My eyesight is such that I must wear glasses for distance, and for reading. It's a signal that I'm getting older. And it is a confirmation of what Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 4:16 when he says that outwardly we are wasting away.
So when I have my eyesight tested, I can expect that a new prescription will be necessary. And that means I will have to buy new eyeglasses. My Dutch heritage kicks in and I hunt for the most reasonable option.
Now, we have used an online sunglasses retailer in the past for my glasses. I ordered them with progressive lenses. Progressive lenses are like bifocals. This means I can read through the bottom part of the lens and see distant things through the top part of the same lens. They worked well, but I was always moving my head up and down, trying to find that sweet spot.
But I made a discovery. I realized that two single-vision eyeglasses were cheaper than one with progressive lenses.
Again, the Dutch kicked in, and I opted for the cheaper option; two pair of single vision eyeglasses.
They arrived in the mail and were exactly as I ordered. This is perfect. I thought. That is until I actually tried to see with them on under normal use. The glasses for distance worked well when I was looking into the distance, say from ten feet and beyond. And the glasses for reading worked well for reading. But the middle distance, between 18 inches, and 10 feet, was a blurry mess.
What I failed to take into account was progressive lenses are good for that middle distance as well. The profile of the lens provides vision improvement at any distance.
The two pair model that I had adopted left a big blind spot. It was a vision fail.
It struck me that this can be the case for congregations and missions as well.
Here is what I believe. Many congregations wear only their near-neighbour glasses. They don't see the need for cross-cultural work among the nations. This 'missions near-sightedness' does not take into account God's heart for the nations.
There are so many scriptures (hundreds) that speak of God's global purpose. That global purpose is that the nations know and worship Him.
Joshua 4:23-24 tells us why God dried up the Jordan River and the Red Sea. It was so that all peoples (nations) would know that God's hand is mighty.
1 Samuel 17:45-47 reveals why God caused David to defeat Goliath. It was so that all the earth (nations) would know that there is a God in Israel.
Psalm 2:8 tells us that the nations are the heritage of God's son, and the ends of the earth are his possession.
Isaiah 49:6 lets us know the extent to which God intends to impact the world. He went beyond the nation of Israel to become a light to the nations. And it was so that His salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
Of course, Matthew 28:19 tells us to make disciples of all nations.
Romans 15:12 shows Paul's understanding of Isaiah his message. He understood that the Gentiles, (nations) would also find their hope in Jesus.
Romans 15:20 Here Paul tells of his heartbeat for the nations. His aim is not to preach the gospel where Christ has already been named. His aim is to preach the gospel where He is unknown and inaccessible. That's why he was going to Spain.
Galatians 3:8 makes it clear that the blessing of the nations with the gospel is what Abraham was told about in Genesis chapter 12:1-3.
And then in Revelation 7:9-10 we are given a glimpse of the fulfilment of God's global purpose. It is a vast multitude of worshippers from every people, tongue, tribe, and nation.
I believe a congregational ministry strategy must include near-neighbour evangelism and faraway cross-cultural missions. Your discipleship should include both as well. They should be a regular part of the congregational diet.
OMS Canada would love to discuss a mission’s strategy with you. We would love to know what you are doing well and where you think you could improve.
And we are able to facilitate a strategy development process with your mission’s committee or leadership team.
So how is your church doing? Not sure? Let us send you an assessment tool to help you figure out where you are right now. Because a strategy is like a roadmap. You must know where you want to go and you must know where you are right now. We can help.
Feel free to contact us here.
Between Christmas and New Year OMS Canada placed a booth at the P2C Plus conference in Toronto. This is an annual event for the ministry to college and university students formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ. It is now known as Power to Change. At this event were a little more than 300 students from across Canada who were willing to give up a portion of their Christmas break to participate in a conference that featured main sessions and breakout sessions, all of which challenged these students to take seriously their call to be disciples of Jesus Christ.
It was very encouraging to see so many students on fire for Jesus Christ and who are considering how discipleship should and must touch every area of their life.
A part of OMS Canada’s participation in this event was the sponsoring of wifi access for conference participants. The password for the free wifi was OMSInternational. And, being millennials, every one of those students would have typed in the password at least once. So the OMS name is now known among this group.
Free access to wifi can also be a picture of access to the Gospel. We all need access to the Father and Creator of us all. Such access is not possible without righteousness, which we can neither create nor purchase. We are totally reliant on the goodwill provision of another to provide that access.
In the same way that OMS Canada provided free access to conference participants, Jesus Christ offers righteousness to those who require it.
But, if the conference participants never knew that wifi was available, or if they knew it was available but did not know the password, they could not access the free resource.
In just the same way, an unreached people who does not know that righteousness is available, or if it does not know how to access that righteousness, then they would die in their sins.
As Paul says in Romans 10:13-15, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
In an unreached people group, the need is for someone to go and serve as a gospel hotspot, someone who will provide the access to God’s Gospel network to a people who do not know such a network exists.
This is our purpose, to find people who are willing to be a Gospel Hotspot, providing access to the Gospel where there is no access.
OMS Canada is looking for 20 new missionaries by the end of this year. This is our 20/20 Vision. Will you become a partner with us? Our most effective tool to accomplish this vision is prayer. And I am asking you to become a prayer warrior with me.
In Matthew 9, Jesus looked out on the crowds and had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. He then told his disciples (and you and me) to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out more labourers into the harvest. In terms of recruitment, that is our main task, our main responsibility. To pray for more labourers.
If we are to have this vision fulfilled this year, it will be because God’s people prayed it to fulfillment. Join me in praying everyday for more labourers.
Give me a call or send me an email to let me know that you will pray with me:
Mark Kroes, Executive Director
Four Myths That Keep Your Church From Having a Missions Strategy
Having a clear church missions strategy leads to more meaningful and effective ministry. So why don’t more churches have one?
