Probably everything that can be said about mission trips has been said. And probably everything that has been said is true somewhere. However, it is too big a phenomenon to ignore.
The last twenty years have seen an explosion of mission trips. Some estimate that one million Americans go on mission trips annually at a cost of $1 billion. Early on mission trips were mostly undertaken to stimulate missions commitment in the sending church: more giving, and praying, and producing more long-term missionaries. For years many of us have encouraged congregations to send their pastors and leaders to the mission field to give them first-hand experience and build their missions commitment.
Now people are traveling everywhere in the world for all kinds of reasons and no reason at all, and missions trips are part of this trend. Daniel Rickett said that mission trips are at the tipping point of becoming tourism. On the contrary, many Christians have seen needs elsewhere in the world and discovered ways they can contribute. Almost all new long-term missionaries have been on one or more mission trips. Others have maintained contact with people in remote parts of the world. Nearly anyone you ask will say the mission trip was a “life-changing experience.” The results of more research are coming to light, with mixed results. It seems a life-changing experience isn't what it used to be. Some people are attempting to build a life made up of a series of life-changing experiences. Some people who go on a mission trip come home two weeks behind in their work and find the washing machine broken, a tired wife, and a houseful of dirty laundry. This turns out to be another life changing experience, partially neutralizing the earlier one.
Mission trips are changing the way we view missions and do missions. Mission trips are a means to accomplish mission work on the field, to enlighten and disciple the ones who go, and to influence the congregation back home. At the same time, trips consume a great deal of missions energy both at home and on the field. Those who go return exhilarated, worn out, and two weeks behind. Unless the fires are deliberately stoked, they tend to die out.
While much good work is accomplished on trips, there are not infrequent reports that trips were more costly than beneficial, if not down right detrimental, on the mission field. The permanent life change we hope to see in the one who goes gradually fades back into normal American life. The congregation may not get the full impact because there is little opportunity to communicate and because of a failure to think clearly about what needs to be communicated. Not too long ago I heard a missions trip report that included no mention of giving, one appeal for prayer, and several enthusiastic appeals for people to go on trips. The primary result of most trips is more trips.
Mission trips are a means to accomplish mission work on the field, to enlighten and disciple the ones who go, and to influence the congregation back home."
I’ve never heard anyone say that their church’s regular missions budget (outside of giving for mission trips) has grown because of their mission trips. I'm sure it has happened but it doesn't appear to be a general expectation. It is clear, however, that an increasing proportion of many missions budgets is going to help support the trips. One of my friends told me that their church had notified a long supported missionary couple that they wouldn’t be able to support them any longer because they needed the funds for more missions trips.
While most new missionaries have taken mission trips, there is little evidence of a surge of new long-term missionaries.
An increasing number of churches are making trips a major part, sometimes the primary part, of their missions ministry. Others are using trips not for doing ministry but primarily as a discipleship tool. One young leader in a mega church told me that the reason they do mission trips is merely to disciple their people. There is no doubt that mission trips can be an effective discipling tool but subtly mission trips are becoming something we do for ourselves rather than a means of stimulating greater missions involvement and effectiveness in the world. When we find ourselves “using” missions as a tool for our own benefit, or doing missions in a certain way because it provides a means for personal involvement, and not to accomplish something for Jesus out in the world, we have gone off course.
The challenge is to do mission trips in such a way that they are productive on the field, they disciple the people who go, and they stimulate the congregation to greater missions commitment. This is no small challenge.
Church leaders always have to decide how to best use limited resources for Kingdom benefit. Which takes priority, investing in promising and productive missions strategies or supporting and caring for current long-term missionaries?
Historically congregations have been connected to missions through their missionaries who are their primary concern. Some churches idolize missionaries, the people who gave up everything to live for Jesus in far away places in the world. The support and welfare of their missionaries is their number one priority. One pastor told me, “We have never missed a check for our missionaries, and as long as I’m the pastor we never will.” They may have little idea what the missionaries are trying to accomplish, but their prayers are on behalf of the missionary and rarely the people they serve. They would not think of asking whether a missionary is effective or their ministry is strategic but whether he is safe and healthy.
Many churches do not have specific missions goals and priorities. Until recently the most common church goal was to raise as much money as possible for missions. Less attention was given to what was accomplished or attempted with the funds raised. Local church lay leaders are often unaware of various parts of the world and know little about cultures and mission strategies. They support and trust missionaries and mission organizations that have their own goals. The church missions strategy is a collection of the strategies of supported missionaries and organizations.
Many churches have lost touch with a number of the missionaries they support. Few people know them and they have little idea of what or how they are doing. New missions leaders may want to evaluate their missionaries but they may have unreasonable expectations. Is a church entitled to evaluate the ministry of someone with whom they haven't communicated and of whom they have only perhaps 5% of their support? Further, what standards apply? Could you use the same standards to evaluate your church? Others are highly critical of missionaries whose results aren't dramatic. They seem to assume church growth in a difficult environment should be rapid and dramatic like it happens to be in their church. One young missions pastor in a large suburban church told me their elders were considering disengaging with their missionaries in the 10/40 Window. They wanted to take a “high impact” approach like their ministry in the Canada. It seemed to be a new idea to him that “high impact” might look different in the 10/40 Window.
Becoming more strategic while taking care of our missionaries is a major challenge."
Occasionally a new missions committee takes their responsibility to become better stewards of missions resources seriously and they develop a good strategy. Wise leaders will consider the input of, and the consequences to, their far away and dependent missionaries. Alternatively, missionaries who may have pioneered the missions ministry in the church or been long time workers from the church may be unceremoniously dumped because they don’t fit into the new strategy.
Increasingly church leaders recognize that the congregation has become disconnected from missions and they work to get more people connected and involved. With fewer and time-limited services, there is little opportunity to help the congregation to learn to know all the missionaries on their roster. Even the missions team can't keep up. This leads to a desire to reduce the number of supported missionaries so that the church can focus more heavily on the ministry of a few. The same reasoning makes it difficult for new missionaries to obtain support unless they are highly regarded members of the congregation.
In reaction to the criticism that "churches only want your money," raising money has become an almost taboo topic in churches. In days past churches enthusiastically raised funds for missions. When people in the congregation were approached by individual missionaries for support, it was understood. As one fundraising missionary told me last week, "Young people don't have supported missionary models visiting and having dinner and being touted at church anymore. Support-raising, except for mission trips is foreign and odd."
The most natural forms of congregational involvement are mission trips and projects in the community. These require a great deal of planning and management. Many missions leaders are so busy with organizing these complex involvements along with their other church responsibilities, that they have little time to think about how or whether these high-involvement projects contribute to the larger goal of world evangelization. Becoming more strategic while taking care of our missionaries is a major challenge.
When David Mays taught in the Perspectives Course he would begin by asking if God has an end goal for the church and the nations. By lesson 7, the students gave him good answers from the Scripture: God desires that all nations hear the gospel, that reproducing churches be established in every people group, that God be glorified by all peoples, that all nations worship, etc. When we ask similar questions to church groups, the answers are less clear, much more nebulous. When we ask for a definition of missions, the answers are all over the map. It is obvious that church leaders do not spend a lot of time establishing the context for pursuing the Great Commission or its goal. It is our assumption that missionary efforts represent our obedience to disciple all nations. This is a very broad mandate, but it does have a goal, an end point. Perhaps this has been taken for granted but it is no longer common knowledge.
