Missional Story: Small Town, Big Impact

I’m Shirley Shiflet, I’m 22 years old living in a little town in West Virginia and I want to share a little of my story with you.

I grew up in Elkins and I heard about Jesus for the first time here, I believed in Jesus as my savior here, I rebelled here, and I really started following Jesus here too. It has been an interesting, amazing adventure. Imagine the same people from a small town seeing you at your worst and then desiring to point them to Jesus a few years later, it is quite the experience and maybe for some of you it is your experience. But, Jesus is a master at transformation, so it hasn’t been easy, but He has done the hard work and got me through it. Plus, it is such a beautiful testimony of God’s goodness for people to see me as a mess and now see me living incarnationally as Jesus is changing my life. Jesus calls us all to live as He did, which is on mission. You cannot be truly following Jesus and not be on mission.


As a testimony to this truth, since the day I started following Jesus He called me to mission. It is His heart after all, since the beginning of time! When God first called Abraham to Himself it went like this: “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing’” (Genesis 12:1-2). God called Abraham to Himself for sweet intimacy with Him, no doubt, but God says He would bless him so he could be a blessing to others. In the same way, God calls us to Himself first for intimacy with Him, but so that we can then bless others by pointing them to Jesus with our lives and words.


For me, literally in less than a week after I made Jesus Lord of my life the leader of a local high school outreach ministry called Young Life called me and asked me to leave the next morning at 8am to go to Young Life camp and lead a cabin of high school girls. I had never been a part of Young Life nor did this man really know me other than the fact that he heard that Jesus transformed my life. After seeking Jesus about it and consulting people who I trusted, I felt peace and went. It was crazy and amazing, and I’ve been a Young Life leader ever since. The cool thing about this story is how right when I became a disciple of Jesus He led me to go disciple others (point them to Him and show them how to walk with Him).

Every disciple of Jesus disciples others.


Today, three and a half years later, as I continue to grow deeper in intimacy with Christ, I live missionally daily because He has shown me that my life is His. God has also given me an amazing partner to be on mission with, my husband, Justin Shiflet. It’s so incredible the way God blessed me with Justin and how now we get to bless others by pointing them to Jesus together. God uses some cool different ministries through which we live missionally, but really it’s ultimately about intimacy with Him and relationship with people. Jesus says in John “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Jesus talks about how He is the good shepherd to His sheep and how His sheep know His voice and follow Him. Missional living, I believe is about being a good sheep! A good sheep knows the shepherd’s voice and does what He says. Every day for me is about asking God what we are going to do that day! I am a pretty organized person and I love my to-do lists and plans, but Jesus continually reminds me that what He has called me to, and what life is all about, is just doing what He says. I spend time with Him daily, cultivate a deeper relationship with Him, and do what He says. This is living missionally.


I believe everything flows out of intimacy with Jesus. Anything “significant” in this life comes from knowing Him. Living missionally is the same way. In order to be on mission with Jesus we must be intimate with Him. I am intimate with Him by spending time in His word, having conversation with Him, spending time with other people who love Jesus, being in community with them, and worshiping Him. Out of intimacy with Jesus flows missional living.


Doing life with Jesus, living missionally, for me looks like Colossians 4:5 “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” Making the most of every opportunity! Whether that be in line at Walmart or sitting down with our youth group and worshipping Jesus together! Every opportunity. I think this really comes down to making Jesus Lord of your life and committing to be obedient to Him. Because the reality is He is going to ask us to do things that will make us uncomfortable. So, if we aren’t committed to doing what He tells us we won’t get out of our comfort zone. A good gage of whether you are living missionally and being obedient to Jesus is whether or not you get uncomfortable on a weekly basis for Him. Because He will lead us into situations that stretch us and are difficult. Being in the world but not of the world is not a comfortable place to be! (John 17).


As a Young Life leader they encourage us to live missionally like Jesus did by doing “incarnational ministry.” This is how Jesus did ministry, He came to us from heaven and met us where we are. Imagine how uncomfortable this must have been for God to put on flesh and come live among sin to show His love for us that we may have relationship with Him. In a similar way, as a leader I go to the high school to meet students where they are, get to know them and point them to Jesus. This is not a comfortable place to be! Every week my heart rate gets a little faster as I walk into the lunch room (where I went to school), never knowing to whom the Lord is gonna lead me to talk, I feel like I’m 15 all over again with nowhere to sit at lunch! It’s uncomfortable. But, it’s awesome and I never regret going because it’s exactly where Jesus wants me!


That’s the way living missionally works! We grow in intimacy with Jesus, He’s our best friend, we commit to being obedient to Him and He blesses us as we choose to get uncomfortable because He told us to! This will probably look like a lot of uncomfortable conversations, it may look like spending some time with people who aren’t in your friend group, but I promise it will definitely be the significance you are searching for! Because we were all created for a life of significance. This significance looks like being known by the King of the universe and knowing Him! But, often we search for this significance in other places like sports, grades, boyfriends and girlfriends, or wherever! I’ve been there….it all comes up empty. We were made for a radical adventure with Jesus and only in intimacy with Him and taking faith filled risks in obedience to Him do we find it. I’ve never regretted for one day deciding to let Jesus call the shots in my life! It’s an amazing adventure. Living missionally with Jesus is what we were made for!


Shirley Shiflet

Shirley is a Resident Director at Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia. She also serves actively in Young Life and is on staff at Elkins Alliance Church. She is married to Justin and they love going on adventures together!

Contact Shirley at shirleyjoyshiflet@gmail.com

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