I read of a survey from Gordon Colwell Theological Seminary that suggested that 40 percent of evangelical churches in America don’t have a written strategy guiding their missions work. These figures are not likely very different in Canada.
The survey also suggested that the 60 percent of churches that do have a written strategy are markedly more engaged in cross-cultural international work than those who do not have a written strategy. This should not surprise us. A vision does not always spark action, but it is still true that action nearly always follows vision.
If you need help developing a mission strategy, contact OMS Canada to investigate the possibility of a facilitated Strategy Planning for your church.
However, before you get there, it is worth pausing to think about four common myths that often keep churches from developing missions strategies. These are sometimes unstated myths, but whether you have heard them or not, chances are we’ve all believed some of these at one point.
1.“We don’t need a strategy”
The thinking here tends to be that “we’re just following Jesus,” so we can forgo written strategies and formal plans.
That doesn’t really work for a lot of reasons, such as the following.
It’s certainly true that our strategies must remain subservient to and flow from the ultimate strategies and examples in Scripture, but that doesn’t free us from the responsibility to bring that strategy to bear on our communities and the world. And that necessarily requires forethought.
A missions strategy is really nothing more than a plan, and the simple fact of that matter is that very few of us can accomplish complex tasks without first making a plan. It’s just how God wired us.
I can remember to get dressed and brush my teeth in the morning, but completing a project at work forces me to sit down and figure out how I’ll get it done. Engaging the lost world around you is much more complex than brushing your teeth, so there is no shame in planning how you’ll go about it.
Planning isn’t evidence of a lack of faith or an unwillingness to follow the Spirit’s leading; it’s the simple admission that we are fickle and easily distracted people, and that we will be far more faithful to God’s leading if we commit ourselves to a course of action before distraction takes us off track.
2.“We don’t have a vision”
This myth tends to pop up in churches that still believe cross-cultural missions falls inextricably under the expertise of mission agencies, while local churches are best equipped to do other things. Tasks like missionary assessment, preparation, training, accountability and care sometimes feel like things best left to the “experts,” so the local church takes a step back.
While it is true that a good mission agency can provide critical support to a church’s missionary-sending activity, it is untrue that cross-cultural missions is a mysterious world that the local church knows nothing about. Culture and language change from place to place, but God, His world and the human heart are the same wherever you go. This means that principles for good local ministry will generally translate internationally.
Chances are you have a sense of how God has called and equipped your church to minister in your community, which has in turn shaped a core part of your church’s identity.
That activity and identity don’t need to be set aside when you think about how to minister internationally. Instead, start by asking the question, “How has God equipped us to reach His world?” Then prayerfully consider what that means for your international engagement as well.
3.“We’re too small, too new or too poor”
This idea is usually connected to the notion that “We’ll do that when we’re bigger, more established or have more resources.” Together, these beliefs keep us from seeing what God has called us to today by convincing us that it will be easier to follow Him tomorrow.
Of course, it is true that investing ourselves intentionally requires selectivity, or saying “no” to some things so that we can say “yes” to others. But, if we make our selections today based on the belief that we will be fundamentally different people tomorrow, we are letting our strategy be hijacked by a very clever lie.
The notion that a congregation’s missions calling somehow depends on its size, experience or resources is rooted in the mistaken belief that God’s people are more limited by these things than they are empowered by the Spirit that raised Christ from the dead.
In fact, our vision and strategy should boldly flow from God’s character and activity, rather than being tentatively sketched based on what our timid hearts can grasp right now.
4.“There’s so much to do here” or “We’re called to local ministry”
This is based on the mistaken beliefs that there is no difference between local and cross-cultural, that it is all missions. But, as Stephen Neill has stated, “If everything is missions, then nothing is missions.” The quite clear teaching of Scripture points over and over again to the heart of God for the nations (people groups) and His purpose to have every people, tongue, tribe, and nation present around the throne (Revelation 7:9).
The mandate to the church is Jerusalem and Judea/Samaria and the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Furthermore, it is far more possible today for North American churches to learn from and minister alongside majority world churches. The possibilities for learning and engagement are endless, but we need a strategy to direct our attention.
However, rather than writing off local ministry for the sake of global ministry (or vice-versa) a wise missions strategy will try to bring the two areas together. It will force you to look for areas of expertise in your local ministry that can be put to use around the world. It will cause you to think about the relationships that you have around the world and make connections that could improve your local ministry.
It is one thing to individually become a global Christian, but a church missions strategy will start your congregation down the path to becoming a truly global Christian community that is open to, engaged in and learning from what God is doing around the world.
So what about you? Does your church have a missions strategy? If so, does the congregation know what the strategy is? If not, why not? Can we help your leaders think through this strategy question?
We are ready to help in any way possible, no strings attached and free of charge.
Click here to contact us.
This is the final post in our missionary call series. We hope that the Lord has spoken to your heart as you have worked though the previous posts.
In the last post, we saw that there is evidence to support the claim that, if one is properly relating to God and pursuing godliness, there is little to fear in terms of missing God’s call. We made the point that, just like the children of Israel following the deliverance from Egypt, they were not responsible to find the promised land. They were responsible to follow the cloud and the pillar. God would lead them as long as they were faithful in what they knew to do.
That’s what Augustine meant when he said, “Love God and do as you please.”
Loving God will have an effect on obedience to what you already know to do and will also have an effect on the decisions you make. But loving God is the key.
So, what does loving God look like? How can we put ourselves in the spot where we can believe that the decisions we make accord with the will of God?
We know that God’s purpose in His dealings with His children is conformity to the image of Jesus Christ. Paul tells us in Romans 8:29, “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.” That is to say, to make us Christ like or holy. Hebrews 12:14 tells us to strive for holiness, without which we will not see God. So how do I pursue this holiness? How do I become more like Jesus Christ?
We find a pretty clear answer in 1 Timothy 4:7-8: “Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Here, Paul tells Timothy that he needed to train or discipline himself for godliness, making the connection to an athlete who undertakes some physical training or discipline for the sake of sport. In the same way that an athlete undergoes physical training to become proficient at some physical activity, so the child of God must undergo spiritual training to become proficient at holiness.