At one time missions was “foreign missions.” Our nation was assumed to be Christian - at least nominal Christians - and there were many in other nations that were not Christian. Missions was considered "taking the church where it isn't" and evangelism meant "growing the church where it is." As our culture has become less and less Christian, the need to evangelize our own culture has become increasingly apparent.
In addition, people from every language and nation have come to live among us so we have “cross-cultural missions” at home. But culture isn’t limited to nationality. We are increasingly a country with multiple cultures, many of them less affected by the Gospel or with greater social needs than others. Even the unchurched people who grew up on your street have a different cultural worldview. There is no longer a clear distinction between missions and other church ministry. For most people missions has come to be defined by whether the ministry occurs on church property.
“Local missions” is part of most missions budgets. It is not uncommon to find up to half or more of a church’s missions budget designated for ministry within Canada or within the church’s own community. Someone wrote me that their church board has mandated that they spend no more than 50% of their church budget on foreign missions.
Since the missions budget is about the only budget available for supporting ministry outside the church, para-church organizations present their ministries as missions. I have thought of the church as a building with one window. The missions department has the office with the window. Outside, above the window is printed: "Funds available. Apply here." Many people who work for Christian ministries consider themselves missionaries, even if their ministry supports almost exclusively middle-class American Christians. A gentleman who was principal of a Christian high school was indignant frustrated that the a host church wouldn’t support the needs of the school from its missions budget. The fact that the school primarily serves the children of Christians from his church did not change his perspective, nor does it affect the perspective of people in churches. Recently a young man wrote, “I am presently leaving a 15-year career in corporate finance to become a missionary with ____ Financial Ministries.” An organization that provides legal support for Christian organizations refers to its agents as missionaries. Church leaders often have pet projects and organizations they would like to have funded from the missions budget. One missions pastor smiled when he described his church’s missions budget as the wastebasket because it receives all the requests no one else wants to fund.
Increasingly missions money is used for ourselves. In one church the missions leader appealed for people to get involved in two missions projects. One was building a house for an elderly member of the church. A dozen years ago I observed missions budgets listing a maximum of 5 or 10% to be used internally for missions promotion and education. It was very common to see rudimentarybasic, even shoddy,low-quality missions promotion in very nice churches. For years I advised missions committees to do higher quality promotion because people judge things as important if they look important.
But missions leadership in many churches has been handed off to a generation that is comfortable spending more money. Missions promotion and education have escalated in quality and cost. The missions budget is also called upon to provide funding for outreach activities undertaken by other departments and ministries. In one church, a Sunday School class hosted an outreach barbecue on school property across the street. When no one showed up, the class asked the missions team to cover their $500 loss.
Without clear and understood boundaries for missions, a healthy missions budget is a temptation for any church leader with ideas. If a project or program can somehow be tied to outreach, the missions budget becomes a potential source of funding. Youth excursions have been converted to mission trips and are supported by missions budgets. In one church the missions committee budgeted funds for a youth missions trip. When the youth raised all the money they needed for the trip, they asked for (and received) the same funds for a retreat. When church leaders planned a community service project for cell groups, the missions team was asked to cover the cost of the lunches. In one church children were asked to give money to missions “for children who don’t know Jesus.” The funds were used to purchase playground equipment for the church, presumably to attract those children.
The missions budget is increasingly becoming a “miscellaneous budget.” One must ask what priority “miscellaneous” will continue to enjoy have in the church. Purpose-driven institutions try to focus their resources on their primary purposes and it’s easy to see that “miscellaneous” spending should be small. A missions chair wrote, “The leadership at our church has been arguing that everything the church does is ‘missional.’ Therefore, it is inappropriate to expect that a given percentage defines a "healthy, vibrant" church.” Missional is good. And it should maintain an appropriate balance between 'our world' and the rest of the world.
Even while the prosperity of the North American church grows, the challenge also grows to increase, or at least maintain, outreach ministry focused on the peoples and nations with the greatest needs and least access to the Gospel.
For a long time, many evangelical churches focused on serving believers within the church and reaching the nations abroad. Occasional revival meetings were meant to revive the faith of nominal Christians in the neighborhood. But reaching the community was not a major focus. However, iHhdf n the last three decades, there has been a long overdue movement to reach our communities. Most of the recent books I have read about the Church focus on how to reach your community and grow your church.
Many of these books begin with the Great Commission as stated in Matthew 28:19-20. Working from the New International Version, they suggest that the “heart” of the Great Commission is to “make disciples” and they apply this to reaching your community. What is often missing in these books is discipling “all nations.” Cross-cultural missions is taken for granted, off the radar screen of the book, frequently limited to a passing mention in a page or a paragraph or a sermon. Not too long ago I proposed “The Great Commission-Driven Church” as a workshop title. One pastor said to me, “I’ve studied the Great Commission Church and taught on it and I was hoping for something more global.” It seems that the Great Commission is now commonly thought of primarily as local outreach by many church leaders.
Pastors and church leaders seem to be looking primarily to mega-church models for how to do church. These model churches usually have a missions program, sometimes an outstanding missions ministry, but it has not been a major feature of their books and conferences. One person involved in missions told me about returning with a van of church leaders from a mega-church conference. One of the leaders said to the other, "Why are we putting so much money into missions? Did you hear them talk about missions?" This needs to be changed. We need to pour ourselves into the world.
New church plants are nearly all focused on reaching their unchurched community as you might expect. They are often slow getting started in missions. Several years ago I asked the receptionist of a young church plant, “What are you doing in missions?” “We are a mission,” she replied. In a recent book about effective church ministry the authors reported putting their teenagers to work “on the mission field” on Sunday morning. He was referring to having them work in the church programs. Recently one young church planter was asked what his church was doing in missions. “We have a miscellaneous budget line item for that kind of stuff, “he responded. Another young seeker church of more than 1200 people reported a missions budget of 1% in 2004.
Doing church in a culturally relevant manner is increasingly expensive. It is difficult for churches to maintain the percentage they used to give for missions. Large churches with large budgets have huge internal expenses. Churches of more than one thousand in attendance rarely give more than 20% of their regular income to missions. Younger large churches not infrequently have missions budgets of 5% or less. A large church in the Chicago suburbs has designated 80% of their missions budget for expanding their multi-campus sites. Traditional churches with large missions budgets are spending more on staff and facilities. Becoming more seeker-oriented means spending increasing dollars on facilities and accouterments for a more hospitable and pleasing place for secular people. Almost all churches are facing these pressures in order to be acceptable, if not competitive.
The non-negotiables are changing. At one time the missions budget was sacrosanct in many churches. Now, as one worship pastor told me, “We have two media projectors in the worship service. Each projector has two bulbs. Each bulb costs seventeen hundred dollars. And if one blows, you gotta’ replace it.” A volunteer technical assistant in a church of six hundred told me, “In five minutes I could write down two million dollars worth of sound equipment we need.” Many younger churches desire to do more missions, but missions must wait on higher priorities.
