I’ve been called lots of names in my life. One of my favorites is “the unlikely missionary.” I like that one because of what it says about who I am and where I’ve come from. It also happens to be the title of my first book.
Many who know me wonder what’s so unlikely about me being a missionary. They see the missions work that defines my life now and don’t see what’s so uncommon or unlikely about me doing the things I do. They don’t know where I’ve come from to get to where I am today.
As I mentioned in my book, I’m not a seminary-trained pastor or a non-profit CEO. I’m just a dude who sits in church on Sunday mornings and tells God that I want to be used by Him. I’m the guy who felt called by God to consider my workplace my mission field when I asked Him where He wanted to send me. It wasn’t the glamorous mission fields we hear stories about, but it was a place where I found God could use me in the ordinary.
Whether it’s in the workplace, or halfway around the world in global missions, there’s a reason the extraordinary has become the ordinary others now see in me.
It started with a Snapple cap.
As a young corporate training manager on the road conducting a train-the-trainer seminar, I opened the bottled beverage and was surprised by the wisdom. I didn’t realize then how much the statement inside the cap would continue to impact my perspective for years to come.
At first, it just seemed like a cool idea to share with the other trainers working with me: “To teach is to learn twice.” The quote from Joseph Joubert, a French moralist and essayist from the 1700-1800’s, helped me recognize the value in having those trainers in my class conduct teach-backs during our sessions. Teaching the material they had just learned gave them the opportunity to process the information in a different way than merely hearing me lecture for hours on end. They were forced to learn the concepts at a deep enough level that they could help someone else understand it.
The result almost always produced a more knowledgeable, more prepared trainer who had the benefit of the experience of delivering the content in a safe environment.
But I’ve also applied that same principle as I’ve sought out opportunities to teach the Bible. Teaching biblical truths has consistently helped me take my faith and the application of Biblical concepts to a whole new level in my life.
First, teaching the material after I’ve learned it provides accountability. If I’m trying to teach someone about various evangelism methods, yet have no experience with them myself, then am I merely a clanging gong?
Second, when I teach, I process the same facts through different methods, thus reinforcing their truth. If I’m primarily a visual learner, then someone can show me how to dribble a basketball and I might understand the concept. However, when I actually grab a ball and attempt to dribble it (the kinesthetic learning style), then my knowledge on the subject increases. Then, when I explain to someone else how to do it, my knowledge increases yet again.
That’s the secret behind how an unlikely missionary becomes a likely missionary. I’ve intentionally pursued opportunities to teach the very things that I’ve wanted to become. Learning always seems to have the greatest impact when partnered with her twin sister, teaching.
Image by Marty Hadding. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. This article was originally shared at TheHighCalling.org.