Elder Clayton Christensen is a Harvard Business Professor and one of the world’s top management thinkers, but first and foremost he is a missionary. He is the author of the New York Times bestselling business book How Will You Measure Your Life? and has been featured internationally multiple times for his fascinating ideas on what he calls “disruptive innovation.” But above all of this, Elder Clayton Christensen is a missionary. An everyday missionary. He has been doing everyday missionary work for decades and has had hundreds of experiences with missionary work. These experiences and the principles behind them are taught in his new book, The Power of Everyday Missionaries.
This book teaches the importance of why missionary work is so crucial as well as how to do it. Elder Christensen provides tools and principles of sharing the gospel that make everyday missionary work easy and less intimidating. Applying these principles can help you to transform missionary work from a nerve-racking inconvenience into a joyful way of life.
My Summary in 6 Points
Here are six very important points I took away from the book:
1. Call Yourself on a Mission. The Lord asks us to be agents to act and not be acted upon (D&C 58:26-28). I strongly believe that the Lord desires for us to become the 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. Elder Christensen talks about the power that comes from being what he calls “entrepreneurs in Zion.” What a powerful principle to apply in all aspects of our gospel lives.
2. We Succeed When We Invite. So often we think of a 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 Elder Christensen says, “we succeed when we invite.” If we keep inviting we are succeeding, even if no one agrees to listen.
3. Be Friends with them before, and especially after the invitation to listen regardless of their response to your invitation. 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. Just be a genuine friend before and after. A useful tool in doing this that Elder Christensen suggests is what he calls “decoupling.” This is a great tool to minimize the stress of talking to a close friend about the gospel. “I decouple my invitation to learn about the Church from my relationship with them, using language like this: ‘Scott, I’m going to ask you a question. But before I ask, we need to agree that our friendship won’t be affected if you decide that this isn’t of interest to you. Okay?'” (pp. 27-28).
4. Sharing at work. If we only share the gospel outside of work this will greatly decrease the influence we have. Elder 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. We should never be ashamed to share our beliefs boldly and openly. He 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. He uses his personal website to post about his faith and beliefs in an “about me” section. See his example here. It is paired with all his other accomplishments. I personally think it is a great thing to have a personal website or blog. And it there are many free site/blog builders and hosting companies out there to create your personal or professional site.
5. Ask for help. Elder Christensen has had many opportunities to interact with colleagues and friends who have been financially prosperous. He mentions that it is almost impossible to reach these people with an invitation to listen. It is as if by an invitation to adhere to what the Mormons have to say, we are implying that they need help from us. Most of them do not believe that they need help from anyone financially, intellectually or in any other way. So he suggests that the best way to invite them is by asking for their help. 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. What a brilliant concept!
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. This one really hits home for me. Search engine optimization (SEO) is my profession. I am, therefore, a web nerd and am actually involved in this effort myself. So when I heard about what Elder Christensen has been doing in the Cambridge stake, I was very excited to say the least! In the book he shows that there is quite a bit of search volume on Google for keywords and terms related to the church and questions that can be answered with the gospel. There are so many opportunities to share the gospel online. In his stake, he set up what he has called the “Cambridge Digital Mission” where there are “digital missionaries” who are building content on a few sites that have brought in quite a bit of traffic to their blogs. These blogs provide answers and commentary about gospel topics. You’ll have to read the book to see more details of how it is set up. Surely many kinks will be worked out of the process as time goes on, but this is something that must be developed and optimized. You can read more about how you can help with online missionary work here: www.TheReturnedMissionary.com/OnlineMissionaryWork.
My Application and Experiences with the Principles
The principles in Clayton Christensen’s book are powerful. I try to apply a few of them in my own life. I want to briefly share a few experiences I have had so far.
Online missionary work. I have my own personal website (www.
andrewscotproctor.com) where I have set up an “I’m a Mormon” page for anyone to look at. I often look at the Google Analytics on my own site and what I have seen is interesting. People will often go from the home page, to the education page, to the work page, and then to the “I’m a Mormon” page. I obviously cannot know their reasons for doing so, but it is interesting that they see that I am educated and have had solid work experiences and then they look at the fact that I am a Mormon. I find it interesting. Thousands of visits to my website and thousands of people who now know that I am a Mormon. I have also experimented with Google+. Google+ allows you to post to the public and anyone on the web can see what you have just posted. Obviously you want to be careful what you share with the world about yourself, but this is an immense opportunity for you to post about your faith. I publicly posted a few weeks ago about the free Book of Mormon app that was recently released. I added “#mormon” at the end so that anyone who searched for “mormon” in Google+ could see this post. In a few days I received a message (in Spanish) from someone in Chile who was curious about Mormonism. We have been emailing back and forth for a few weeks now and have been diving into some real-life questions that he has about God, faith, truth, SSA, and family. It has been a wonderful experience. All it took was one post. You can find the post here if you want to just repost it: https://plus.google.com/115312489172577918152/posts/9PXJdPe6Y9j
Talking about the gospel at work. I have clients all over the country who are not members of the Church. They all know that I am Mormon. When talking about SEO, I use good and bad examples of SEO. The examples just have to be real and believable so I just refer to my church-related sites as well as the sites that the Church has produced (lds.org, mormon.org, etc.). Nothing has come of it that I know of, but all my clients know that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It actually makes me want to work harder and do a really good job for them. It has been a blessing.
My Living Testimony of the Power of Missionary Work
When Reed Davis introduced me to this book, he shared with me Elder Christensen’s testimony: that the reason for all his success in his life could be attributed to his focus on and engagement in missionary work. As I have tried to apply the principles in this book, my life has changed. My thoughts have been elevated to thinking of others and improving my own relationship with God. As I have stepped onto the front lines of the “battle for the souls of men” (a phrase Elder Ballard used), I have been endowed with power – the power to resist temptation, the power be a blessing in the lives of all those around me, the power that comes from daily personal revelation for my spiritual and temporal well-being. It has literally changed my life.
To the degree I have prayed for and prepared myself for missionary work, opportunities happen – not the other way around. I used to think, “Well, as soon as I live outside of Utah again, I’ll start thinking about missionary work. I’ll just focus on my calling and on being a good home teacher now.” But now I know that there are opportunities all around us that the Lord will not bless us with unless we are prepared. As soon as we are prepared, people will just pop up. This I know and have witnessed as I have prepared myself. You too will experience this endowment of power from on high as you become an everyday missionary.