A transition has long been occuring in my thinking about life, ministry, and mission. Long have I held dear the commission to make disciples of the nations, to tell others about Jesus Christ. I understood my personal responsibility to live as a witness in the context in which God has placed me. Yet, that understanding has shifted incrementally over the years as I have begun to realize it is not simply a matter of proclaiming truth at every opportunity to those who appear to be lost. Nor is it simply a matter of trying to live a life which honors Christ, as critically important as that is. It goes far deeper than that, cutting to the heart of what it means to proclaim Christ and live as his ambassador in a world which does not know him.
To be an ambassador, I must have some inkling of context, some understanding of what life is like for those whom God desires to reach in the world, that is, those who are my neighbors. What are their stories? Their burdens? Their hurts? Do I care to know? Do they care to tell? How can I know unless I actually spend time with them free of an agenda? Yes, I desire to communicate the gospel to them, and invariably those who are ready to hear it end up asking of the hope that is in me. If my posture toward them is one of humility, rather than censure; giving, rather than debate, then they may begin to realize I actually care about them. And if I care about them, then maybe this Jesus Christ whom I claim to represent as an ambassador cares, too. And that is a big hurdle to overcome when relating to lost people who have no previous exposure to a biblical worldview.
An ambassador typically focuses on going into the contexts of others to represent Christ’s interests. When trust is built authentically, then invitations to enter the context of the ambassador (e..g. the church campus) are much more likely to bear fruit. If the church campus is intentionally postured as a community asset to bless all in the community, rather than a sanctuary from the local neighborhood, then it may be better situated to have relevance in the ebb and flow of missional life within the local context.