"What difference can I make?"
As I talk with people across the country, I find that one of the biggest reasons people shrink back from getting up and getting started with joining Jesus on his mission is that the mission itself seems overwhelming.
And it is.
After all, the mission of God is global in its scope. It is by definition massive. It includes every person in every community in every nation. As I write this, there are approximately 7.2 billion people spread out over 57.3 million square miles on the face of the earth. How in the world can our small lives make a difference when the mission of God is so enormous?
Well, hold on there. Before we give up, let’s do some math. You see, while there are 7.2 billion people on the face of the earth, 2.2 billion of them are baptized Christians. That leaves 5 billion unbaptized people. Still overwhelming, right? But if we do the math, do you know how many unbaptized people there are per Christian on earth? Not millions or thousands or even dozens. There are two.
Five billion unbaptized people divided by 2.2 billion baptized people is roughly two people each. Millions or thousands or even dozens would be overwhelming. Two is not. Two is doable. Looks like Jesus’ overwhelming mission isn’t so overwhelming after all. All that needs to happen is for each of us to take up our very small part of his great big mission.
You see, the scope of God’s mission is, indeed, global. It is as massive and expansive as the earth and everyone in it. But the focus of God’s mission is radically local and radically personal. We don’t start with the whole earth. We start with our nearest unbaptized neighbor or friend. We can’t win the world for Christ until we meet our neighbor who needs Christ. So, what’s their name? What’s their story? As simple as it sounds, getting to know and offering friendship to one or two of them is how we engage the massive, global mission of God. And if each of the 2.2 billion Christians on the face of the earth took up their small part? Wow…
Imagine 2.2 billion Christians taking the next year and starting to get to know and offer friendship to one or two of the unbaptized people nearby? What if we stopped being overwhelmed by the 4,999,999,998 unbaptized people who we don’t know and started to invest in the one or two who are already nearby? The magazine “Christianity Today” recently reported that in the U.S. 20% of unchristian people don’t know even one Christian personally. Is it because no Christians live nearby or work alongside them? Is it because no Christians hang out at the same coffeehouses or brew houses? Is it because no Christians work out at the same gym or have kids in the same school? Hmm….
But this could change. And easily.
What if all the people in church worshipping Jesus this Sunday went home and did the one thing Jesus gave us to do? What if all the people in church worshipping Jesus this Sunday went home and started loving their neighbor? Not the nations, not the city, not thousands or hundreds, just the few already nearby.
By the way, mission is much easier and a lot more fun when we get to know our neighbor’s name and a little of their story. Fred Rogers, from “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” used to say, “It’s hard not to like someone once you know their story.” Are you tempted to dislike your neighbor, judge your neighbor, or avoid your neighbor because they are so… whatever you disapprove of? Then draw deeply from the grace God offers you, and invite that neighbor over for a meal. During your time together, have the goal of getting to know a little of their story. Then replace your neighbor in the story with yourself. What would you be like if you had grown up in the environment they had? What would you be like if you had been caught in the consequences of one or two of your bad choices like they had? What would you be like if what had happened to them had happened to you? And if you had ended up “that way,” wouldn’t it be a blessing from God to have a neighbor nearby who treated you with the kind of love you didn’t deserve but needed so badly? Wouldn’t it be a blessing from God to have a neighbor who took time to get to know you and really listen to you? Wouldn’t it be a blessing to have a neighbor nearby who wasn’t repelled and judgmental like a Pharisee but patient and redemptive like Jesus?
This is who we are. This is what we do. We aren’t given the job of fixing our neighbor or saving our neighbor. Our job is much simpler. We are to love our neighbor, as the Father has already loved us. This is our small part of His great big mission.
If 2.2 billion of us each took up our very small part, his great big mission would come to pass.