The obvious question to be asked here is, so what are these training activities that will make me more Christ like and put me in a good place to follow God’s leading in my life? I am glad you asked.
There are a number of contemporary authors who have written significant books about this very topic – spiritual disciplines.
Richard Foster wrote “Celebration of Discipline” in 1978. More recently, Donald Whitney has written “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.” In his introduction to this book, Whitney states that there are three main catalysts that God uses to change our lives and make us more holy but only one is largely under our control.
He uses people to change us – the iron sharpens iron principle. He also uses circumstances – God works out all things for the good of those who love Him. And He uses spiritual disciplines. This catalyst differs from the other two in that when God uses the spiritual disciplines to change us, He is working from the inside out. And we must remember that there is a specific purpose for these disciplines and that is godliness or holiness. And this godliness or holiness is the place where we will most naturally follow God’s will or His direction for us.
Do you wonder what these spiritual disciplines are? You can probably guess some of them already, but you may be surprised by some that are in the list. We will list them to finish this blog post and then in the next year we will occasionally pull one of the disciplines out and examine it. Our prayer is that God will challenge each one of us to a deeper walk with Him resulting in holiness.
Here is the list of spiritual disciplines:
And don’t forget that the purpose of engaging in each of these disciplines is godliness. We are not saved by doing these things. Only God can save. But we are made more godly, more Christ like by the practice of these disciplines.
Do you already do some of these disciplines regularly? Which of these are surprises? Is there one or two that might be more challenging for you? Leave a comment and tell us about it.
One of the great privileges of working with a missions organization is the opportunity to see how many connections there are between missions and various parts of Scripture. And there is a connection between Christmas and missions.
So what does Christmas have to do with missions? I’m glad you asked.
Biblically, missions should never be far from the center of our Christmas celebrations, for two reasons:
First, Jesus is the greatest example of a cross-cultural missionary. For missions concerns crossing cultural boundaries, we, the church of Jesus Christ, must send missionaries cross-culturally if we are to fulfill the task our Lord gives us: Bringing worshipers from every tribe and tongue and people and nation to Him. And, think about it: Who crossed the greatest cultural divide ever? Jesus Himself! He came from the glory of the throne-room of God into the womb of a woman, and then into a feeding trough for cattle. What an example!
Second: Jesus is more than an example. Jesus became man in order to purchase for His own possession ONE people made up of all the peoples of the earth. He came so that all will see that NO CULTURAL BARRIER will keep people from God. He came so that God will be praised in EVERY language. He came so that the purpose of the creation of every people group would be fulfilled, and that purpose is to glorify God.
So for a true believer in Jesus – as opposed to someone who is simply a cultural Christian – Christmas should be a time of particular focus on the task that Christ gives His church. The task is similar to our Lord’s cross-cultural journey. The task is made possible by His incarnation. The task is crossing cultural barriers, going even to hard, resistant peoples – even when that is uncomfortable and dangerous – for God’s glory, for our joy, for the joy of those peoples.
We believe Prayer is the battlefield for fruitfulness and we depend on it for a successful ministry. We ask you to consider joining our prayer team in any of the following ways. Click here to learn more.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” John 20:21
Merry Christmas from all of us at OMS Canada.
Identifying the Missionary ‘Call’
While God can certainly give us inner promptings, His will does not need finding because it was never lost. It is in Scripture.
Are you “called” to be a missionary?
Discovering God’s will for your life can be daunting. What if I miss God’s best? What if it’s outside my comfort zone? What if I can’t hear God’s voice? What if I misunderstand it? What if I misinterpret it? These questions can create some very real anxiety—or avoidance.
Nevertheless, God does not want us frozen by fear. While God certainly can give us inner “nudges,” His will does not need to be found because it was never lost. His complete, entire will is contained in His Word. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:16-17)
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness… by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises…. (2 Peter 1:3a, 4a)
The Bible reveals God’s will: for us to disciple the nations. That is the big picture. To be sure, Scripture does not tell us everything. God’s plan for the details of our individual lives are often secret (Deuteronomy 29:29). However, if we simply obey what we know, He will guide us:
The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way. (Psalm 37:23)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
We cannot decipher God’s sovereign will for every detail of our future. It is futile to try—God, after all, “frustrates the plans of the peoples” (Psalm 33:10). But God has given us a quite comprehensive guide on how to conduct ourselves in a manner that pleases Him and conforms us to the image of His son. And within those parameters, we actually have freedom to choose what we enjoy.
It is not unlike the responsibility the Israelites had as they made their way from Egypt to the Promised Land through the wilderness. They were not told to find the land of promise. They were simply to follow the cloud and the pillar, day after day after day. As they did day by day what they knew to do, God led them exactly where they needed to go.
Augustine wrote, “Love God and do as you please.” In other words, if we truly love God and are doing the day-by-day things we know to do, our aim will certainly be to please Him.
“To know the will of God we need an open Bible and an open map.” William Carey
Does that free us to live for our own pleasures? Hardly. “To whom much was given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). We are accountable to live intentionally, wisely, and submissively for God’s glory, not selfish benefit. And if we trust that God’s will is sufficiently revealed in Scripture, we will begin to see His missionary heart bleeding through every page—and we will sense that we are all called in some way, whether as goers or senders, to engage that mission.
Therefore, as William Carey, missionary to India, stated, “To know the will of God we need an open Bible and an open map.” The question of calling is not one of waiting to see a flashing neon sign over a world map or feel a “liver-quiver” when someone mentions the right country—it’s about assessing your abilities, circumstances, desires, and the opportunities in light of the global need.
For more information about the global need, read this post about the Billion.global vision.
How are you participating in the Missionary call?
Do you enjoy taking trips? Isn’t it exciting to visit new places and simply take a break from the day to day?
