Reenvisioning the Frontline
Last week, we talked about the Great Commission and the call to make disciples “as you go.” This mission of the church isn’t just for the “professionals,” it is a call for every follower of Jesus, as we seek to live faithfully in our everyday lives.
Thinking about the mission of the church in this way changes where we expect ministry to happen. Gone is the divide between the “sacred” and the “secular,” as if God can only work under certain ramifications. Instead of expecting ministry only to take place inside a church building or at a Bible study, the vision of whole-life discipleship teaches us to expect ministry opportunities everywhere. Every place, every conversation, every opportunity becomes a moment to follow Him faithfully and to engage in the work of the Kingdom.
Though God can often lead us into new and unexpected opportunities, for most of us, we find ourselves repeatedly in situation, environments, and relationships in which we can invest and engage as disciples of Jesus. We like to talk about these opportunities as our “frontlines.” The term itself is a good reminder that none of us are on the sidelines—all of us have an integral role to play on the frontline of God’s work.
Our frontlines are place we can do good work, bringing glory to God through our creativity and work. They are spaces to model godly character and put on display the nature of God’s Kingdom. They offer an opportunity to build relationships with people who are not followers of Jesus.
As church leaders, we can help people see the frontlines where God has already placed them. In many cases, people are already engaging in their frontline, they just need encouraged and celebrated in it. Too many people in the pews of our churches put ministry on a hierarchy, as if preaching a sermon on a Sunday morning is of more value to God or more “spiritual” than building a relationship with their neighborhood delivery guy. We have the privilege of equipping, empowering, and encouraging them in those places and spaces and helping to shape their vision of how God is using them in everyday life.
For many of us, our frontlines have shifted and morphed over the course of the pandemic. Instead of opportunities in the breakroom at work, many of us are working from home, feel a sense of relational distance even as we try to practice social distancing, or simply don’t have the job we once did. We might not be able to work in the local coffeeshop or our local sports teams might be suspended. Zoom meetings don’t lend themselves to quite the same level of dialogue, and many of us haven’t seen family members in person for months.
This doesn’t mean these frontlines are gone or suspended. But it does mean that our current circumstances have forced our frontlines into different forms. As church leaders, we can help our fellow disciples to reenvision what faithfulness might look like on the frontline now and encourage them as they seek to engage in new (and sometimes challenging) ways.
I talked with Jonathan Romig, who was featured in our Co-Missioned Church course episode about equipping people for the frontline, to hear what this transition has looked like for him. Here’s what he had to say:
As a pastor, I try to make sure I have a frontline and am prioritizing it like the members of my congregation do theirs. My frontline is my CrossFit gym. Did you know I do CrossFit? You will once you’ve met me. That’s how the joke goes.
What you might not know is that for the last four years I have been investing my time in this gym not just to stay healthy, but to get to know the people, and pray for them. Over and over again the Lord has given me opportunities to pray with people after class, answer the random and often challenging theological question, host people in my home for game nights and fire-pits, and yes, invite my CrossFit friends to church, many of whom have come.
Having a CrossFit gym during COVID has proven to be challenging. Every time I go to the gym, I typically workout in the far corner with my mask on. Some people have my same level of risk-tolerance, but others are riskier than I prefer. That can make it difficult because I do not want to be the one who spreads COVID to my church family, nor my church family to my gym. I have a lot of responsibility as a pastor. However, I am trying to walk by faith and wisdom. I wear my mask, I disinfect, and I pray.
It is easy to get discouraged, especially during a time like COVID, but I can tell you that God is still on the move. He is still doing surprising things, opening up hearts in surprising ways. Wherever your frontline is, keep going, keep praying, keep being present. God is working on your frontline. Christ is on the move.
Thanks be to God.
Do you want to learn more about life on the frontline? Do you need ideas about how to encourage and equip people within your church community to live faithfully on their frontlines? We’d recommend our free course, The Co-Missioned Church. Sign up and learn more here.