Twenty-five years ago, church purpose statements frequently specified "reaching the world.” Current purpose statements are shorter and less specific. The world is not clearly stated. As someone said, "a mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pew." Missions is treated as a program rather than part of the church’s purpose. There is a huge difference. One missions pastor told me, “In our church, missions is one of 125 ministries and it must compete with all the others for pulpit time, resources, and volunteers.” In highly professional, time-delineated worship services, time is not available for missionaries to tell their stories. Brief interviews or video clips must suffice to let church people know they are involved in missions. Many churches are reducing the number of missionaries they support so they won’t be overloaded in trying to keep themselves and their people informed.
The effort to reach our communities deserves to be supported and applauded. How to retain and build a focus on reaching the rest of the nations at the same time is the challenge.
This week we are looking at the first challenge facing the church – Keeping Lostness in View. The challenge here is whether or not to keep ‘lostness’ in view or to fight against practical universalism.
As churches and congregations continue to be concerned about being a less threatening place for non-believers and about our image in the culture, we are careful how we use legalistic and harsh-sounding words like "evil," “lost,” “sin,” and “repentance.” These words are awkward for non-Christians and somewhat uncomfortable for many Christians who would avoid coming to terms with the stark possibility that people could be forever lost. At least 20 years ago, Roger Greenway, perhaps the premier missiologist for the Christian Reformed Church, said in a workshop that the exclusivity of Christ is the pivotal issue for evangelicals. A mobilizer from an evangelical denomination told me that he had conducted an informal survey in Sunday School classes he taught in his churches. More than half the people had admitted they couldn't really say that people without Christ were lost. A lady came up to me after a workshop and said her denomination had "taken evangelism out of missions." I’m afraid many Christians just wouldn’t be able to agree that those who haven’t heard or don’t know Christ are lost.
I have observed that Christians and non-Christians, the saved and the lost, look much alike. When I look out my window in the morning and see my neighbor going to work, he looks a lot like me. I may spontaneously think about the value or condition of his house, his family relationships, his job, the new things he has, or the make of car he drives, but I’m not very likely to be reminded that he is lost and in need of the Savior. I wonder if my life looks any different to him. It is not always easy to remind ourselves that people are in two very different camps, those that know Christ and are going to spend eternity with Him and those that don’t and aren’t. We just don’t tend to see people as “lost.”
As Stan Guthrie said in an editorial in Christianity Today (CT, January21, 2008), there is a hole in our holism. Personal evangelism is a much tougher sell than giving a cup of cold water in Jesus' name. It is much easier to put together a short-term team to drill a well or build a church than to do door to door evangelism or to do radio distribution.
When we see pictures on television of people in troubled places in the world, we are likely to be reminded of hunger, the repressive effects of totalitarian governments, environmental destruction, and the needs for education, political stability, freedom, moral restraint, clean water, good food and medical care. We are much more likely to observe the physical needs of people than their invisible spiritual needs. Young adults seem to be increasingly responsive to such needs. I asked a missions class at a Christian University about their career plans. Most were anticipating ministry in urban areas and meeting social needs or working for social justice. No one mentioned evangelism or church planting ministries.
The missions movement has been criticized, and perhaps rightly so, for 'saving souls' and neglecting the conditions and systems that keep the bodies enslaved. What we are seeing in churches now is perhaps a correction to that omission. The danger is that the pendulum never stops at the bottom. I don’t seem to hear as much talk about the priority of reaching lost people, even in missionary reports. The reality of the spiritual world seems hazy. What we see in churches today, we will see in missions tomorrow. A lack of passion about sin, repentance, lostness, redemption, the necessity of salvation, and the transformation of both the private and public life, may be reflected in missions tomorrow. The theme that is taken for granted in this generation may be lost altogether in the next.
We must not lose sight of the fact that people are lost. People are eternal. They are going to spend eternity with God or outside His presence. They must be introduced to Jesus. This must be a major component of our missions plans and ministries. Our many humanitarian ministries must not neglect the evangelization and discipling of the lost among all nations. As Jesus said to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23, " These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others."
Personal evangelism is a much tougher sell than giving a cup of cold water in Jesus' name"
What is a UPG? "UPG" stands for unreached people group but to understand what that means we need to first talk about people groups. When Jesus told his followers, “Go and make disciples of all nations," the Greek words he used were "ta ethne" meaning all ethnic groups or people groups. So what is a people group?
A people group is basically a group of individuals that have a common sense of history, language, beliefs, and identity. It is pretty much a group of people that considers "us, us" and everyone else "them". While there are about 196 countries in the world today, there are over 16,000 distinct people groups.
Let’s look at Pakistan as an example. That is one nation, going by our English word and definition, but ethnically Pakistan has over 400 distinct nations (or people groups) within its borders. Around 7,000 of those 16,000 total people groups are considered UPGs or unreached people groups. A group is considered unreached if less than 2% of their population is evangelical Christian - that is, it has too few true believers to evangelize and disciple the rest of the people group. Almost 3 billion people fall into this category.
Over 3000 of those 7000 unreached people groups are considered UUPGs or unengaged unreached people groups. These people groups have no churches, no believers, no missionaries, and no one actively focused on engaging them.
95% of all unreached people groups are located in the 10/40 window - that part of the world between 10 degrees latitude and 40 degrees latitude stretching from North Africa to Southeast Asia. It’s in the 10/40 window that most of the major non-Christian religions hold sway. Collectively, they are known as the THUMB people - Tribal, Hindu, Unreligious (including many Chinese), Muslim, and Buddhist.
Jesus said that the gospel of the kingdom would be preached as a testimony to all the people groups and then the end would come. Less than 3% of our total cross-cultural missionary force is working in the 10/40 window. We must Go to the unreached.
At the same time, it’s estimated that over 350 unreached people groups are living in Canada and the US today as immigrants, refugees, and international students. So we must also welcome the unreached.
Christ commands us to make disciples of all nations. Jesus is alive. His mission for us is clear. Yet the task stands unFinished.
Together we can change that! What steps will you take to reach the unreached?
Missionaries today live a very marginal lifestyle. They are called to sacrifice almost everything in order to do the work God has called them to do. But this doesn’t mean we can’t bless them once in a while with gifts of love. Below are five suggestions on how you can bless missionaries you support this year.
1. Get Connected
Getting a call from church members is an emotional boost. This doesn’t have to be the missions chairperson. It could be anybody. When a missionary has been away for more than 12 months, those contacts slow down and leave the missionary feeling somewhat disconnected. It is important that the missionary knows that the church back home hasn’t forgotten about them.
So, whether this is by telephone, skype or letters, a conversation can go a long way. Find ways to pray for them as a family and show them your love and support.
2. Ask the missionary about personal family needs that you can fix
What is something that would take a “rough edge” off their life for which they simply don’t have available funds?
• Perhaps they have a broken piece of furniture, but no available or budgeted funds to fix it.
• Perhaps they need a dishwasher.
• Perhaps they need funds to fix a window, paint a room, or replace a toilet.
You might send them funds to fix it, or if practical, send a team to fix some of these things.