We all do enjoy taking a trip every once in a while and it is important to take these times of rest. It’s also important to take a life-changing trip- a Mission trip.
What is the difference anyways?
Here are a few examples of a vacation trip and a mission trip for comparison:
We can see that there are some similarities and also some key differences that we can really be blessed by on a Mission trip.
In the Bible, we see many different verses that reveal God’s heart to us regarding Missions.
Let’s look at 4 of them today:
People are God’s most treasured creation and it is God’s heart to see all nations come into a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. We can be assured that as we go, God will go with us and never leave us. This is very comforting to know as we step into a place where we have never been before.
2. Acts 13:47 “For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”
Light helps us to see clearly, light brings new perspective, and we are light to those who have not yet heard or responded. What an amazing honor that the God who created the universe uses vessels like us for His work.
3. Romans 10:13-14 “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 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?”
We have heard the saying before- if someone had a cure to an illness and they never shared it with anyone, how would anyone get better? The news would need to be shared. We have a relationship with the One who created everything, the One who gives perfect peace, the One who gives hope in hopeless situations. We must share the good news of Jesus Christ and the salvation He brings.
4. Psalm 96:3 “Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples.”
It’s important to share God’s goodness with others. God is holy, He is awesome, and there is none like Him. Let’s make a commitment to share this Love with others. It will change situations; it will even change us in the process.
Why Missions then?
Vacation trips are very necessary because we do need a break from our daily routines once in a while. I encourage you to go on vacation when you can and I also challenge you to go on a Mission trip if you already haven’t. There are people out there who need Jesus and God has given us specific gifts and talents to reach those people.
Take a look here at some Mission Opportunities that we have with OMS Canada.
There is also this great resource which outlines 10 Steps to becoming an OMS Missionary. You can check it out here.
You are the light of the world. Let your light so shine.
Welcome back to our second installment in the series ‘Am I Called to Be a Missionary.'
As mentioned last week, the idea of a Missionary Call is a frequent topic of discussion at missions events and conferences. People are so concerned about getting it wrong that they would rather not do something unless they know that God has not called them to do so. We hope to bring some clarity to this topic of the Missionary Call.
So let’s get to Part two.
Is Everyone Called to be a Missionary?
With missions defined, next we ask, “What is a missionary?” And Scripture has a surprising answer.
Some have said that the word “missionary” is not in the Bible, but that isn’t quite true. We derive words like missionary and missions from the Latin missio, which simply means sending. The Greek equivalent is apostelló, from which the word apostle comes. While there were only twelve Apostles—“sent ones”—commissioned by Jesus to lay the foundation of the church, in a broader sense, anyone who is “sent” carrying the gospel message is a similar type of missionary ambassador.
We would think, then, that a missionary is simply sent to win as many converts as possible. But that wasn’t the Apostle Paul’s job description. After spending only a short time traversing the Roman Empire and planting churches in a handful of key towns, Paul says, “[F]rom Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:19). How had he “fulfilled” the ministry of the gospel—as in, mission accomplished--when millions of lost people remained throughout the Roman world?
It is not the missionary’s aim, necessarily, to see every single individual won to faith. Rather, a missionary is one who serves in a culture long enough to see a healthy church form, full of converts capable of evangelizing the rest of their people. Paul established churches as beachheads to ensure that the gospel would spread. When a healthy church with qualified leaders was planted and ready to own the mission for themselves, Paul’s work was done.
In recent years, a terribly disproportionate number of missionaries have been sent to minister in places that have already been “reached”—where there are sufficient evangelical believers already present to evangelize the rest. According to the Joshua Project, more than 90% of “missionaries” serve “reached” people groups.
Meanwhile, the “unreached”—those who have little or no access to the gospel, with no churches or believers in their context to share with them—comprise about 7,000 people groups. That totals about nearly 4 billion people who have never heard of Christ. Most of these people groups live in North Africa, the Middle East, Asia, India, and the Pacific Islands, a region of the world known as the 10/40 Window (based on lines of latitude and longitude).
Unlike most unbelievers the North America and Europe who could easily hear the gospel through a Christian friend or nearby church, unreached people generally have no churches to visit, friends to call, or sermons to stumble upon on the radio. Though some may have heard of a “Jesus,” they have never understood the gospel itself. They are lost.
God may be drawing you to become a Pauline-type, pioneering missionary, “fulfilling the ministry of the gospel” among people who will otherwise perish without hearing about Jesus. Or perhaps he is leading you to be a Timothy-type missionary who comes in after the pioneer to strengthen and build young communities of faith (1 Timothy 1:3, 2 Timothy 2:1-2).
Not everyone can be a missionary. However, everyone can have a part in the bigger task—by going, sending, supporting, or mobilizing others.
Either way, a missionary is not just an adventurous, free spirit stirred by a noble social cause. A missionary preaches the gospel with the aim of starting churches that can reach people groups among whom Jesus is not yet known and worshiped.
To repeat, it is clear that not everyone can be a missionary. However, everyone can have a part in the bigger task—by going, sending, supporting, or mobilizing others. What is your role?
Do you long to devote your life to this task? Do you have the desire to cross cultural boundaries, or help send those who do? If so, God’s Spirit may be directing you. We implore you to pray, study God’s Word, and obey God wherever He leads. Eternity hangs in the balance for billions.
Check out the ways that OMS Canada can help you make an impact on reaching the unreached.
Click here to visit our website.
Stay tuned for Part three in this series!
OMS Canada is a faith-based missionary sending organization. Our primary purpose is to recruit and mobilize missionaries who will take the gospel to the nations according to the command of Jesus Christ in the gospels and in the book of Acts. Matthew 28 contains what is known as the Great Commission.
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in2 the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (ESV)
One of the most frequent comments heard at a missions event or missions conference is ‘I’m not sure I’m called to be a missionary. This misunderstood idea of a call to missionary service is perhaps the single issue that prevents people from even considering missions as a vocation. Over the next six weeks, we will consider this idea of the missionary call in four blog posts and perhaps bring some clarity to the idea of the missionary call and the process of receiving the call.
