Reactive and Proactive Mission
Not only is it important to understand that we are joining God in an ancient work, but we must also understand that our missional activity is dependent upon the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Throughout the book of Acts and the Epistles we see the Holy Spirit acting as the guide, compass, and fuel; empowering, leading, and directing the church in the mission of God. We want to try and understand this leading of the Holy Spirit in mission as Reactive and Proactive mission.
Let’s begin with definitions. Reactive mission can be defined as mission in the moment. This would include the opportunity for gospel conversations that the Spirit provides in the “everyday” moments of life (on a lunch break at work, in line at the grocery store, at the park while your kids play, with a neighbor while you are working in the lawn, etc.) Reactive mission happens in the moments of life that we have little control over, so it is critical that we are walking in Spirit and have eyes to see and ears to hear the Spirit as he leads us into reactive mission. We must be careful not to become so busy and consumed with our selves throughout our day that we are not open to opportunities for reactive mission. On the other hand, proactive mission can be defined as mission by design. This means organizing the controllable aspects of our lives (spare time, weekends, hobbies, where we live and work, meals we eat, celebrations, vacations, how we spend our money, where we shop, etc.) around the mission of God. Proactive mission requires a team that is committed to God, each other, and disciple making. Together as a family, we should always be asking how can we organize our lives in such a way that those around us will know the gospel? This involves sacrifice, but remember, in Christ we are servants—and what better thing to sacrifice for than the mission of God!
Consider for a second the disciple making movement that explodes in the book of Acts. We see both proactive and reactive mission working together like it should, leading to fruitful ministry. In Acts 1:8 we see mission by design: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”. The plan is in place—receive the holy spirit, begin in Jerusalem and then move outward from there with the gospel. But as you keep reading the book of Acts you see persecution and other unexpected events that develop along the way. It might seem as if the plan is falling apart, but we know that the Spirit constantly leading, guiding, and fueling the church the entire time. The disciples are forced to become reactive missionaries following the leading of the Spirit in the moment, yet always looking to reorient their lives together around disciple making (proactive mission). We can also point to the numerous examples in the Epistles where we see Paul stating his plan and strategy for mission, but always being open to the possibility of the Spirit opening new doors of ministry (see 1 Corinthians 16:6-9 for one example).
What we can say then is that the key is to look for where God is opening up the opportunity to develop reactive mission into proactive mission. This could be as simple as your missional community committing to eating weekly and tipping generously at a specific restaurant because one person in the group recently had the opportunity to share the gospel with a waitress while eating there. It could also be as complex as planting a new missional community in an apartment complex because the Spirit is constantly leading a group member into gospel conversations there. Either way, the only way that we will have success in reaching the lost around us is if we are looking to the Spirit to lead us, guide us, and fuel us in both reactive and proactive mission.
Questions for MCs to Consider:
1. What in your lives keeps you from being a Reactive Missionary?
2. How are the definitions of reactive and proactive mission helpful to you?
3. Why is reactive mission without proactive mission dangerous? Why is proactive mission without reactive mission dangerous?
4. What can you plan this month to turn reactive mission into proactive mission?