My gospel doctrine class sat on the edge of its collective seat as I told the unbelievable story of the milkman from Maine. He presided over a small branch into which 451 people were baptized in one year, and then 190 more people were baptized the next. The spirit filled the room – a missionary spirit – as a subject that usually produces inward groans of guilt inspired people with lighter steps and a renewed sense of their ability to succeed in arguably the most important covenants members of the church make.
Clayton Christensen is probably best known as the innovation guru from Harvard, arguably one of the most influential thinkers in the business world today. He has received numerous awards while serving in his post at Harvard Business School, but he signs his name at the end of the book, “Clayton Christensen, Missionary.”
On his website, www.claytonchristensen.com, the tab for beliefs sits next to tabs outlining his business-building expertise in a 20-year book-writing, consulting, and professorial career. A youthful missionary picture of Clayton standing in a throng of Korean children tops his professional bio.
This is a story of doable missionary work written by a man who has been doing missionary work for 25 years.
What this book is not is as important as what it is. It’s not the Church’s new weapon of choice in a marketing campaign designed to Mormonize America. It’s not a panacea in an endless march to “brainwash heathen” (to quote a Deseret publicist) and usher in the dratted, delayed Millennium once and for all. It’s not a manual, a plan, a study guide, or a training system. It doesn’t come with a binder, and there are no pull-out cards.
What it is is a refreshing testimony with true-life experiences, one right after another, sandwiched between a lifetime of observations derived from trial and error. Unvarnished, he shares his early throw-your-cake-in-their-face attempts at sharing the gospel and what he learned from them. With a complete lack of self-importance he gives equal time to every vibrant success that anyone he could find would share with him from their own life experience. The power of testimony was tangible around me as I read this book with increasing hunger.
It has been the most life-changing book I’ve read in years.
I judge what I read by how I’m inspired to live or think differently when I put the book down, because, after all, it’s really fairly difficult to inspire someone to change. I was inspired to fast for missionary opportunities. You’d have to see a picture of me to know how life-changing that is. I bake cinnamon rolls. I look like a cinnamon roll. I’ve not spent enough of my life fasting. I’m also a bit of a hermit, though I do wear nice jewelry and the occasional great scarf. I comfortably teach the gospel to people who already have it. I’m the furthest thing from a missionary you could imagine.
Why was I so inspired by this unintimidating 150-page lightweight? He made everything easy. The Power of Everyday Missionaries is about making slight tweaks to one’s daily living, altering our intent in ways that alter the effectiveness of simple things we do without requiring wholesale changes.
- How to speak easily and naturally about the church in ways that invite questions.
- How to reach people’s hearts who don’t see any particular need for the gospel.
- How to set goals that invite the partnership of the Holy Ghost to land opportunities right in your lap.
- How to exercise discernment so that you understand what people truly want and need.
I walked away from this book understanding how to fold missionary work into the way I already live by exercising the gift of discernment, utilizing the gift and power of the Holy Ghost to help me love more fully and completely. I don’t have to worry about offending people, sharing awkwardly, or doing harm with my bumbling attempts. Being free, I can speak honestly and naturally in the ways needed. I am excited about missionary work for the first time in my life!
Even if you are truly an impenetrable rock uninterested in any permanent alteration to your present course, the stories at the end of the book are the best material for talks you’re ever going to find. I found myself grinning and the kids’ mouths dropped open as I rushed to read them in family settings. My soon-to-be-departing missionary sons nodded with confidence. This was real life, they realized. This was how the sons of Mosiah really felt.
If you are considering gifts this season, wondering about gifts of the spirit you might wisely request from a loving Father or how to share the ones you already have, the gift of the gospel of Jesus Christ might be high on your list. This incredible powerhouse could be a great way to structure your new year’s resolutions with the gift that keeps on giving – forever.
Image credits: claytonchristensen.com
Cross-posted at Real Intent.