Before we do that, though, we need to be clear on what missions is. This week we will talk about what missions is and is not.
What Missions Is and Is Not.
“Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” (John Piper)
God is a missionary God. He is passionately committed to spreading His fame and His glory to all nations.
So how should we define “missions?”
First, we must start with what missions is not. God commands His people serve the poor and hungry, but mercy ministry and social justice are not missions. If we reduce missions to providing relief, education, or compassion—in other words, if everything is missions—then nothing is.
Similarly, missions is more than sharing the gospel. If missions simply meant evangelism, then we could all do that in our hometown without crossing cultures.
To define missions, we must begin with the gospel, then work out to consider what God is doing in history.
The gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ’s death, resurrection, and reign to save sinners. This was necessary because, although all human cultures have knowledge of God through creation (Romans 1:19-20), every people group has rejected God (1:21-23) and is born in sin, trapped under God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3). Since God’s standards of good and evil are written on every heart, all are accountable for their sin—even if they’ve never heard of Jesus or read the Bible (Romans 2:14-15). Humans in all cultures are equally lost, in need of rescue from an eternity in Hell.
The good news is that “God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus Christ—the ultimate missionary—left the comforts of heaven, crossed into our world, died in our place, and rose in victory. Now all who repent and trust in Christ are made right with God and given eternal life.
What is God doing in history? At the onset of God’s redemptive plan, he promised that through Abraham “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 17:3). Jesus, the promised offspring from Abraham’s line, purchased “people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” on the cross (Revelation 5:9). Right now, God is making a people for Himself—bought by Jesus—from among the nations. We call that people the church.
Christ told His followers, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). We are commanded to disciple all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20) until the earth is “full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). God’s work in history will be finished when all His people from every tribe and language are worshiping Christ in heaven (Revelation 5:9).
The gospel is the message God is using in history to save and set apart a people for himself in the church from every nationality, language, and ethnicity. Missions, then, is what carries this gospel to all the nations. It’s the job of the church that’s between Christ’s first coming and His return.
So what is missions? Missions is the task of proclaiming the gospel to every people group that has not yet heard it, in order to establish churches—churches that will carry on mission by reaching their culture, teaching others, and sending missionaries out.
For more information about people, tongues, tribes, and nations, read this post about Unreached People Groups.
Next week we will ask the question “Is everyone called to be a missionary?”
In this dark, fearful and confusing time for Haiti, God continues to do that which only He can do:
win the battles.
For hundreds of years, hundreds of thousands of people in Haiti have gone to the witchdoctor, looking for help, looking for answers, looking for something better. On Friday, one of these witchdoctors came to Emmaus instead, looking for the same thing.
Praise the Lord, something better is not far off, His hand is not too short to save. Be encouraged by this quick testimony from President Matt Ayars, bringing light to things that cannot be changed...CHANGING.
“Hi everyone. Matt Ayars here, President of Emmaus University in Haiti, and I wanted to share a quick story. With so many people who have been praying and fasting for so long for Haiti’s release and Haiti's redemption, and God buying back Haiti so these manifestations and political instability, all this stuff going on is just a result of, I believe, God bringing Haiti back to Himself and I had an experience today that I think is illustrative of that and that really confirmed that conviction in my heart.
So a few weeks ago, I visited a witchdoctor to share with him the gospel, and he's a guy that I know and I have met before. No other witchdoctor kind of gave us a tour of the voodoo temple and explain to us, you know, kind of, the talismans, and how it works, and the pantheon of deities, showed us, you know, with his mystic snake that sits up in the ceiling and explain to us how the sacrifices work and explained all the different demons and spirits that he served. At the end of our time together, you know, I very clearly shared the gospel with him, and he seemed open to me but not ready to make a decision. It's not the first time I've shared the gospel with him and not the first time that I've even prayed with him. He seemed closer this time than ever before.
And then just today, less than an hour ago, he came with his assistant who was with him at the temple. He came to tell me that he had stopped all of his activities as a witch doctor. He was no longer living there on the site where the temple was. He had moved and had found a truck and try to pick up the truck, trying to get back to work and doing some side jobs in the meantime.
So it was, there was nothing but wonderful news for me to be at a church. A graduate is the pastor of this church. And so I asked if I could pray with them. I prayed with them. And a lot of you know that every Monday night I do a Bible study with welcome from Haiti that's just about a mile down the road. A lot of young men, similar to these guys to the witchdoctor and his partner who I met today, met with today, and I invited them to Bible study Monday nights, which they were enthused about. And so I too am really excited to have them doing that Bible Study Group, progressing, I think, closer towards making a decision and growing and maturity and hopefully you know discipleship being the main goal there.
And then I also sent them away with a couple brand new Creole Bibles and a book on spiritual warfare, a book on the Holy Spirit, and that book on the Holy Spirit talks about how the Holy Spirit's uniquely different from spirits of animism which he'd be very familiar with. And also a book on the life of radical discipleship, a book by John Stott. So they left happy, enthused, encouraged, excited about joining Bible study and studying the literature I had given them. But to me it was a wonderful illustration of the power of Satan and darkness, being lifted from Haiti. Pray for revival, pray for repentance. We pray that people who have been held captive by the darkness and the lies that the devil would come to the light, and they would come to Christ, the one in whom all truth is found, and in whom all liberty is found, for the forgiveness of sins, life everlasting and for eternal, satisfying joy and peace.
So, again, thank you. I hope you find this story encouraging, as I did. Thank you.”
Stay up to date here where we have updates about what is happening in Haiti.
Canadians recognize Remembrance Day, originally called Armistice Day, every 11 November at 11 a.m.
It marks the end of hostilities during the First World War and an opportunity to recall all those who
have served in the nation’s defence.
