What would you do if you sensed God calling you out of your comfort zone into a different way of life? What if that way of life involved risk and sacrifice? And what if those risks and sacrifices didn’t just affect you, but others you loved?
Would you still move forward?
A few years ago Mike and Mary Matthias faced just such a decision. Together they had discerned a call to live out the story of Jesus in an everyday neighborhood, as an everyday family on mission. This may sound simple, but it would require change.
First, they would have to move — not to another country or into the slums, but away from their home in the suburbs and into a city with some nasty statistics.
Second, while they would keep their day-jobs, their lifestyle would be deeply altered as they sought to live intentionally on mission in their “off” hours.
Third, their kids would go to a neighborhood school that lacked funds for the extras that add so much to education.
And fourth, they would intentionally look to move into a local community where love for Jesus was not the norm.
Their vision would require risk and sacrifice, and it would affect their children. But they believed in their vision, and more importantly, they believed God. This is the story of a family who decided the risk was worth it. They said yes to God and let their ordinary lives become extraordinary. As we look through this window into their lives, let’s allow God to speak to us about our own “ordinary” lives.
What kind of extraordinary story is God inviting you into?
Vision for a Neighborhood
The vision for Mike and Mary to be on mission as a family in their neighborhood formed gradually. Growing up, Mary had believed she would someday be a missionary in Africa, but circumstances eventually made it clear that God had a different path. Her heart for sharing the story of Jesus began to find a home right at home, in the good old U.S.A.
When she met Mike, they started to share this vision in common. But starting to see where they lived as the mission field God was calling them to was a big change for their family.
“I’d never philosophically or theologically looked at my neighbors as a place to plant and be about mission,” Mike admitted. “[Mission] was always somewhere else. You go somewhere else, you drive somewhere else. So for me the shift was important, that mission is really wherever you are, and you need to be attentive to that. God has you there, so pay attention!”
Finding Their Place
Reading the story of CRM’s inner-city ministry InnerCHANGE in the book Submerge helped solidify Mike and Mary’s ideas of what living out the gospel alongside others could look like. As their family began to grow in the shelter of the suburbs, where neighborhood interactions felt limited, their dream of being somewhere more connected to neighbors also grew. Eventually they decided to take the plunge and move with the kids into a less walled-off place, where relationship building could be a more natural part of their lives.
As they looked for their vision place, they knew one thing for sure:
“Wherever we were going to land, we weren’t just going to hang out. We were going to be intentional. We were going to be aware of our relationships, our choices; aware of our time.”
Despite mixed safety reviews, they finally committed to a house in a neighborhood with ultra-diverse demographics. It was a risk, and the final confirmation from God only came after the move, when they discovered a wide open door for relationship and engagement with their new neighbors. The more they got to know the neighborhood, the more they saw evidence that God was already present and working in their neighbors’ lives.
The Divine Set-Up
Following their bold first step, Mike and Mary began to experience a real sense of partnership with God in their daily lives. One day shortly after the move, Mike was at the hospital, where he sits at a desk eight hours a day, when he heard an unexpected voice. The new neighbor Mike happened to be closest to emerged through a doorway. It was a chance encounter at the end of a five-day hospital stay.
“God was putting us together in a way I never would have thought of,” Mike reflected. “It was a first connecting point. He was really broken, wanting to build relationship, and he’s the person we’ve had the most significant spiritual conversations with. Some of these things God is just orchestrating.”
Reflecting on this event, Mike shared, “A lot of our fruit has come through prayer and unexpected events.”
Prayer and stepping out have been the axis points on which the Matthias’ whole lifestyle turns. It was prayer that launched Mike and Mary into their life on mission. As they listened to God, they became confident in the first step he was calling them into (the move), and that gave them faith to step out despite circumstances not being ideal. It was that time of prayerful attention to Jesus that gave them strength to not just risk for themselves, but also for their children.
Embracing risk and diving into prayer have made their ordinary lives extraordinary.
What About You?
God gave Mike and Mary a vision to boldly go and the courage to take the first steps. Do you have such a vision for your own life? Have you found the courage to go after it? If your answer to either of those questions is no, the best place to start is your prayer closet.
Prayer and reflection with God is the birthing (and growing) place of a vision strong enough to overcome the fear of risk.
If you’ve been in that prayer posture for a long time, don’t lose heart. For Mike and Mary, it was about four years before their vision became firm enough in their hearts to become an external reality. On the other hand, don’t use your prayer closet to avoid the life God is calling you into. If he’s giving you a vision, pray for the courage to face the risks and step out!
Here are some specific questions you could take with you into your discerning time with God:
In what areas of my life do I already have a lot of favor or a growing desire to go deeper?
Where do I sense God would open a door of blessing if I chose to move in that direction?
Do I have confidence in my first step? What unknowns do I need to entrust to God?
What risks or sacrifices do I need to surrender to God to move forward?
This post is based on an interview with Mike and Mary Matthias, who live with their four kids in Long Beach, California. Mike and Mary are not on staff with CRM, but they have inspired us with their commitment to live as an “ordinary” family on mission in their neighborhood.
This post was written by Megan Beehler, who recently completed an apprenticeship with :Beta: Communities also in Long Beach.