Jesus went about His three years of earthly ministry in intentional and proactive ways. He did not wait for life’s interruptions to dictate His direction, pace or overriding priorities.
Jesus models how missionaries can ensure that their day-to-day actions move them forward toward long-term objectives. To be sure, missionaries can accomplish good things even when they operate primally by spur-of-the-moment decisions. When they do that, however, they risk being “blown here and there by every wind” (Ephesians 4:14).
Numerous Gospel passages indicate the intentionality with which Jesus lived and acted. Here are four:
- Jesus took the initiative in calling specific people to be His disciples. He knew who He wanted and went after them. He was different from other Jewish rabbis who waited for people to apply before choosing them as followers.
- The story of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at a village well in Samaria begins with “He had to go through Samaria” (John 4:4). Choosing that route was intentional because Jews purposefully avoided traveling through Samaria. The encounter at the well was thus more than a happenstance.
- When Jesus encountered Zacchaeus, He said, “I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5). Inviting Himself to lunch at the house of a hated tax collector was intentional on Jesus’ part.
- As the last Passover that Jesus spent on earth was approaching, it was obvious that the Lord was going to make a trip to Jerusalem with intention and purpose. He told His disciples exactly what was going to happen there. (Mark 9:31).
Being proactive and intentional does not mean missionaries should run at a frenetic pace working on a never-ending checklist. It does not mean they act with hidden or ulterior motives. It does not mean they hold to previously-made plans so rigidly that no adjustments are ever made.
We, of course, cannot know the future in the way Jesus did. However, cross-cultural missionaries will do well to emulate the way Jesus was proactive and intentional. Missionaries can move beyond simply reacting to things as they happen. This does not mean banishing spontaneity. It does not mean missionaries should be coldly calculating. It does mean that missionaries, like Jesus, can do things intentionally so that daily activities contribute to purposefully following a pattern that fulfills the call of God on their lives.