On this day of remembrance, I would like to challenge you to remember something else as well.
It is the Gospel, and it is not just for the new birth; it is for your new life as well.
I love to find and share practical methods or techniques for living the Christian life—ways other Christians live out their Christian faith day-by-day. As I speak with people, as I read books, as I listen to sermons, I am always looking for these tips that might be called “faith hacks.” I am going to share one with you today. It comes from Jerry Bridges and deals with the importance of preaching the Gospel to yourself everyday.
Bridges has written in several of his books about the importance of the daily practice of preaching the Gospel to yourself. In “The Discipline of Grace” he writes, “When you set yourself to seriously pursue holiness, you will begin to realize what an awful sinner you are. And if you are not firmly rooted in the Gospel and have not learned to preach it to yourself every day, you will soon become discouraged and will slack off in your pursuit of holiness.” He also gives an overview of the practice: “To preach the Gospel to yourself, then, means that you continually face up to your own sinfulness and then flee to Jesus through faith in His shed blood and righteous life. It means that you appropriate, again by faith, the fact that Jesus fully satisfied the law of God, that He is your propitiation, and that God’s holy wrath is no longer directed toward you.”
But it is in “Respectable Sins” that he gives the practical example from his own life. Here is how he preaches the Gospel to himself every day:
Since the Gospel is only for sinners, I begin each day with the realization that despite my being a saint, I still sin every day in thought, word, deed, and motive. If I am aware of any subtle, or not so subtle, sins in my life, I acknowledge those to God. Even if my conscience is not indicting me for conscious sins, I still acknowledge to God that I have not even come close to loving Him with all my being or loving my neighbor as myself. I repent of those sins, and then I apply specific Scriptures that assure me of God’s forgiveness to those sins I have just confessed.
I then generalize the Scripture’s promises of God’s forgiveness to all my life and say to God words to the effect that my only hope of a right standing with Him that day is Jesus’ blood shed for my sins, and His righteous life lived on my behalf. This reliance on the twofold work of Christ for me is beautifully captured by Edward Mote in his hymn “The Solid Rock” with his words, “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Almost every day, I find myself going to those words in addition to reflecting on the promises of forgiveness in the Bible.
What Scriptures do I use to preach the Gospel to myself? Here are just a few I choose from each day:
As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)
“I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)
Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. (Romans 4:7-8)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
There are many others, including Psalm 130:3-4; Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 38:17; Micah 7:19; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 8:12; and 10:17-18.
Whatever Scriptures we use to assure us of God’s forgiveness, we must realize that, whether the passage explicitly states it or not, the only basis for God’s forgiveness is the blood of Christ shed on the cross for us. As the writer of Hebrews said, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (9:22), and the context makes it clear that it is Christ’s blood that provides the objective basis on which God forgives our sins.
That has been his daily practice for many years. Why don’t you make it part of your practice, and see the difference it makes to begin each day reminding yourself of who you were, and who you now are in Christ?
Milton Vincent has written a little book called, “A Gospel Primer for Christians” that could be very helpful in preaching the Gospel to yourself daily. It includes hundreds of Scripture references to reinforce the truth of the Gospel.
Do you make it your practice to preach the Gospel to yourself? If so, what have you learned?
How do you go about it? Please leave a comment below to share your experiences.
You can also check out our blog page here where you can find updates from our missionaries around the world and various blogs for your own growth!
Change is something that comes as a result of something new happening; an alteration, shift, transition, or transformation. The result can be a positive thing or even a challenge for us because it may be unusual or unfamiliar at first.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
God allows us to experience new things so that we can grow and depend more on Him, so it is important that we remain focused on God during times of change and remember that He is the One
who is in control.
In Ontario, we experience four different weather seasons throughout the year:
spring, summer, fall, and winter.
These seasons vary and as a result they impact our daily living. What activities to do and not do outdoors, what to wear, what to cook/eat, etc. These seasons can even impact our moods and how we feel.
Spiritual seasons are also very significant and things we all go through.
Let’s do a comparison with weather and spiritual seasons and see how they can relate:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Let’s be encouraged to trust God in all seasons. We can be assured that we will not walk through any season alone. God is with us and as we trust and serve Him, He will make all things work for good in our lives.
What season are you currently in? How have seasons of change in your life allowed you to deepen your faith and get closer to God?
Please leave a comment below to share your experiences with others as we all continue to grow in this journey together by God’s grace. It would also be great connect with you. Simply click here to do that.
To Him be all glory.
How much do you know about Missions?
How much do you know about missions? Are you a missions hero or a missions zero? And what about your church? Is it a missions hub or a missions flub?
Regardless of where you may place yourself or your church on the missions knowledge continuum, there is always room for improvement. And missions education is the way to improve your missions knowledge.
Missions Education falls into three categories.
Now, for those who would say that their missions education is adequate or effective, I would offer the following suggestions for what must characterize effective missions education.
Missions education may utilize the following formats;
We have some free resources available for use by yourself, your small group or you church to help further missions knowledge through missions education. Check it out here
We would also be happy for the opportunity to speak to your church or a missions group, a small group, youth group or a Sunday School class. Contact the office and we will arrange the date.
God’s heart truly is for the nations and it is our great privilege to join him in this pursuit resulting in his great glory and our everlasting joy.
“Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You!” Ps. 67:4-5
Well, OMS Canada’s 75th anniversary event, the unFinished Conference, took place two weeks ago.
This blog post is a review of the event with some thoughts about our future.
Fair Havens Ministries was the location for the conference. For many years OMS Canada Retreats were held at Fair Havens, so it seemed an appropriate venue to hold the anniversary event. And we were not disappointed. The staff did an exceptional job of caring for us. The meeting spaces were excellent. The accommodations were comfortable and the food was fantastic. Special thanks to Tara for her patience with us; we had never planned an event like this.
