Chance meetings can frequently be the most memorable, can’t they? Perhaps it’s bumping into a long-lost friend that rekindles something missed, or a non-planned celebrity sighting at some restaurant that makes your night, or a random conversation with a complete stranger that morphs into a lifelong relationship—however they occur, random encounters can often be the most significant and life changing.
John 4 records a "chance encounter" between Jesus and a woman that takes place at a well at high noon. I purposely put the phrase "chance encounter" in quotation marks because for the woman, that’s what it was—but Jesus was on a mission. What things can we learn from the example of Jesus and His encounter with the woman that can help us be Missionally Active followers of Jesus? There are many, but let me suggest a couple:
Missionally Active ministry is a call to be prepared, not just programmatic. Missionally Active ministry requires that we have Spirit sensitivity and eyes like Jesus. It is not enough to fill a calendar up with church events and feel good about the programs. Sometimes the best ministry just…sort of…happens. Sometimes the best ministry opportunities present themselves in the travel from one event to the next, and if we aren’t prepared and sensitive to them, we miss out. Many times, all the planning in the world won’t lead to those Divine Moments – instead we just have to be ready when they present themselves.
Missionally Active ministry is a call to scatter, not just gather. It has been said often that followers of Jesus don’t "go to" church but instead "are" the church. The church is not a building; it’s a community of faith, a body of believers, who happen to gather in a building every week. What happens on a Sunday (or whenever your church gathers) is important, but we are no less the church when we leave the building than when we were gathered in it. Missionally Active ministry places as much emphasis on the scattering as the gathering. Followers of Jesus have as much a call to go into the marketplace as they do to attend a weekly church service.
Missionally Active ministry is a call to serve the individual, not just the crowd—but to serve in Jesus’ name, that’s the difference. Success in ministry can’t be measured just by how many people show up. Instead, it must also measured by the one-on-one conversations that take place, by the impact it is having on marriages and families, and by the met physical needs which lay the groundwork for spiritual conversations. In His encounter with the woman at the well, Jesus used a simple discussion about water as a springboard to a more significant discussion about her spiritual thirst. I wonder how many springboard opportunities we can take hold of in our mission journey?
Lastly, Missionally Active ministry is shared ministry. Missionally Active ministry doesn’t rely on a select few; instead it relies on each member of the body to participate together. In the aftermath of her encounter with Jesus, the woman in the story journeyed back into town and told the people that she quite possibly just met the Christ. It wasn’t a great talk, not even all that presented, but the Spirit of God moved and many from the town became followers of Jesus—it’s a beautiful picture of shared ministry.
A "chance" encounter with Jesus changed a woman’s life forever; it serves as an example for us as well.