So I was traveling back home to my parents’ house in North Carolina for the holidays this past Saturday, and I was waiting around in the airport in Pensacola, Florida. To most, this would simply be a routine “Christmas-break-plane-flight-to-parents’-house” ordeal, during which they try to occupy myself for hours/eat the cheapest airport food that they can find. For me, however, I know that any moment when I’m around people means that I’m around broken people who need God’s grace and restoration. En otras palabras (in other words), any moment with people=a missional opportunity.
The key to everything (whether it be a mission trip, school, a blog post, a shopping list, a text message, a road trip, a recipe, an instruction manual, a barbecue, etc.) is context. In order to be an effective missionary, you have to know your context. Since Pensacola is the home to a military base, I soon discovered that my context was military recruits on their way home for Christmas leave.
Empowered with the Holy Spirit and an open, listening ear, I started up a couple of conversations–one with a marine trainee excited to surprise his family for Christmas, and another with an ARMY trainee who, due to a recent injury, expressed to me his concerns that he might get dropped before he even got a chance to get deployed. Did we talk about Jesus? Nope. Was I missional? I sure hope so. Although my conversations did not directly scream “JESUS LOVES YOU!” and probably will not result in those men’s instant conversion to faith, I think that I communicated hope to them through my words and actions.
And then I got on the plane. While waiting by my gate, I had spotted out (but had failed to have the opportunity to talk to) a young man and his companion (his sister?), both of whom had been flashing around what looked to be a couple of Bibles. Were they Christians? Were they interested in the Bible? Did I misconstrue what book they had (e.g. the Koran, not the Bible)? With such questions crossing my mind, as well as a few quick prayers for guidance, I decided to see if I could start a conversation once I boarded the plane. Sure enough, a seat was open across from them (which I quickly grabbed), and the conversation began.
It turned out that they were not unbelievers who were curious in learning more about the Bible (which would have been a fun conversation), nor were they possessing a different book (also fun), but were actually students at a Christian university in Pensacola who were on their way home for Christmas break. I quickly found common ground in our faith (minus the denominational differences), our previous schooling (they–the brother and sister–had been homeschooled, just like me), our current schooling (both they and I attend small, Christian universities), and perhaps even our majors (the brother was currently studying history,but was interested in pastoral ministry). Discussing all of these things, and then afterwards our favorite Bible passages, our plane flight passed by in no time. Was I the first person to speak to them about Jesus? Nope. Was this missional? Absolutely! Being missional doesn’t just include sharing the Gospel with unbelievers, but also includes encouraging and equipping fellow believers for service in the Kingdom of God.