The opening session on Friday evening had us in Irwin Chapel. Esther Cooke and Ruth Williston were our excellent worship leaders for the weekend and they did a super job of it. The theme for the conference was the unFinished Task that Jesus gave to the church. This was reflected in our worship by the theme song, “Facing a Task Unfinished”. The lyrics reminded us of God’s blessing and His intention for that blessing to be a blessing to others as well.
Dr Stan Dyer then led us in a rehearsal of OMS’ history, beginning with our founders, the Cowman’s, and the beginnings in Canada with Bill and Blanche Frith. It was abundantly clear that God had been gracious to OMS Canada and faithful in all His ways. There is a legacy to godly leadership and fruitful service for the Kingdom of God. This was celebrated.
In the second main session on Saturday morning, Dr Bob Fetherlin, President of OMS Global, reminded us of the task that remains unfinished, using Genesis 12:1-3 (all the peoples will be blessed) and Acts 1:8 (you will be my witnesses). As people who have been rescued, we are to help rescue others. He has given to us the ministry of reconciliation and we are blessed to be a blessing. Our task is to create new links in the gospel chain to reach those who have never heard. And our ministry is to be ‘Glocal’, ministry that is both local and global.
In the third main session on Saturday evening, Dr Randall Mah of Wycliffe Bible Translators gave us a snapshot of how the gospel is doing in the world today. He reminded us that when the nations are referenced in Scripture it does not mean a geo-political country as we often assume. Rather, it refers to people groups, ethno linguistic groupings of people, connected by culture and language. He told us that there remain approximately 3,000 people groups with less than 2% evangelical Christians. These are the Unreached People Groups (UPG). And until each of these people groups have been penetrated by the gospel and a community of worshippers established, the task remains unFinished.
There were a number of breakout sessions that also took place on Saturday. Three missionary families shared on the theme “A Day in the Life” of a missionary. These were well attended and we were challenged by their experiences. There were also sessions on Short Term Missions, Dynamic Women in Mission, Unreached People Groups, Business as Mission, Billion.Global, and Kairos. We trust that these sessions challenged each one to become more involved in completing the great commission.
In the final session, we were challenged to embrace the 20/20 Vision. By God’s grace, we will believe for 20 new missionaries by the end of 2020. It is a vision that is disproportionate to who we are at OMS Canada but not at all disproportionate to who God is. To support this vision, the OMS Canada Board of Directors have enacted four strategic initiatives. These strategic initiatives have been designed to increase our exposure to those individuals to whom the Lord of the Harvest is speaking about service among the nations.
The first initiative is to hire a full-time Recruiter. If we are serious about doing our share to complete the task, it will involve many more missionaries. And if we are serious about new missionaries, then we believe that a full-time recruiter is necessary. And God has provided extra funds from a generous donor who passed away last year.
The second initiative is to encourage all of you to investigate the opportunity to take the Kairos Course ( https://simplymobilizing.com/courses/kairos/ ). This course will make it very clear what the task is and what is our responsibility. It will also provide us proximity to those people in Canada who are serious about learning of missions and more apt to consider serving among the nations.
The third initiative is the Missions Kickstart program. One of the challenges faced by post-secondary students is student debt. The Missions Kickstart program is an opportunity for OMS Canada to assist graduates pay back their student loans on the condition that they have been approved for missionary service with OMS Canada and will commit to a term of service. Our aim is to be able to move these people to their field of service in a more timely manner by removing the burden of student loans.
The fourth initiative is the 341 Prayer Groups. Prayer triplets are not a new concept to the church. They have been used to fruitful ends around the world. We are asking you to meet with two other people at least once a week to pray for one more new missionary by the end of 2020. That’s 3 people praying 4 1 more new missionary by the end of 2020. When you do form your group, we ask you to let us know about it so that we can pray for you and keep you up to date on how God is answering prayer.
Share your group details here - https://forms.gle/oY17iJ8Snqp9iX5x8
The only instruction given in regards to getting new missionaries is to pray. One of the passages where we see this is Matthew 9:38. Jesus has looked out on the crowds of people with compassion because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus said to pray earnestly, therefore, to the Lord of the harvest to send more labourers into the harvest. This is what we are committing to do and this is what we are asking you to commit to do as well.
So we challenge you to join us in our commitment to see the task Finished and hasten the day of
To find out more about any of this, don’t hesitate to call or shoot us an email.
When we hear the word impossible we think of something that is not able to be done and that can easily allow a person to be filled with: fear, uncertainty, worry, and helplessness.
Now, when we hear the word possible we feel a lot better because it tells us that something can be done. That gives us confidence, hope, peace, and assurance.
Today I’m happy to say that, with God ALL THINGS are POSSIBLE.
“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God;
all things are possible with God.”
When we face situations in our lives that seem impossible, it ultimately gives us the choice to either focus on those things and keep struggling or to surrender everything to God and trust in Him.
There are several different things we can do to remain encouraged when trusting in God for the impossible. Here are 4 for us to look at:
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it,
and it will be yours.”
Prayer is the key to every victory that we experience in life. We need to constantly be in communication with God no matter what we are going through. We can have the assurance that God will answer us according to His perfect will for our lives.
“He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible
We need to have faith, to believe. This allows us to keep moving forward and to step into the great things God has for us. When things seem impossible, we need to remember that with God all things are possible. This verse demonstrates the power of faith, and it just takes a tiny bit of it.
What are you believing God for today?
“This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
We all fall short every day and we need to remember that. We need to check ourselves daily and ask for God’s forgiveness and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We cannot successfully do the things that God has called us to without the realization that we need God, we cannot do it on our own.
We need to remember this when we are trusting God for the impossible.
“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.”
Surrendering is not an easy thing to do, but it is necessary as we grow in Christ. We all have hopes, dreams, and visions. Let’s surrender these to God and allow Him to guide us so that He may have all the glory. This is what growing in Christ is all about, we are just vessels and our King of glory is worthy of all honor and praise.
Let’s be encouraged today, whatever impossible situation you are facing. There is hope and it is found only in Jesus Christ our Lord.
