The Mission Field Under My Roof

by Ashley Smith April 17, 2017

The home where our family lives was built fifty years ago. Its exterior wears a murky shade of cream, with the slightest tinge of peach peeking through. The shutters and doors are a blue-grey that looks somber even basking in the glow of fresh snow on the ground. It’s certainly not the modern marriage of bright cream and warm gray that I envisioned in my mental sketchbook. But I often have to remind myself that the brightness of my home isn’t measured by a paint chip, but rather how the true Light of Christ is reflected in the lives that come and go through our doors. To this end, my husband and I set aside a couple of checkpoints throughout the year to evaluate how we are cultivating a sense of gospel mission in the lives of our children, our neighbors, and our extended community.

Our Children

Our children are the first priority as we seek to be on mission in our home. We are commanded in Deuteronomy 6 to share the Truth of Jesus with our children, “talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” As a Christian, our identity cannot be separated from that which was accomplished on the cross. When we succeed, Christ is the victor. When we fail, Christ is our mercy. When we are confused, Christ is our wisdom. When we are discouraged, Christ is our hope. When we despair, Christ is our joy. This isn’t just “an old, old story, how a Savior came from glory.” This is our story; and by God’s grace, this can become their story.

Wherever we are, we want our children to know we cannot move forward in hope apart from Christ. We aren’t called to model law-laced lives by living perfectly before our children, nor are we to cultivate anxiety in their hearts as we fear the culture “crumbling” outside. Christian parents are called to teach their children day-by-day and face-to-face relentless dependence on the Rock who will never be moved. From the minute we hear their feet hit the ground in the morning to the final bidding of goodnight, we are composing a living rhythm of faith before the eyes our children.

Take opportunities with your children, then, big and small, to read of Jesus, sing to Jesus, bow to Jesus, and even cry to Jesus. As broken vessels, our testimonies will never be perfect; but we are surely commanded—and therefore, responsible—to testify to one who is perfect. We are to be Light to our children so that when shadows of darkness drift in, our children will stand firm in the faith of what they have seen in the Light.

Our Neighbors

Beyond the front doors of our homes, our neighbors are the next line of missional engagement. We can begin to see them through God’s eyes when we remember that we’ve been placed together by Providence. As G.K. Chesterton points out, “We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next-door neighbour.”

In other words, God had much more than that perfect floor plan in mind when he led you to your home. In Matthew 5:16, Jesus calls Christians to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” This is a call to live out our faith in public view so that others may know and enjoy Jesus as we know and enjoy Him. Some of our personalities may seem more adept at this task, but the command is for all of us. Wherever you find yourself, the best way to start is in prayer for your neighbors. Beg the Lord to give you compassion for those he has placed around you, and then walk toward them in faith.

When you see them in the yard, don’t merely wave from across the property line. Cross that line and go speak a complete sentence to them. One sentence might turn into two, and two might turn into a ten-minute conversation. As you take family walks on your street, make eye contact with those you pass; take the time to engage them in conversation.

If initiating conversation with strangers isn’t comfortable for you, take some time to establish a list of questions that you can remember for these impromptu encounters. And don’t forget to listen as they talk and to follow up with them if they’ve expressed a need. Pick up a small gift that made you think of them while you’re running your daily errands or invite them over for dinner or to watch their favorite team play on TV.

Trust the Lord one conversation at a time. Those awkward moments in time may yield the most beautiful fruit of friendship, or by God’s grace, a new brother or sister in Christ. Also, look for opportunities to serve your neighbors by assisting them in small ways. This could be as simple as helping them move heavy items or shoveling their snow-laden driveway. The call to love our neighbors may seem costly, but God answers that concern in 1 Corinthians 10:24 when he says, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.”

Extended Community

Two other spheres of our life that intersect with our home are our church family and our extended community. Hebrews 13:16 encourages us “to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Our home is a simple way we’ve been able to share what we have with others and doing so has been one of the greatest joys to us as a family. Furthermore, it delights the Lord, as He is the giver and sustainer of our home.

Within our church community, we lead a small group each week. I’ll admit, sometimes this gathering feels like mass chaos given the awkward layout of our home and the sheer amount of adults and children we host each week, but it forces us to consistently seek the Lord together beyond the walls of our church sanctuary. Our home provides the space for the people in that room to wrestle with and testify to Christ’s transforming work in their lives each week. On a more personal level, this weekly meeting also provides our family with a tangible reminder of our need for the local church. These people have become a critical rhythm in the life of our home.

Finally, our family seeks to use our home within our extended community at Midwestern Seminary. Four and a half years ago, we moved to Kansas City and very strategically chose a home less than two miles from the seminary so that we could exercise hospitality among students and staff.

Personally, I enjoy cooking for others, so I see my kitchen as a port of blessing. Whether that means sending food to work with my husband or inviting students or co-workers over for dinner, it’s a way that I can personally share what I have with others. There are seasons where we accomplish this more readily than others, but it’s always a blessing to us to slow down and enjoy the fruit of fellowship we have with our co-laborers in Christ.

But even if cooking is not a joy to you, there are still ways to use your home for the good of your extended community. If you have an extra room in your home, keep an eye out for those who might be in short-term need. If you have college students in your life, give their bank account a break by offering your washer and dryer to them on occasion. If you’re seeking to get rid of furniture, consider texting a college graduate or newlywed just starting out. You have much to give in the way of your home. Look around you, consider the needs of others, and share what you have.

Light of the World

True, our homes are made of but brick and mortar, with paint colors that rotate in and out of season. But our homes are meant for more than a never-ending to-do list. The home is where stories are taught, faith is worked out, neighbors are heard, plates are filled, and where sojourners can find rest. The home is a gift, rich with missional possibility, meant to be shared so that others might be drawn toward the glory of our more perfect Home with the Father.