Clayton Christensen Shares his Expertise to Help ‘Everyday Missionaries’

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Clayton Christensen

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church, every member is a missionary. Thousands serve full-time and wear missionary tags, but most are missionaries in their everyday lives. For some, like me, this is a scary prospect. Clayton M. Christensen is a Mormon who takes this responsibility seriously. He is a Harvard business professor, a New York Times best-selling author and one of the world’s top management thinkers. But “first and foremost, he is a missionary,” according to a recent Meridian Magazine article by Andy Proctor titled “The #1 Business Innovator is a Missionary First.”  He has had decades’ worth of missionary experiences and has written what he learned in his new book, “The Power of Everyday Missionaries,” according to the article.

Christensen, who has served in various Church responsibilities, has observed that Church members generally “struggle to magnify their callings because they simply don’t know how to do them. That realization led to another realization, which became his motivation for writing” the book, according to a Deseret News article, “Clayton Christensen hopes ‘The Power of Everyday Missionaries’ spurs discussion about member missionary work,” by Trent Toone.

“I realized, ‘Oh, my goodness, this is why most of the members in the Church aren’t engaged in sharing the gospel.’ They want to—they just don’t know how,” Christensen said in the Deseret News article. “So over the last 10 years or so, I’ve tried to be reflective of my own experiences and how I have learned to share the gospel. Friends and others have encouraged me to share it so other members have access to it.”

Mormon Clayton Christensen

 

Christensen’s book “provides tools and principles of sharing the gospel that make everyday missionary work easy and less intimidating. Applying these principles can help you transform missionary work from a nerve-racking inconvenience into a joyful way of life,” Proctor wrote in his Meridian Magazine article.

“In every chapter I have tried to teach ‘how’ in the way that the Savior taught—through parables,” Christensen wrote, according to the Deseret News article. “I use them to simply show what we have tried to do, what has worked and what has not, and what we have learned from each other about how to do what God wants us to do.”

Some Points to Ponder

Proctor, in his Meridian Magazine article, said he found 6 important points to remember in the book.

 

1. Call Yourself on a Mission

The Deseret News article quoted from the book’s introduction:

“Under license given to each of us in section 4 of the Doctrine and covenants, I ‘called myself’ on a mission,” he wrote. “I love my life as a missionary, keeping myself on the front lines. The image in my mind is that God, my general, stands at the door when I go out every morning; and, knowing what the war is like, day after day he gives me his most powerful weapon: his Spirit. For this I am grateful.”

Proctor said in his Meridian Magazine article, “The Lord asks us to be agents to act and not be acted upon. [See Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-28.] I strongly believe that the Lord desires for us to become to creators of our circumstances instead of the creatures carried by circumstance. Many wait for a call to do missionary work or believe that they are not expected to do missionary work unless they have a calling to do so. This is not so.”

In my family, when we invite the full-time missionaries over to our house for dinner, they inevitably ask about our missionary efforts. I have heard more than once the elders (because we only have elders in our ward right now, no sister missionaries) tell us that those who already have a connection to the Church through friends or family are often more prepared to hear and accept the gospel than those they meet by knocking on doors.

Christensen said we should try to incorporate the gospel into our everyday conversations, according to the Deseret News article. “I do not know who is interested in the Church. God doesn’t want me to judge other people; therefore, I need to figure out how to have a conversation about the Church with everybody I meet,” he said in the Deseret News article.

2. We Succeed When We Invite

“So often we think of success in missionary work as someone getting baptized, or even just saying yes when we invite them to learn more about the Church. The fact is, as Christensen says, ‘we succeed when we invite.’ If we keep inviting we are succeeding, even if no one agrees to listen,” Proctor wrote in his Meridian Magazine article.

“Because I can’t predict who is interested, I need to have opportunities with everybody. But I need to give them the opportunity to use their free agency to say they’d like to know more. That’s why in every conversation I use ‘Mormon’ words. Then everybody knows, ‘This guy is a Mormon.’ I open the door to have a conversation about the Church. Most people just don’t walk in the door, and that’s fine. But on occasion, somebody comes in, giving me an opportunity,” Christensen said in the Deseret News article.