I know one missionary who wept in gratitude when a church sent them a new pair of sandals, a box of fancy perfumes, and a particular napkin holder for their table.
What is something they need that would reduce a constant stressor in their life?
3. Donate frequent flyer miles
A missionary family should be able to visit with their home churches and family members on a regular basis. But getting flights for a family of four can run anywhere from $2000-$4000 or more.
Frequent flyer miles can go a long way to enabling this kind of member care. Work with your missionary to find out how to make that happen.
Help them see their family or make their trip home for their partner development. This will also give you an opportunity to meet with them in person as well.
4. Ask if there is a technology product or service they need
Many missionaries live off of donated and terribly outdated equipment.
Perhaps they could use an updated / upgraded mobile phone. Perhaps an Ipad or Amazon Kindle. Maybe your missionaries are functioning with a 7-year-old laptop with outdated software. Maybe the humidity in some climates has destroyed their old computers from rust. Maybe they need that video projector for their training events, or even a video camera and wireless microphone for some of their work.
You get the idea. Find out what they need and work with them to acquire it. Remember, it might be easiest to acquire locally rather than shipping it.
Find out what your church can raise funds to upgrade or provide.
5. Ask if you can provide a “mental health” weekend
Living cross culturally can be extremely stressful and a weekend away at a nice place can bring a sense of restoration back to your missionary.
Most missionaries I know live on such a shoe string budget that spending a weekend at a resort or in a mountain vacation home is hardly ever on a calendar.
Perhaps there is a nice place within a 2-3-hour drive from where your missionary lives. Ask about the cost of a full weekend at a nice place, and include the cost of transportation, gas, and food.
I’m not talking about $20,000 family vacations, but maybe $500-$1000 for a weekend somewhere.
What can you provide to give your missionary a respite break?
Encourage your missionaries this year. They are giving themselves away on behalf of the gospel, often at the high price of living on the margins. These don’t have to be overly expensive projects. Living on the margins is stressful. Take one of these suggestions or think of another way to bless your missionary today. You may not see it, but it will make a huge difference in their lives.
In Matthew 24, the disciples ask Jesus what the sign of his coming and of the end of the age would be. Jesus goes on to describe events that will take place before the end, but he is clear that none of these things are either definitive nor conclusive. In verse 14, Jesus gives a definitive sign of the end, “And this Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” The progress of the Gospel in the world is the definitive indicator about how close we are to the end of the age. So how are we doing with the gospel? To answer that, let’s classify the 7 billion people on the earth today into three groups.
Group 1: The Christians
About 33% of the world’s population identifies itself as Christian. We call this segment of the population, World C. C for Christian.
It’s important to remember that not all of the people that fall into World C are true believers in Christ, they merely identify themselves as Christian because of nominal belief in Jesus or because they live in a country where everyone is considered Christian, so they would do the same.
Group 2: The Nonbelievers
This is the group where the people have access to the Gospel but have chosen not to follow Jesus. This group makes up 38% of the world. They have Bibles in their language, churches nearby, friends or co-workers who are potentially Christians, and have access to other Christian resources in their language. These people have access to the good news, but haven’t acted on it yet. This segment of the population is called World B.
Group 3: The Unreached
That leaves us with 29% of the world. Just over 1 out of every 4 people on this planet who not only have never heard of Jesus, they have no chance of hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ. They have no access to the Gospel - no Bibles, no churches, no believers nearby… no chance to learn about Jesus. They are the unreached people and we call them World A.
1 out of 4 people have not heard of Jesus".
How Are We Helping
About 1 out of every 1800 Christians in World C decides to serve as a missionary. So, we can pull 400,000 missionaries out of that World C population. That’s our total cross-cultural missionary force worldwide. The majority of these missionaries (72%%) are being sent to the people of World C, the world that have Bibles and established churches!
25% of missionaries are being sent to World B where there is already some access to the church and to the Bible.
That leaves only 3% of the total missionary force to handle all of World A - the section of the population without any chance of hearing about Jesus. 29% of the world has no way to hear the Gospel, but we’re sending only a tiny portion of our Christian workers to them.
What about finances? Annually, all those Christians in World C earn a total of 42 trillion dollars. And, together they give about 700 billion dollars to Christian causes each year – that includes everything: Christian non-profits, churches, youth programs, missions, etc. Can you do the math? Less than 2% of Christian income is being given to Christ’s causes.
Out of that 700 billion given to all Christian causes, only 45 billion is given to missions. That’s a little over 6%. In fact, there is more money reported stolen from the church each year than what is given to missions.
So, we have 45 billion dollars to support 400,000 missionaries and their cross-cultural work. But how exactly is this allocated?
Well, 39 billion dollars goes to World C every year. Yep, 87% of that missions money is being spent in areas of the world that have Bibles and churches available and have largely already been evangelized.
5.4 billion (or 12%) goes to World B each year.
That leaves only 450 million dollars or 1% of all missions money going to World A, the least reached people of the world. To put that into perspective, Americans spend more money on Halloween costumes for their pets than what gets sent to World A. A little sad, don’t you think?
So, to summarize, out of 7 billion people in the world today only 3% of those people are going as missionaries with the help of only 1% of funds given to missions. This small group has the job of reaching over 2 billion people who don’t have access to the Gospel. So what are doing to help? Not a lot really. A lot more needs to be done if we want to see the end of the age. We need to give more funds to our missionaries and we need more Christians called and willing to go. We need to increase those percentages and decrease the percent of unreached people! So what are you going to do to help change those numbers?
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."
OMS was birthed in a storefront building in the heart of Tokyo, Japan. In 1901 American missionaries Charles and Lettie (the author of the best-selling devotional, ‘Streams in the Desert’) Cowman partnered with a Japanese minister, Juji Nakada, holding Christian evangelistic meetings for 2,000 consecutive nights. Before long, Japanese churches were organized, and the new association, the Japan Holiness Church (JHC), grew rapidly.
Originally known as the Oriental Missionary Society, OMS today, is engaged in ministry in over 75 countries on six continents. Partnership remains key to the effectiveness of OMS‘ endeavours to – “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19)
Working with and alongside like-minded Christian groups, organizations and indigenous churches, OMS seeks to communicate the love of God, establish Christian churches, and train and equip a nation’s people to lead and multiply their own churches.
But OMS Canada had to start somewhere, and we would like to share a bit of our history with you. We want to share the first 20 years of OMS Canada in the eyes of Dr. Stan Dyer as he has written in his book, From the Northland to the Nations.
At a very early age, Blanche Crider had felt a clear call to missionary service in China. However, health factors restricted her from ministry overseas. While employed in a newspaper office in Toronto, Blanche was given a copy of the OMS magazine, The Missionary Standard. The call to service that was referred to in the magazine, either on the foreign field or in the homeland, developed deep longings in her heart. She immediately began talking about missions, praying for missions and enlisting others to help in this intercession. Blanche opened her home for missionary prayer groups and contacted churches for OMS speakers who would drive up from the USA.
