

Spiritual Health—regular prayer time, a Bible class, regular activity for physical and emotional health

Church Life and Outreach—choir, teach Sunday school classes, food pantry worker, visit newcomers, invite non-church friends to church events, inter-church or interfaith activities

Worksheets that help you find you daily missions follow this pattern (ex):

Mission Field (number): Discerning my present mission in (this mission field) (a current mission or one I will begin).

You may be led to focus on a mission in which you are already involved or in a new one.  By the time you reach the fourth question, it should be quite clear whether you are working on a current or a new mission.

1.  What has God been doing in (this mission field)?  What message am I getting about it?  Try a response beginning with: “I believe God is . . .”

Hint:Be guided where you see love and justice at work or where they are needed or are weak.  Here are some places to look for clues for what God is doing or saying.    If you’ve made mistakes in the past, remember God forgives; try to figure out the Lord’s current message for you and get ready to try again.    Or, what’s foremost in your mind in this area?  What really needs to be fixed or changed?  What are others saying to you that sticks in your mind?  What is happening around you?  What do you sense that you want to do or should be doing?  Do you sense a need to confront and seek to correct some wrongdoing or evil in this area of life?  Do you see anything blocking love or justice?  Or any way in which love and justice need to be increased? 

Home example:  A mother senses this message: I believe that God is telling me that my family life is fractured.  We are not as close as we could be.

Work example:  A postal worker senses this message: I believe God is telling me to speak up about the unfair workload that all of us share.

2. As I think about God’s message, what is my vision or goal for how I want life to be (in this mission field)?

Hint:  A vision is a general statement and provides you with a sense of direction, such as “My vision is to have a close working relationship with my team at work.” A goal is concrete step that is clear and specific; for example, My goal is to meet with my manager regularly for better communication.”  Word your vision or goal to get direct and expressed in a simple sentence.

Home example:  My vision is for my family to spend more time together and enjoy it. 

Work example:  My goal is to start speaking up about unfair treatment. 

3.  What am I doing right now to make this goal or vision a reality?

Hint:  Name even the smallest effort. Do be honest if you’re not doing anything to work toward making your vision or goal a reality.  Say so here and let the hints for the next question stimulate your imagination. 

Home example: I am trying to get us to find regular family time to talk, laugh, and share what we are doing outside the family. 

Work example: I am trying to get to know my coworkers here better and to find common ground with each of them.

4.  What do I still need to do?  Begin with thinking of where you need to bring or to increase caring or love, fairness or justice; and working with your gifts, limitations, and convictions.

Hint:  Once you get a feeling or idea as to what you might do, write it down—even if you don’t think you have it quite right.  Guard against the fear of failure that can sometimes inhibit concrete goal setting.  Lean on God’s unlimited help.  Perhaps you will try again to do something that you did not do well in the past.

Home example:  I need to turn off all the distractions in the evening and work on getting my family to set aside some time to pay attention to one another. 

Work example:  I want to be able to speak up when the manager is being unfair.

5.  What, specifically, will I do or continue to do to make my vision or goal a reality and when will I do it?  Limit yourself to one action  This is or will be your mission (in this mission field).

Hint:  So far, you have answered thinking and planning questions.  The remaining questions are action-oriented and require concrete answers.  Answer question 5 by writing down the specific action you will take  and when you will take it.

Home example:  I’ll work toward spending every Tuesday night eating together and doing something as a family with no distractions.  If we can just do this three times starting next Tuesday, I’ll feel we’ve gotten started and I’ll look forward to going on from there. 

Work example:  I need to speak up the very next time we’re not being treated fairly.

6.  Who can work with me to carry out this mission?  How will I describe the mission to interest him/her?  Answer with the person’s name and words you might actually use.

Hint: A mission works better with a teammate who knows what you are trying to do (Mark 6:7), who regularly checks on your progress, and who offers whatever insight he or she has.  Such a teammate will help you to achieve needed and lasting change.  Also, think broadly.  Who is  most able to help you? Don’t exclude potential teammates who may not be religious.  Choose anyone who is committed to love and justice a primary values.  They already share in God’s mission of love and justice even though they do not know it.  Further, put your mission in appealing words to help your desired teammate to say “yes.”  Does your invitation sound inviting?  Note:  you may want to recruit more than one teammate as you see the postal worker recruiting Tom and Hank (below).  We have kept all the references to finding a teammate in the singular for simplicity.  Recruit as many as you believe you need.  Use the same procedures for each one.

Home example:  I’ll need my husband to agree to help me get things going.  I could say something like, “I bet you want more family time as much as I do.  Let’s do a family night once a week—no computers, TV, or video games.  Let’s just take time to do something together.  What do you think?  Will you help me get this started?” 