To Him be all glory.
By Bob Fetherlin, President One Mission Society Global
Why have I had a multitude of opportunities to hear the good news of Christ, while so many have never had the chance, even once? This is the greatest of all social injustices.
We have the needed people, money, technology, and strategies for everyone to hear. Yet, millions languish with critically low or no access to the gospel, This must not continue.
After many conversations, fasting and much prayer throughout 2014 and 2015. I was convinced God wanted one Mission Society to take a bold step of faith, a vision far beyond our resources, but not beyond his. In the conversation with a co-worker, the idea of giving at least a billion people, over 10 years the opportunity to hear, understand and believe the gospel came into focus. This vision quickly became an unquenchable passion.
But was God really calling OMS to this vision? It was tested in 2015 by presenting it to the OMS missionary leaders, the Men for Missions Cabinet, and the OMS Board of Trustees, who consistently and strongly affirmed it. We launched the Billion.Global vision in July 2016. We recently completed year three of the 10-year journey.
Since the first year of this vision, we’ve emphasized evangelism and discipleship. A few criticisms have come. But instead of being discouraged, they have strengthened the resolve to press forward.
Amazingly, God has given some great servant leaders to shape and give direction to Billion.Global. He has led many organizational partners to engage with us in carrying it out. Collaboration between partners is growing, generous people give to support the vision. Most importantly, more people are being given the opportunity to hear the best news ever and become disciples!
Hudson Taylor wrote, “There are three stages to every great work of God. First, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.” The most recent Outreach magazine gives an update from somewhere between stage one and stage two. Wouldn't it be wonderful if a future issue focused on stage three, all for the God's glory?
Type billion.global into your browser to learn more.
Almost every evangelical Christian would affirm a commitment to the importance of prayer in their life and in the ministry arenas in which they work or volunteer. Missions is no exception. Do you really pray for missions? What do you pray for missions? How do you encourage others to pray for missions. Here are four concrete ways to elevate the status of prayer as it relates to missions.
1. Make prayer the missions priority for your missions team and your congregation.
a. Set a personal example by praying for one or more missionaries daily.
b. Set a team example by praying first in every missions team meeting.
c. Program prayer into every missions activity.
d. Include prayer for missions and missionaries in every corporate prayer meeting.
2. Recognize that people are motivated to pray for people they love.
a. Develop personal prayer for missionaries based on relationships.
b. Set a goal for the number of people who will commit to pray for a missionary.
c. Use the missions conference to inspire individuals to pray for a missionary.
d. Ask individuals to commit to pray faithfully for one year for a specific missionary.
e. Ask them to write the name of the missionary on the conference commitment card.
f. Provide the names of those who sign up to the missionaries they will pray for.
g. Ask the missionaries to send their prayer letters to those individuals.
h. Remind the individuals of the commitment they made.
i. Renew prayer sign-ups annually.
3. Facilitate ongoing relationship development
a. Encourage the missionaries and prayer partners to develop relationships.
b. When your missionaries visit your church, facilitate their meeting with their prayer partners.
c. Communicate success stories.
4. Pray corporately for the world, countries and people groups.
a. Use resources such as the Global Prayer Digest, Operation World, etc.
b. Participate in the Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, Day of Prayer for the Unreached and other special prayer events.
c. Personalize where possible by identifying countries and peoples with missionaries you support.
Have you ever wondered what to talk about with a missionary that visits your church or that comes for a meal at your home? Good questions are the fuel to a great conversation. They are the door by which you can discover who a person really is.
You may have thought, “I don’t really have much in common with these missionaries. They live in a foreign country and do something I would never dream of doing.” Or maybe you think that missionaries get tired of answering questions. However, the truth is that most of them are excited to talk about the people and country they love.
If you have ever thought any of these things before, then here are some great questions to ask next time you are with a missionary.
Ask about their calling
1. How did God lead you to become a missionary?
2. What did you do before you were a missionary?
3. What advice would you give somebody who have felt that God may be leading him or her to become a cross-cultural missionary?
Ask about their country
4. How would you describe your neighbours and the people that live in your town?
5. What were some of the biggest adjustments and challenges you had to make when you started living in your place of service?
6. What do you miss most from Canada while you are on the field? What do you miss most from your country while you are in Canada?
7. How do people in your country view Canada? What are some cultural differences or barriers that you have had to overcome?
Ask about their work
8. What is the best part about being a missionary? What are some of your favorite things you get to do in your work?
9. What does your typical week look like?
10. What are some of your biggest victories from the past year?
11. What were some of your biggest challenges during the past year?
12. What are some of your big goals and desires for your future ministry?
13. How can people and churches here in Canada better help your work?
Find out who they are
14. Tell me a funny story about something that has happened to you as a missionary.
15. Have you read any books that have been particularly helpful to you? Do you listen to any podcasts or preachers that are an encouragement to you?
16. What is one of the most encouraging things somebody has done for you while you were on the field?
17. How is your family doing?
18. What are some activities that you like to do as a hobby or to relax?
Find out what you can do for them
19. How can I pray for you? If the setting permits, ask to pray with the missionary that very moment. Surprisingly, there have been very few occasions that people have done this for us, and yet we deeply appreciate it. It is powerful to have people not just pray for you, but with you.
20. Is there something I can do to help your family right now or while you are on the field? Again, you may be amazed at the response to this question. Most times the needs are very simple – getting to do a load of laundry, mailing a small package, or recommending a good place to take their kids for the afternoon.
You may be surprised. The more you talk with a missionary, the more you may find out that they enjoy many of the same things you do. They may share similar struggles with you. They may be more like you than you thought at first glance.
So the next time you are with missionaries, don’t hesitate. Go talk with them, Your thoughtful questions just may open the door to a terrific conversation, an encouraging moment, and even a new friendship.
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.
Personal evangelism is a much tougher sell than giving a cup of cold water in Jesus' name"