In 1938, Blanche married Bill Frith who took her to Chicago, the location of his employment. But a part of her heart remained back in Toronto with the missionary prayer ministry she had begun. A chance meeting with Mrs. Cowman began an important change in plans and assignment. Mrs. Cowman asked the Friths if they would consider opening a Canadian OMS office in Toronto. The couple sensed this was, indeed, God’s leading, and travelled back to Canada to start laying the foundation of the Canadian mission. Blanche became the official Canadian secretary in 1939 and soon after the mission was incorporated in Canada in 1944, Bill took on the full assignment as OMS Canada director and continued in this role until 1964.
As a team, the Friths and other believers whom they had rallied around them, prayed for OMS across Canada. Although the Friths never claimed to be great preachers or eloquent speakers, their godly influence and missionary fervour impacted every early OMS missionary from Canada.
Bill and Blanche laid solid plans with prayer and consecrated vision. Every new candidate was prayed through the orientation and funding process and into the field of God’s choosing. This couple left a special legacy of dedicated, humble service and compassionate labour. Gordon Coles once said of the Friths, “I shall never forget their love and concern for people, and the burden they shared with us for a lost world.”
It is upon this foundation that we continue to experience God’s faithfulness.
And so we continue with the four purposes of intentional evangelism, church planting, leadership training through theological education and strategic partnerships.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of OMS Canada. We have been blessed immensely by God in these 75 years and we pray that God will continue to bless OMS Canada and what we do. To celebrate, OMS Canada is hosting the missions conference called unFinished. We will be digging deeper into the task God has not just given to OMS but to all disciples. The reason OMS still exists today is because this task is unfinished.
If you would like to know more about this conference or would like to take part please click here.
What is the goal of discipleship? Why is it so important in the church? In our lives? Why do we have and need it? These are some of the questions that we will be looking at answering today. Being involved in discipleship is one thing, but truly understanding why we do it, brings you to a whole other level of discipleship.
What is Discipleship
Discipleship is the teaching of Biblical theology and lessons while modeling a righteous, Christ filled life style. It equips Christians with the Word of God, fellowship and positive relationships, encouragement, accountability prayer, and discipline. Discipleship isn’t something that is meant to be easy, or meant to end. It is an ongoing process that takes time, commitment, energy, effort, and patience. It is something that can’t be done on our own but must take place in community. It should take place in all of our relationships. If discipleship is teaching and modeling, we need someone to teach and model to; but, it is also about learning and growing ourselves, and for that we need someone to teach us and be a model to us as well.
The Goal of Discipleship
So what is the goal of it all? Is it to make converts? Plant more churches? What is the point of discipleship? The goal of discipleship isn’t about making converts or even disciples; it is about making disciplemakers. What do I mean by disciplemakers? A disciple is a follower of Christ, while a disciplemaker is a follower of Christ who turns and goes and makes more disciples. They don’t just settle with being a disciple. But that’s not the ultimate goal; the ultimate goal of discipleship is helping others become more like Christ. This can in turn lead to more churches being planted, but ultimately the goal of discipleship is to be in fellowship with other disciples helping one another become more like Christ.
Why is it Important
Discipleship plays a very important role in the church as well as in our individual lives. Can a church without discipleship truly be a church? Would you go to a church where there is no fellowship, or teaching of the Bible or encouragement or prayer? I wouldn’t, and that is why discipleship is important for churches. It helps the congregation of the church grow and flourish in their faith lives. Discipleship is important in our lives because it is important in the church. Discipleship brings things like positive relationships, encouragement, support, prayer, love and new lessons to learn. All of these things are things that we need; not because we are Christians but because we are human. We need love, support and relationships in our life and, because we are disciples, we need these to come from other disciples. When we get these from other people who understand our faith, the encouragement and support that we receive will be agreeable with Scripture and with God.
But we need to remember that discipleship also brings accountability and discipline. If we don’t have people, other disciples, keeping us accountable to living like Christ, the chances of us straying are greater. Accountability from other disciples will help us stay aware of our life style and keep us from straying from living a righteous life. And with accountability comes discipline. From childhood, discipline has been important in our lives. When we wanted to do something bad, our parents disciplined us to teach us not to do it, and we still need this. When we do something that goes against what Scripture says, we need someone to discipline us. Not in the sense that we judge and punish them but we help them see the wrong in their actions and walk with them as they work to fix the issue. When discipleship takes place in our own lives and we are able to grow in our faith and continue to be more like Christ, the church will also grow with us.
How Do We Do It
Like I said, discipleship takes time, commitment, energy, effort and patience. It is a process that never ends. It should start the moment we decide to follow Christ, and it should never end. That is why it is important to make disciplemakers and not just disciples. Making disciplemakers will secure the ongoing process of discipleship as it is used to make more disciples.
But what does it look like to do discipleship other than just giving our time and energy to others? Discipleship is all about teaching and fellowship. It starts with disciples. These disciples than create a community (e.g. a church) with other disciples, they are in fellowship with others who believe in Christ and want to live like Him. Once this fellowship is built you can work on building discipleship programs like Bible Studies and Kids clubs and continue to make disciplemakers. It is important to realize that discipleship starts with disciples. It can’t work if it goes backwards starting with an organization, then programs hoping to make disciples. How can disciples be made if there are no disciples to help teach and walk along the new disciples?
In summary, discipleship is teaching and fellowship among disciples with the goal of helping each other become more like Christ. It is important that we have discipleship in our lives as, without it, we can’t grow in our faith walk and help build a positive community. Discipleship is about giving a reason for your faith. Through teachings, encouragement, prayer, support and good modeling we are able to show others why we have faith and how we live like Christ which can help them do the same. We all need discipleship, no matter where we are in our faith walk. If you are not involved in discipleship already I encourage you to go and get involved. Find a discipleship group to join or start one yourself with a few friends. Not sure how to start one? Take a look at the resources and blog posts at omscanada.org, or leave a comment and I would love to help you get started! Remember discipleship starts with you being a disciple that is in fellowship with other disciples.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters."
Then people are considering missions and being involved they will express an interest to their church and hopefully to a missions agency. By expressing their interest, they are making their first step on the journey to becoming a missionary, but, they cannot do the journey alone. They need our help! We need to be encouraging and praying for these individuals. But how do we pray for someone we don’t even know? How do you pray for such individuals? Well, there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way to pray for someone, but there are suggestions on how we can pray for those interested in becoming a missionary.
1. Focus on God.
Begin by focusing on God. Thank God for his good will toward all people and his love for the world. Thank Him for His intensely personal love for this person and for the plan He has for their life. Thank God that Jesus’ death on the cross has cleansed this person of unrighteousness. And thank Him for the work of the Holy Spirit in this person’s life, and giving this person an interest in the missions field.
2. Thank God for the Person
Thank God for their gifts, potential, abilities, and skills. Thank God for the grace that is evident, and that the Holy Spirit is already at work in this person. Thank God for His promise to answer prayer.
3. Ask of God
Ask God to block the plans of Satan against this person. Ask Him to bless the person and to make clear to them His goodness in such ways that there can be no doubt that it is God and not coincidence or chance. Ask God to strengthen every good personality trait, every good desire and every right decision of this person. Ask God to make this person open and receptive to His voice and sensitive to His leading. Ask Him to release this person from any prejudice, to break any chain of sin or habit that may block God’s purpose. And ask God to surround this person with His presence and melt away any hesitation with His great love.
