The Scriptures make the missionary task clear: make disciples. But how does that look day-by-day? What about the normal tasks of life as a citizen living in a community? Do missionaries simply speak the gospel from the time they get up in the morning till they go to bed?
To get a window into missionary life, we have asked missionaries Ed and Sylvia Christy a few questions about their weekly routine. The Christys serve in France as full-time vocational missionaries. They do not currently work outside jobs. Our hope is that this interview is an encouragement to you as you begin to picture yourself serving on the mission field.
What is the essence of your work as a missionary?
We are church planters. That involves getting involved in people's lives in order to have opportunities to share Christ with them. In France that happens through one-on-one relationships, meals, etc. As the church has grown our role in discipling has grown, as well.
Why have you chosen not to work at a job on top of your work as a church planter?
We find our days sufficiently full with ministry and our personal capacities sufficiently limited that doing both would be difficult. That said, we have known missionaries who have worked at least part-time in order to make contacts with people. As a full-time missionary we have to work harder to make those contacts happen than would be the case at a daily job, for instance.
What big-picture goals guide your activities day-to-day?
We try to keep before us the need to "work ourselves out of a job." The growth of the church provides opportunities to come alongside new Christians and help them use their gifts for the edification of the Body of Christ. We have and are training men to lead worship, teach, and even preach. Sylvia's been involved in training children's teachers as well as musicians. Also, we are both involved in discipleship Bible studies.
How do you strike a balance between accomplishing administrative and mundane tasks versus engaging in ministry?
Finding the right balance requires regular, prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit. Ministry must stay a top-shelf priority, even though administrative chores and mundane tasks are necessary. That requires conscious effort not to let time get eaten up by tasks of lesser importance that will always be there to do. That said, there will always be urgent needs that have to be dealt with, but we try to allocate our best time to the people and the ministry tasks that are most important whenever possible.
How does the relational aspect of evangelism and discipleship affect your weekly schedule?
Getting together with people from church to pray together, do discipleship Bible studies, and have meals together takes up a fair amount of our schedule. Evangelism happens as we go about our daily schedules and are out and about. We constantly try to look for opportunities to share the Gospel and try to have literature with us to leave with someone. Probably the most effective evangelism takes place around a meal. In France, meals last much longer than in the U.S. People sit around and chat for hours as courses are served. These are great opportunities for the Gospel! Often our appointments with people revolve around their availability, so we have to stay flexible. At the same time, we find that doing our meetings in the afternoons, when possible, leaves our mornings for more "brain-required" tasks such as study.
In what ways must you plan your week to fulfill your responsibility to your family?
Thursday is our day off, and we protect it carefully. It's a time for both of us to read, reflect, go out to eat, or do something special. Since our kids are grown, we don't have the responsibilities we had when they were younger. But with our daughter and son-in-law and two grandchildren living nearby, we make it a priority to get together with them on a regular basis. Sometimes that means pushing out ministry, but we feel it's important to nurture family.
Is there anything else you would like to say regarding your routine in a typical week?
Even after these many years in ministry, we're still growing and learning from others. Ultimately, we have to realize that we are not someone else and can't and shouldn't necessarily strive to do ministry like someone else. Comparing ourselves with others is always a discouraging thing. Wisdom is being realistic about our gifting and capacities and asking God to help us use our time and energy wisely. Finally, taking time off is very important to keep going over the long-haul.
Ed and Sylvia Christy serve as missionaries in Bordeaux, France. They have two adult children. The Christys' home base is in Indianapolis, Indiana.