Sometimes an invitation is a chance to discuss the gospel. But each gospel conversation that invites the Spirit is an opportunity to plant a seed that might bloom one day.

3. Be Friends

Be a genuine friend before and after you invite a friend to hear more about the gospel, Proctor wrote. “If they reject your offer, don’t let them think that you were only friendly to them so you could convince them to be a Mormon,” Proctor wrote in his Meridian Magazine article.

In junior high school, a new girl moved in. She happened to sit at the lunch table with the five girls in school who were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We found out she had moved from Salt Lake City, Utah, where the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are, and we were so excited to ask her about it. I started by asking if she was a Mormon. She said no, she didn’t like Mormons because they didn’t like you if you weren’t a member. I hadn’t meant mean to put her on the spot and wasn’t prepared for her reaction. We told her that we were Mormons, and we were sorry that she felt that way. She backed off a little and said that she did have friends in Salt Lake who were Mormon but that she had more than one person de-friend her after she declined an invitation to join the Church. Luckily, she didn’t hold that awkward experience against me, and we were best friends throughout junior high. But it was a powerful experience for me.

4. Sharing at Work

“If we only share the gospel outside of work, this will greatly decrease the influence we have. Christensen suggests that keeping us from sharing the gospel at work may actually be one of Satan’s most effective ways to stop missionary work from happening,” Proctor wrote. “We should never be ashamed to share our beliefs boldly and openly. [Christensen] suggests many things to make it easy at work. For example, appropriately using Mormon words and talking about your faith online where many of your colleagues anonymously view your social networking profiles.”

These include Facebook, Mormon.org and personal blogs. And, Proctor wrote, there are many online resources to help people get started with their own blogs.

5. Ask for Help

Christensen suggested that one way to invite someone is to ask for his or her help, Proctor wrote. Some may take an invitation to learn about the gospel as an implication that they need our help, and they don’t feel that they need or want our help, Proctor wrote. But, often, “they have been blessed in many ways and have the ability to help others with their knowledge, skills or even their money. So why not ask for their help? This often opens their hearts to learning more about the Church,” Proctor wrote.

6. The Potential of Online Missionary Work

“Elder Christensen points out that there is a huge potential for online missionary work. There are millions who search on Google everyday, and a good portion of them are asking questions about something for which the gospel of Jesus Christ could provide an answer,” Proctor wrote.

Proctor wrote that Christensen explains the process in more detail in his book. Proctor also lists a website where you can read more about how to help with online missionary work: http://www.thereturnedmissionary.com/OnlineMissionaryWork/.

Member Missionaries Can Teach Each Other

 “Ultimately, Christensen hopes the ideas in the book are shared and discussed by member missionaries. He doesn’t claim to have all the answers—he just wants to get people talking,” the Deseret News article said.

Christensen’s book has a website, www.everydaymissionaries.org, where member missionaries “can share their thoughts, ideas, impressions and experiences,” according to the Deseret News article.

“I think this is one reason why the Lord invented the Internet—so members can teach one another how to succeed in assignments the Lord has given us, and to give us opportunities to inspire and bear testimony in a horizontal way,” Christensen said in the Deseret News article. “Hopefully, little by little, the book can become a mechanism by which the members of the Church teach themselves and each other how to be great missionaries.”

With the wealth of resources available, from “Preach My Gospel” to the Internet and Christensen’s book, member missionaries are running out of excuses for not sharing the gospel. Sharing what works—and what doesn’t work—is one way to ease the fears of sharing the gospel. And, as the saying goes, practice makes perfect. The more we practice inviting people and sharing the gospel, the easier it becomes.

I had an experience a few years ago that taught me a lot. I was walking with a friend and we were talking about religion. We had talked for awhile, and finally I said, “I need to tell you that I am a Mormon.” And her answer really struck me. She said, “I know. I’ve known almost from the first day we met.” She had had experiences with the Church, and she recognized that in me. The thought of being a member missionary has always scared me, but Christensen’s book helps me see that sharing the gospel begins with living the gospel and being willing to share.