4. Claim God’s Promise.
Claim God’s promise to guide this person. Claim God’s promise to gather for Himself a people from every people, tongue, tribe and nation. And pray that God would send this person into the harvest to do His work.
Prayer is an important and powerful tool. Many things can be done through prayer. When we pray for those we may not know, it is our way of encouraging them. We are bringing them up to God so that through God we may join them on their journey of God’s call on their lives.
Each year, OMS spends time at different Mission Events where individuals express an interest in mission work. These individuals need our help and our encouragement. Please join us in praying for these individuals and that God will send more labourers into the harvest. If you would like to receive a list of names of individuals to pray for you can contact the office.
This content was adapted from Wesley Duewel’s book “Touch the World through Prayer” . It is used by permission of the Duewel Literature Trust, Inc. Greenwood, Indiana.
Going to church and calling myself a Christian automatically makes me a disciple. Or one would think. Calling yourself a disciple is a fancy way of saying you are a follower of Christ. But look at it this way. I can go to school and call myself a student but that doesn’t automatically mean I am going to graduate. Becoming a student, and attending school are steps in what makes me a graduate. Going to church and being a Christian are only little parts in what makes me a disciple. Being a disciple isn’t just going to church and saying I follow Christ, it’s an intentional process, and one a lot of us tend to forget, or even ignore.
1. Deny Yourself (Mark 8:34; Matthew 6:33; Luke 14:33)
This starts with repentance, and admitting to your sins which leads to a transformation. A baptism where you are born again in Christ. It continues with you making God your first priority in life. You give God your life, you leave the plans you had for yourself to follow God’s plans. You are no longer the driver, the one running your life. You must give God ownership to all that you are and to all that you own. It’s because of Him you have it anyways, right?.
2. Read, Understand and Apply Scripture (John 8:31; Matthew 4:4; Luke 11:28)
Reading Scripture is extremely important, but it is also important that we that we understand what it is saying and that we apply it to our lives. Often we read a passage and it leaves our minds the second after it enters. To be disciples we need to read Scripture but also apply it to our lives and this requires that we understand it.
3. Teach, Serve, Love (Matthew 28:20; John 13:34-35; Ephesians 5:1-2)
Teach others all that you know about Jesus, teach them to obey every command that he has given us. As a disciple you will always be a student but you must also be a teacher. Mike Breen says that every disciple must look like a sheep from the front and a shepherd from the back. We must also never stop loving. There is no shortage of commands and verses in the Bible that tell us to love as Christ loved. To be a disciple is to be an imitator of Christ; to love as Christ loved.
4. Transform your Mind and Live Righteously (2 Timothy 2:15; Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 10:31)
To truly be a disciple of Christ we need to focus our lives on living righteously and living free of sin. Yes, I know that as humans it is impossible to be completely sinless, but as a disciple we are called to a higher standard, God’s standard, of living. We can’t do as the world does. When we are born again, we need to transform our minds, attitudes and actions. We need to live righteously and act in a way that pleases God and brings glory to His name alone.
5. Counsel (Proverbs 11:14; Hebrews 13:17; Proverbs 12:15)
We are meant to receive counsel in our lives. It is said in Scripture that the wise receive counsel. When we try to live on our own and believe we always know best we are setting ourselves up to fall. You’ve probably heard the quote “two heads are better than one”, well it can apply to this. Seeking counsel and help from another disciple is better than not seeking counsel. Remember to use others in the family of Christ for help and advice.
6. Evangelize (Mark 16:15; Acts 20:24; Luke 4:18)
Evangelizing is an important part of being a disciple. We need to share of God’s grace and love. We must share the Gospel with anyone and everyone. Share your testimony of what God has done for you in your life. This can show others the power of God and also be encouraging for them. God is too good to keep to ourselves!
7. Worship (1 Chronicles 16:23-31; Hebrews 12: 28-29; Psalm 113:3)
As a disciple we are to worship God in all that we do. It isn’t just singing songs at church on Sunday morning, it can be done in many ways. When we use the gifts and talents that God has blessed us with to honour Him, that is worship. You can worship God by playing sports, studying for school, and even cooking. Obeying the commands God has given us is a form of worship too. Worship God in everything you do!
No one ever said that being a disciple of Christ was going to be easy work. It takes constant work and effort. It is an ongoing process where you never stop learning and growing in your faith. Look at it like a journey. When you are going somewhere you have to keep moving until you reach that place. You can’t stop walking half way and expect to get there. On your faith journey, you have to continue to walk towards God by constantly working through the process of being a disciple. It doesn’t have to be done in any specific order, but everything has to be done. And we can’t stop. The process of being a disciple doesn’t end until the day of Jesus’ return, and Jesus has said that he will return when all nations have had the chance to hear the Gospel (Matthew 24:14). So where do you stand on the process of being a disciple? Are any of the tasks missing from your life?
The language that dominates the theology of mission today features a hierarchy or an order of status describing its very essence. All the terms are derived from the Latin word missio (roughly translated “sent”) and are used to convey the concept rooted in the biblica l Greek term apostello. At the top is Missio Dei. This is followed by mission and missional in the middle. At the bottom, and considered by some to be a relic from the past, is missions.
This reality raises a couple of questions: “Are all these terms really needed? Are there distinctions to be communicated by the different terms?”
As to the distinctions they convey, Missio Dei literally means “mission of God,” and includes everything that God is doing in the world to achieve His purposes. He is sovereign over all and all that He does in the world, either directly or through His agents, is apart of Missio Dei.
The part of the Missio Dei that is undertaken by the Church in all of its variety is reflected in the word mission—the mission of the Church, and all it is to do in the world. Missional is a much more recent adaptation of the term to distinguish the outward or other-focus of the Church’s mission from all that the Church does to teach, care for, and minister to its own.
While some may see it as a vestige of the colonial past, or a “From the West to the Rest” approach to mission, missions is actually about that part of the mission of the Church that seeks to cross cultural, religious, and ethnic boundaries to introduce and further the work of the gospel.
In addition, establishing churches among those people groups and communities where Christ is least known has been distinguished over the last several decades as what frontier missions is all about.
As to whether all these terms are really needed, each one has a particularly important emphasis, even though each overlaps or encompasses at least some of what the others convey. So they are all interrelated, but, to the extent that they are properly understood, each term serves a useful purpose. The problems arise when the terms are used in exclusive ways for which they aren’t adequate.
To say, for example, either that the Missio Dei and the mission of the Church are synonymous, or that the mission of the Church is all that one needs to focus on or be concerned about, runs the risk of defining everything as mission.
As historian Stephen Neill once pointed out, “If everything is missions, nothing is missions.”
Neill might have been even more correct had he said, “If everything is missions, cross-cultural missions is not far from extinction.” The reason is that squeaky wheels receive all the attention, but even squeaky wheels that are far away are rarely heard.
Human nature is very predictable when it comes to setting priorities. The things that affect us most intimately—the welfare of our family and friends and the welfare of our community and country—are always going to receive first dibs on our attention. It takes a major adjustment to our mental and spiritual orientation for us to add a focus on geographically or culturally-distant people living and dying without the gospel.
