From milk to mission

Being intentional in our everyday interactions leads to missional opportunities, says Sam Ward, CEO of The Message Trust UK.

Culture & Language Evangelism Mission
An Image of Sam Ward Sam Ward
12th June 2024 4 minute read
Corner Shop

Years back a corner shop was opened on the main road not far from my house. I was a little intrigued by its location, which made competition far too fierce for a new shop. What intrigued me more was the name of the place. Mounted on the front of the converted terrace house in large black lettering: Iffy.

Despite its dubious name I decided to shop at Iffy’s on the opening day.
I went in with the intention not just to buy milk but to get to know the owner. Long term. I am confident Iffy thought I was his weirdest customer ever as I pledged allegiance to his shop, promising to buy my milk from him daily – all this after pointing to the shop sign, “Are you Iffy?”

Urban mission tends to grow quickly beyond the boundaries of a weekly program. The relational nature means best missional opportunities are often found outside of a structured schedule. To maximise these moments, we need to be intentional.

Some missional opportunities fall into our lap, and we must be ready to respond to these beautiful surprises. They are preciously rare for me though. It’s not often I’m flagged down and asked, “what must I do to be saved?”

In the meantime, while we wait for these spontaneous moments, it is our job is to create intentional moments.

One of the benefits to urban ministry is being dedicated long-term to a community. Once the rush for revival subsides and you settle into the routine and rhythm of a missional life, you’re afforded much more time to invest. We must, however, remain intentional. There are opportunities to be found in the ordinary everyday if we purposefully look for them.

I’d nip into Iffy’s shop on my way to work and buy milk for the office. Maybe even a hobnob or two. Of course, it was cheaper down at the local superstore, but semi-skimmed and biscuits weren’t the point. Intentionality was. Thanks to that initial awkward meet, Iffy and I were now on friendly terms. Buying milk was an excuse to dig deeper. I soon learned about his family, the name of his kids, where he lived, and where he came from. He shared his hopes and dreams, his goals, and ambitions with me.

During Ramadan I asked him about fasting and he shared about his faith. This meant I was able to share that I too occasionally fast. He thought only Muslims went without food, and he was surprised that Christians abstained too. I’ve always found fasting has helped focus my prayers when circumstances and situations are beyond my control. I was able to tell this to Iffy.

During another visit I shared how fasting was helping me through a testing time. Iffy began to see my faith and dependence on Jesus.

Conversations about Christ seemed to take place as often as milk and biscuits were paid for. What starts with milk leads to mission. I have thought often about that. Living with intentionality. Should I purchase a tumble drier or head to the laundrette at the top of my road? It’s less convenient but 50p gives me twenty minutes with a captive audience as we watch our clothes rotate. Should I invest in Sky Sports or head to the pub to watch the big games with my neighbours? Should I subscribe to the sports channels and invite the neighbours over? Both have great missional merit if done with missional intent. As do other ordinary everyday moments.

Why do I put the bins out for my neighbours?
Why do I park in a way that is inconvenient for me?
Why do I litter pick and prayer walk?

Intentionality.

Because putting my bins out may just lead to an opportunity to gossip the gospel. Because prayer-walking may end up as a prayer huddle with someone in need of God’s help. All these insignificant moments have huge significance when practiced with intent. It’s not simply an act of kindness or a moment of social action. It’s kingdom living. Social action plus missional intent equals kingdom opportunity.

Intentionality takes time and thought. Dream and scheme about how you could add missional momentum to your everyday routine. Ask God about it. Long term living comes with an invitation to put roots down in a community. To get to know neighbours in deep and meaningful ways. To build lasting friendships. So, the next time you’re spitting feathers and in need of a bourbon cream, think relationship. Think intentionality. Think kingdom. For milk is mission in the kingdom of God.

Written by

Sam Ward

Sam is desperate to see urban areas impacted with the gospel. Having moved to Openshaw over 20 years ago to lead an Eden team, Sam still calls the town his home today, and loves seeing how God is moving in the lives of his neighbours and community. Knowing first-hand how tough urban mission can be, Sam wants no-one on the frontline of mission in estates and communities to feel under-resourced or alone, and this is the heart behind Proximity.

Alongside being called to urban mission, Sam is the UK CEO of The Message Trust and a well-known speaker at conferences like New Wine and Spring Harvest.

An Image of Sam Ward
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