Work example:  Tom and Hank, can I check with you when I have something to bring up to make sure that what I have in min is something that’s important to all of us?  I you keep me on track, I believe we can make a difference.

7. When the time is right, how can I explain how what we are doing is or can be part of God’s mission?  Answer with words you might actually use.

Hint: Words, as well as actions, make up a full mission.  Mention how this work connects with God, God’s mission, your faith, the Bible, or the church.  Be yourself and use everyday words.  Think also about the best time to talk this way with your teammate, such as, when the mission becomes quite difficult.  Do ask for permission.

Home example:  I might say, Can I share what I believe about this? . . . Since I’ve been going to church these last few months, I’ve been thinking about how I’d really like for our family to be closer.  The kids are growing up so fast I feel I hardly know them.” 

Work example:  “Can I share what I believe about this? . . . I believe we are made to work together so that every one feels that they matter and are heard.”

8.  When the time is right, how could I encourage my teammate to turn to the church for help and support?  Begin with how church helps you; that may give you an idea of what to suggest for  how it might help him or her.  Answer with words you might actually use.

Hint:  Thinking of how your church actually helps you in this mission field might give you an idea as to how it might help him/her.  You are not burdening your teammate.  He/she needs to know where you go for help so that he/she might find help there too.  If not a churchgoer, hearing how the church helps you can open the door to a dimension of church life that may be new to him/her.  If  a churchgoer, your sharing is a useful affirming of the power available o us in church life.  Do ask for permission to share before you begin.  [If you, yourself, are not a churchgoer, you may find yourself inclined to seek out a church as you take up your daily missions.  When you sense that prayer and church life are giving you some needed power for daily life, share that with your teammate.  You may even suggest you can pray together.  Remember that you can always come back to this question later.]

Home example:  My husband is a Christmas and Easter worshiper, I might say,  “Can I share what helps me that might help you too? . . . Come to church with me for a few Sundays.  My week always seems to go better when I’ve been to church.  See if that happens for you, too.  Maybe, while we’re there—or another time—we can pray for our family time to go well.” 

Work example:  Most of my coworkers are not churchgoers, so I don’t push.  I’ll talk about God indirectly.  If I speak up and it makes a difference, I’ll be ready to say something like, “Can I tell you what I am thinking? . . . I think we made some progress.  We must be getting help from somewhere.”  They may change the subject but I will usually hear something later that tells me they heard me suggesting that help came from beyond us ans that they might ask for such help themselves.”

All of the previous examples did not involve what we would think of as being “religious” in nature.  The mother is not asking her family to begin daily prayer together.  She does not even mention God in so many words.  She only hints at the chance that it might be God who is leading her in this direction.  In her talk about church on Sunday with her husband, she is trying to offer a genuine invitation without making a demand of some kind.  The postal worker likewise knows he needs to avoid pushy “church talk” while, at the same time, suggesting to the others that he senses that God might be at work among them already.

So often, when we think about doing God’s work, we narrow our thinking to work such as volunteering in a soup kitchen or literacy programs.  But God also wants to make life better wherever you are right now. This is why we look at all of the seven areas of our lives.  This gives us a chance to let God lead us in any situation.  We also don’t want to focus so much on one area that we forget the others.

Finally, looking at the seven areas opens the possibility for God to make maximum use of our unique combination of talents and abilities.  The Lord will put them to good use and help us to shore up any weaknesses in our daily places.

Alternative methods:  oral and rapid written

Oral method:  Before we continue, it’s important to note that some people may be put off or intimidated by having to write out their answers to the questions. Some people are simply more verbal than others and do a better job working out their answers orally.  The following pattern can be substituted for the eight questions.

1.  What do you sense God might want you to do in this mission field? [combines questions 1 and 2]

2.   What, specifically, do you see yourself doing? [combines questions 3, 4, and 5]

3.      Who might be your teammate/s and how might you recruit him/her/them?

4.      When you believe it’s time to talk with your teammate/s about God and the church in some way, how might you do that? [combines questions 7 and 8]

If you prefer to use it yourself or have someone in your group who otherwise won’t complete the exercise, use it with caution.  People who use this method often find they are able to write out their answers later as they come to see the value of a written record of their faith journey.  This record will also show you just how much you have accomplished.  After several missions have been completed, you will be amazed at all that God has done through you and how many of your prayers have been answered.

Rapid written method:  There is also a secondary use for this format.  Once you have been through a series of missions, you may find that you know the questions so well that you simply want to get right to identifying your next mission to achieve your vision.  You can run through the questions of the oral method rather quickly and jot down your updates to keep you focused on the next steps.  We call this the “rapid written” method.

Again, go through all eight questions in writing for each mission field a number of times before you switch to the rapid written method.  Give yourself the time you truly need to become thoroughly familiar with the process before shortening it.