If people(s) and places are outside our orbit of first-hand relationships, then it takes a lot of information and inspiration to get us to really care. And if a missions emphasis focusing on those outside of our own language or culture is not a significant part of the burden and teaching of local churches and their members, it will almost always be ignored. Without an intentional emphasis, the needs across the street will tend to crowd out the needs across the world.
So rather than limiting ourselves to one or two generalized terms related to mission, or using generalized substitutes words like ‘outreach’, it really is important to be precise in what we are talking about.
Missio Dei is about all that God does in the world. Mission is about all that the Church/churches do in the world. Missional is about what the Church/churches do to reach out beyond themselves. And missions is about crossing cultural and language boundaries with the gospel to minister to those with limited/least access to it. Without a special emphasis on missions, the unreached and the least-reached will likely stay that way far longer than they should.
Do you know what the ten truths in missions are? The ten things that without, things begin to go astray? Each of the ten truths is important; none should be forgotten or ignored. Take a look to see if you and your church have remembered all 10 in your missions strategy.
1. God has an end goal for humanity, that all peoples, tongues, tribes, and nations worship Him
John Piper states in his book, “Let the Nations be Glad” that missions is not the ultimate goal of the church; worship is. “Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more.”
2. This goal is a major theme of Scripture (Gen 3 – Rev 22)
It is an often neglected or ignored theme though. If I were to ask you to complete this verse, ‘Be still and know…’ most would be able to say ‘…that I am God.’ But that is only 1/3 of the verse. The complete verse, from Psalm 46:10 is, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The point of much of the Old Testament is to showcase God’s marvelous deeds in order that His name would be made great among the nations.
3. The Great Commission – the Evangelization and Discipleship of All Nations (Matthew 28:19-20)
The Great Commission is the means to the goal. Only those who are born again (John 3:3) may enter the kingdom of God and participate in the worship of the Lamb that we see in Revelation 7:9-10), which is the ultimate goal for humanity. Therefore, it is through the proclamation of the gospel in the completing of the Great Commission that we accomplish this goal (Romans 10:14-15).
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
4.The Church is God’s primary agent to carry out the Great Commission in this age
We know that the Great Commission given to the disciples was actually given more broadly to the church because of the promise that completes the commission in Matthew 28:20 “…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The age has not yet ended; therefore the commission is still in force on those of us who have followed. And the means of doing this is through the proclamation of the gospel (Romans 10:14-15) and the making of disciples (Matthew 28:19).
5. The Great Commission is the primary mission of every church
Apart from the church’s imperative to worship God, it must be all about the business of making disciples. Whatever else a church may do, if it is not making disciples, it is failing in its obedience to its master and his commission.
6. This mission belongs to the whole church
There is no basis upon which a congregation may claim exclusion from obedience to the Great Commission.
7. The Great Commission includes three kinds of people
People like us nearby
People unlike us nearby
People unlike us far away
This is one way of understanding the final words of Jesus to his followers in Acts 1:8, “…and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” There are those in our neighbourhoods who look like we do, who speak the same language as we do and who have a similar cultural paradigm. These are those like us nearby, our Jerusalem. Then there are those unlike us nearby, the immigrants in our communities, perhaps refugees who have settled, or the foreign students on a college or university campus. They do not look like you, do not share the same language or cultural paradigm. These will require a significant investment of time and effort to cross those boundaries of difference in order to make a Gospel connection. And lastly there are those people groups who are unlike us and who live far away. These are the ones typically targeted by missionaries.
8. The congregation is responsible to reach the people they can reach
The endless near-neighbour evangelism is the responsibility of each congregation that is not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are to be salt and light in our community (Matthew 5:13-16).
9. Missions is primarily the church’s efforts to help fulfill the Great Commission among people beyond the reach of the local congregation
The “s” on the end of missions is important because it helps to differentiate the evangelistic efforts directed toward those unlike us far away. It is primarily this activity that moves us closer to the completion of the Great Commission, which we believe to be explained by Jesus in Matthew 24:14. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
10. The church’s missions team has two arenas of responsibility: external (deployment) and internal (mobilization)
Typically, when a congregation thinks in terms of it’s responsibility in missions, it involves the sending of funds for support of a missionary who may or may not have come from within the congregation. That is the external deployment of resources whether personnel or finances. But there is a neglected aspect of the missions team’s responsibility and that is the development and mobilization of those resources.
Specifically, it means developing the source of the funds that are sent in support of missionaries. Whether it is through a discipleship of generosity or through fundraising events, the funds must be gathered. The more intentional the missions committee can be about this responsibility, the easier it will be to follow through on commitments.
There is also the responsibility to develop and mobilize new missionaries. A significant element of the discipleship process should be the consideration of how one may be obedient to the Great Commission and whether a period of time spent serving cross-culturally is an option. Romans 10:14-15 asks,”…and how shall they preach unless they are sent?”
So how are you doing? Each of these 10 truths highlight an important area of missions work. The extent to which we are hitting each of the 10 truths indicates how well we are doing at missions. If you would like help in thinking through the process of examining your church’s missions strategy in order to be more efficient and focused, contact us. We would love to begin a discussion with you.
If you were to ask the people in your church, how many of them would be able to tell you what the Great Commission is? Not where you find it in the Bible, or what the verse is, but the actual meaning and importance of it? We tend to forget to teach that part. The Great Commission is more than a verse in the Bible; it is the church’s job, our job, to help people understand what it is and what it means.
What Is It?
What Does It Mean?
Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” Matthew 28:19-20, the famous Great Commission. But what does it mean?
To get a good understanding of what the Great Commission means it is best to break it down into 5 parts.
1. “Therefore, go”
We are called to go, to get up and do something! But it means more than to get up and go somewhere. It means to leave your comfort zone. God doesn’t expect everyone to do the actual going, He doesn’t call everyone to do that. Sometimes God calls us to be the ones that support the actual goers. This may require us to get out of our comfort zone by praying for someone or supporting them financially. Even Paul in Romans 15:23-33 asks for material and prayer support, and he was known as one of the great missionaries.
2. “And make disciples of all nations”
This part ties in with the first. We are to Go and make disciples of all nations. This is the section that is the direct command of the commission. We are to make disciples of all nations, and the rest are the means to this commandment; go, baptize and teach. We also need to focus on the last part of this sentence, “of all nations’. This is so important! The Great Commission isn't only about local evangelism; it focuses on all nations! We can’t stay home in our own little community and think that that is enough! We need to cross borders and reach every nation around the world!
3. “Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.
This is one of the means to obeying the ultimate command of making disciples. We must baptize new believers. Jesus said in John 3:5-7 that no one can come to know God and enter His kingdom unless they are born again of water and of the Spirit. To be born again is to leave your old life behind and give up yourself and all that you had to follow Jesus. To follow Jesus! To follow Jesus, is to be a disciple, so through baptism we are creating disciples.
Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’
4. “And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”
Another means to obeying the ultimate command of making disciples is teaching. Jesus tells us to teach the nations EVERYTHING he has commanded us. Not certain aspects or the good or easy things but everything he has commanded. And not to just teach the command but teach to OBEY the command. It is important to see this difference. To be a disciple of Christ we must obey his commands and not just know them. If we don’t teach the nations to know AND obey Jesus’ commandments we are failing at making true disciples. As Jesus says “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15). We can’t be Jesus’ disciples if we don’t love him, and if we love him we need to obey his commands.
5. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”
This is the ending of the Great Commission. It ends off with Jesus reminding us that he is always with us. We can take comfort in this knowing that when we are going, baptizing and teaching we aren’t doing it on our own strength, but with the power of Jesus. “To the very end of the age”, means to the end of time, and the end of time comes when Jesus returns. So this commandment is a commandment that continues for all old and new followers. It wasn't given only for the 12. It needs to be obeyed until Jesus comes back to earth.
We need to do a better job at teaching others about the Great Commission. We can’t pass it off as just another verse to be memorized. We need to explain the meaning of it, what it means for us to actually do what is commanded of us and why we must do it. We need to leave our comfort zones and go. We need to cross borders to all nations. We need to baptize new believers and teach them to know and obey Jesus’s commandments. And we need to realize that this commandment didn’t stop existing when the 12 died. It continues today, and will continue until Jesus returns. We can’t let it end with our generation, we need to teach the importance of it to each generation to come. So what steps will you take to obey this Great Commission?
If you love me, keep my commands."
How many times have you told yourself that you weren’t a good enough person for God to use? How many times have you thought that you were too damaged or broken for anything good to come from you? Well, you aren’t alone with these thoughts! Many Christians today believe the lie that they will never be good enough for God to use. But, that is all it is, a lie. God uses the broken and He can use you!
You are Chosen
We are God’s chosen people. God chose us because he wanted us to do His work. God doesn’t have favourites that He chooses. He chooses all of us. We may think that we will be the last chosen because we are more broken or we sin more but Romans 3:23 says “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. We all have sinned! Before you were even born God planned your path, and he chose you for a specific purpose. You are a chosen child of God; you may be broken but it doesn’t mean you can’t be used. God isn’t done with you yet.
-Jeremiah 29:11, Ephesians 1:3-4, Philippians 1:6
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last."
God Walks with You
We may be broken, but God often uses brokenness for His glory. When God calls us to service, I think we sometimes forget that we aren’t doing it alone. I don’t know about you, but, as a broken person, if I were to try to do anything God asked of me alone and on my own, I would fail. So I am super grateful to know that I am never alone. God doesn’t call us to do His work and then just leave us to do it alone and on our own! He provides us with the strength, the knowledge and the tools to complete our task. In Matthew 28:19-20 we can find the Great Commission where God calls us to go and make disciples, but do you know how it ends? The Great Commission ends with God telling us that He will be with us the entire way!
-Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 118:6, Matthew 28:19-20
God Chooses the Least Likely
You may think God won’t call you to do something because you don’t think you are qualified to do it. That isn’t how God works. God doesn’t necessarily call those that seem the most qualified. God calls anyone and everyone and then He makes them qualified for the job. Don’t believe me? Well, look at a few examples in the Bible. Moses was called to speak in front of Pharaoh, but he wasn’t good at speaking. Elijah was a Prophet; he was also suicidal. And Job, Job went bankrupt but God still used him even after he had no money. These people may never be our first picks to do our work, but they are God’s. Why? Because God can and will use anyone. God wants to use those less qualified because it shows His glory more when He makes them qualified and they succeed at their work.
-1 Corinthians 1:26-31, Exodus 3-4, 1 Kings 19:1-18, Book of Job
God doesn’t necessarily call those that seem the most qualified. God calls anyone and everyone and then He makes them qualified for the job"
God knows how we humans work. He knows that we relate better to those of the same kind. If you went bankrupt and were struggling, who would you rather talk to about it, someone who has been where you’ve been, or someone who has never known the struggle? God takes what we call weaknesses and He makes them our greatest strengths. You may think that because you’re depressed you have nothing to offer, but you do! You have the ability to talk and help others who also are depressed in a way someone else can’t. He prepares you. Maybe you don’t think you have the money to serve, but if God calls you, He will provide the funds for you to go. He equips you. Look for ways that God may be preparing you for service because God can use you! You’re His chosen child and He has a use for you! Are you ready to let God turn your weaknesses into strengths?
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
Following God’s call to become a Christian missionary is a great way to serve the Lord. Yet, there’s more involved than just declaring that you want to be a missionary. Each mission field, mission agency and mission opportunity will have its own special requirements. You will need to take time to prepare for serving the Lord long-term.
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” --Isaiah 6:8
A speaker may emotionally move you to go and serve, but this emotion will only sustain you on the field for a short time. A true sense of calling by God is what’s necessary to keep a missionary on the field.
So, how do you know you have been called to mission work? Well, first, there should be an internal compelling desire to serve the Lord in some capacity. You cannot deny that God is leading you, by the Holy Spirit, to perform a task.
The best external indicator of God’s call is your pastor. Your pastor can often see fruit in your life and recognize God’s leading. Of course, they can be wrong, but most pastors will be able to honestly evaluate and either confirm or caution you. It is always a great idea to talk to your pastor before making any life changing decisions.
The Initial Preparation
Once God’s call to be a missionary has been confirmed, you should begin preparing for service. Many decisions must be made in the process including:
The formal preparation for becoming a missionary is schooling and educational training. It may or may not be a Bible degree but many agencies will require that you have a college degree of some sort. This requirement is so they can know that you have the character to complete more training if needed.
Some areas of ministry may require special training beyond your normal schooling. This may be practical training such as on the job experience or formal training in the specific area. For example, if you are looking to be a missionary working as a teacher you may need formal training as a teacher.
Language training may also be required if you are doing cross-cultural missions. It is always beneficial to know the language of the people you will be serving. It is wise to start language training as soon as possible so you can be prepared. Online tools and apps are great ways to get started!
Practical preparation is not necessarily required but it is highly recommended and beneficial. It can include reading, going on a short-term trip first and finding fellowship.
Reading missionary biographies will help the you learn about life on the field. Knowing that others have gone through incredible trials of faith can be encouraging when you learn how God demonstrated his faithfulness.
See the Field
Going on a short-term mission trip before committing to long term missions can be beneficial. The experience can help you see what it is like to be on the mission field. It can also give you a better perspective of what the people need.
Like-minded Fellowship and Counsel
A great idea if you are wanting to become a missionary is to get to know other missionaries. It allows you to build relationships with others who understand what you will experience on the field. You can also receive council and encouragement from veteran missionaries during trying times.
Following God’s call will take time. Rarely does someone hear God’s call on their lives and goes to the field in a matter of weeks. With choosing the right mission opportunity, the training and the extra preparation, it can take years. As a missionary you will also be called to raise prayer and financial support. This involves several months of visiting churches, pastors, friends and family to share about the call God has placed on your heart. But don’t be discouraged. All the preparation is necessary to prepare you for a lifetime of service. God is getting you ready to follow His call. Are you ready to get started? Click here to see the 10 Steps to Becoming a Missionary.
After 10 days of Haiti at a stand-still, paralyzed by high prices, lack of fuel, political tension and mounting fear, this morning began with loud mayhem and the sounds of glass shattering, right in front of the Emmaus gate.