I don’t think I’ll ever forget my junior year at Sheridan High School. It was a defining moment for me as a young man with a heart to follow God. This was the year I decided to be “all in” as a follower of Christ and I felt a tremendous desire to reach other youth for Christ as well.

The summer before my junior year I attended a youth camp in Tennessee, and heard a dynamic speaker present on world missions. In response, I began to pray as the music played. I was broken, and in prayer I committed to the Lord that I would go to India, Africa or wherever he would send me. In my mind I saw tribes in remote villages in countries around the world. I envisioned hardships, even persecution for the sake of the gospel. I remember telling God, “I’m willing! I will go wherever you send me! I will do whatever you ask me to do! I will live my life for your glory and not my own.”

Then it happened. God spoke to me. I don’t hear God audibly, but I believe I truly heard God speak to my spirit. It was like a magnified, booming voice inside my heart as he commissioned me and said, “School is your mission field.”

Then I really began to cry and pray, “Oh God please send me to Africa, or India, or anywhere but please don’t send me back in to Sheridan High School.”

Please don’t misunderstand me, there was nothing wrong with the school; it was the understanding of the reality that standing for Christ in the public school was not easy. I already knew that and I was scared. The uncertainty of what might be required of me in the public school system was unsettling. But my prayer remained, “Lord, I will live my life for your glory and not my own. If that’s where you want to send me, then I will go.”

This school year, God is sending young missionaries into our preschools, elementary schools, junior highs and middle schools, as well as high schools and college. I believe God has even purposed for His followers to be missionaries in the workplace. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we must know we are sent by God to make a difference for God’s glory.

“Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20 NLT)

I headed back to high school determined to live my life for the glory of God; I viewed school differently from that moment on. I was no longer going to school to get an education. I was on a mission. I was sent by God. School was my mission field. It change the way I thought, lived,  related to people, studied and how I related to my teachers and faculty. It changed everything.

I was still afraid at times. But I believed the promise of Matthew 28:20. The Lord had given me the promise of his presence. Let me encourage our students as you get back in the routine of school this year to recognize that God is sending you and present with you as you attend your school. Understand, God has given you a wonderful opportunity to build relationships with other students and staff that someone else may never be able to reach with the love of God. You may be the only one able to tell them about the hope we have in Jesus. God has strategically and intentionally placed you there for such a time as this.

The same is true for all of us are now out of school. Know that God has a plan for us as we work our jobs, live as good neighbors and even while enjoying our leisure activities. As followers of Christ, wherever God has placed you in the moment becomes your mission field.

Please take a moment now to join me in praying for all of our faculty and students. Pray for a great move of God in our public schools all over the county. Pray that hearts would be turned to Jesus Christ. Pray the followers of Christ will have a renewed way of thinking, and living as they head into the mission field of our schools.

Join us at Bethesda Worship Center Sept. 1 at 9 and 10:45 a.m. as we pray over our students and faculty for the new year.

Scott Lee is the pastor at Bethesda Worship Center in Sheridan.