Christians in the West today increasingly finds ourselves living on the margins. It was the same for the readers of 1 Peter. In a series of posts I’m identifying principles from 1 Peter for developing a gospel and missional DNA in our churches. Here are the four principles:
- Proclaim the gospel to one another
- Proclaim the gospel to create a missional identity
- Proclaim the gospel in everyday life
- Proclaim the gospel through community
In this post we are looking at the third principle: Proclaim the gospel in everyday life.
What mission strategy does Peter commend to them? Look at 2:11-12. Good lives and good deeds. They are called to do good. As they live good lives people will glorify God.
Peter doesn’t call them to run this programme or put on this course (though those might be good things to do). He doesn’t call them to make their meetings for accessible (thought that might be a good thing to do). He calls them to good lives and good deeds.
This doesn’t mean that good works are sufficient. Proclamation matters. We are called to ‘declare’ God’s praises (2:15). We are to be ready to give ‘an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that [we] have’ (3:15). The gospel is a word. But the primary context in which that word is proclaimed is everyday life – not in here, but out there.
Look at who does this mission and where they do it. It is ordinary Christians in the context of ordinary life.
Verses 11-12 are just the headline. Peter then goes on to apply this mission strategy to our life in society (2:13-17), in the workplace (2:18-25) and in the home (3:1-7). In each case Peter addresses those who face hostility because they follow Christ. The man who receives ‘unjust suffering because he is conscious of God’ is a reference to someone suffering as a Christian’ (2:19). (Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, The New American Commentary, Broadman, 2003, 139.) Again, while Peter’s words apply to the witness of all wives, his focus is on those whose husbands ‘do not believe the word’ (3:1). In each case we are called to good works (2:15, 20; 3:1-2), to show submission and have respect for others (2:13, 17, 18; 3:1-2). Centrally, there is a repeated expectation that, echoing 2:12, our good works will have a missional impact. ‘For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.’ (2:15) ‘They may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives.’ (3:1)
Where does this mission takes place. In the neighbourhood. In the workplace. In the home. Not in the meetings of the church. We reach a hostile world by living good lives in the context of ordinary life. Everyday mission.
It is not simply that ‘ordinary’ Christians live good lives that enable them to invite friends to ‘evangelistic events’. Our lives are the evangelistic events. Our life together is the apologetic.
So mission involves a multiplicity of activities like sharing meals, helping with chores, hanging out, recreational activities, answering questions, snippets of gospel truth, answering questions, conversations that appear to go nowhere. On their own most of these may not look like mission. But if you persevere with prayer and gospel intentionality then God uses them in his purposes.
Practical action: bring gospel intentionality to the routines of life
Here is an exercise to help identify opportunities for everyday mission. It’s adapted from Michael Foster.
Think of all the activities, however mundane, that make up your normal (1) daily routine (like travelling to work, eating meals, chores, walking the dog, playing with the children); (2) weekly routine (like grocery shopping, watching favourite television programmes, getting exercise); and (3) monthly routine (like gardening, getting a haircut, going to the cinema). You should have a long list of activities. For each one, ask whether you could add: (1) a community component by involving another member of your Christian community; (2) a missional component by involving an unbeliever; and (3) a gospel component by identifying opportunities to talk about Jesus.
Clearly not everything you do can be done with someone else. But this exercise reveals just how many opportunities we do have in everyday life. You might knock on a friend’s door as you walk the dog to see if they want to walk with you. You might offer an elderly neighbour a lift when you drive to the supermarket. You might meet a member of Christian community for breakfast one morning a week or agree to ride the same bus. Instead of reading your Christian book in the work canteen you might take the opportunity to get to know your colleagues. None of this is adding anything to your schedule for these are all activities in which you’re already engaged. One of the things people in our gospel community do, for example, is watch certain television programmes together – programmes like ‘The Apprentice’ or ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ that are in any case best watched with a group commentary. They get together to watch them, inviting Christians and non-Christians to watch them with us. You’re going to be watching it anyway so why not watch it with other people, share the experience, and see what opportunities this presents.