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?”
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
Oh sure, I support missions. I send in a cheque every month, or I have a recurring donation come out of my account every month. What more is there? Have a look at this list and be challenged to do more.
Your missionaries need so much more than just your financial 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.
Outreach, Missions and the Great Commission
Have you ever wondered if outreach and missions are the same? Or, if they are different, is one more important than the other? In the next couple of paragraphs, we will discuss both Outreach and Missions and where they fit into the Great Commission.
What is the Great Commission?
The Great Commission is found in Matthew 28:19-20. This is the passage where Jesus gives the 11 remaining disciples the final task before he is to ascend. “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.”
But, this task does not just exist for the 11 disciples; it extends to all followers of Christ until the end of the age. So, this task was given to us, as individuals and as the church. We must make disciples (obedient followers of Christ) in all nations by teaching Scripture and baptizing new believers.
What is Outreach?
Outreach is when the church, reaches out to help those within its community. Outreach is local near-neighbour evangelism. We share the Gospel and teach Scripture with the hopes that we can make new disciples within a small region. A good example of outreach is Vacation Bible School. VBS is a one-week summer camp that churches will run inviting children from the church as well as the community. The goal for VBS is to introduce the Gospel to children from the community who may not have heard of God before. This is outreach because the church is reaching out to the community and teaching Scripture.
Is Outreach Enough?
No, outreach is not enough. Outreach teaches scripture and can lead to people being born again but it doesn’t complete the Great Commission. Outreach may play a part in the Great Commission by reaching those within our community but we also need to reach every nation. How can we “make disciples of all nations” if we are only staying within our community? How will the Gospel and the good news of Christ be shared with the nations? This is why we need missions.
What is Missions?
Missions is when the church goes farther than their community. Missions is when the church crosses cultural, ethnic and religious barriers. Missions is when the church sends out their own members to go and teach the Gospel to those outside of their affinity group. An example of what missions can look like is the sending of a missionary. A missionary crosses barriers to preach the Gospel and share the Good News in a place that is foreign to them.
What is The Difference between Outreach and Missions?
Have you been able to spot the difference between outreach and missions? It is location. Outreach is the part of the Great Commission that stays within the small community of the church. Missions is the part of the Great Commission that will reach the nations as it is that part which crosses borders.
Which One Is More Important?
This is a trick question as one is no more important than the other is. The Great Commission will not be completed unless both outreach and missions are being done. In order to cross borders and to do missions, one must first be willing to do outreach. If we are not willing to teach those in our community, how will we be able to teach those in a completely different nation? Outreach is what prepares us for missions.
It is important that the church does not just focus on one or the other but on both. If we only focus on missions and crossing borders, we forget about those unsaved in our own communities and creating new disciples to send. If we only focus on outreach we forget about reaching the nations and sending the disciples that outreach has made.
If we have any hope that the Great Commission may one day be completed, the church must be willing to participate in both outreach AND missions. Outreach creates disciples in our own community and these disciples can be sent by the church to the nations. Among the nations, the disciples we send make new disciples. These new disciples in turn evangelize their own community and do outreach there to create more disciples. It is a cycle that must not be broken if we are to complete the task Jesus has assigned us.
So, we encourage you and your church to start this cycle in your own community. Need help getting started or moving forward? Contact our office and we will be glad to help you and send you resources!
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.
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."
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.
There seems to be considerable confusion today with regard to missionaries. Some say all Christians are missionaries. They say that we are all called to give our lives to Christ and to witness to our neighbors. But is that the only thing that makes you a missionary? What qualifies someone to be a missionary? Boundaries need to drawn around the term 'missionary'. If the word missionary means the same thing as the word Christian, one of the two words has lost its usefulness.
Sometimes two words have overlapping meanings, but one is broader than the other. All Christians are people but not all people are Christians. A Christian is a particular sort of person. A fireman is a person, but not all people are firemen. The term person is broader than fireman. Likewise, the term Christian is broader than missionary. A missionary is a particular sort of Christian.
So if a missionary is a particular sort of Christian, what makes them a missionary? In its basic meaning, a missionary is a person sent on a mission. In its Christian meaning, in addition to the intention to help people come to know Jesus, at least four things qualify one to be a missionary:
1. It is a vocation, not just an activity, hobby, or event.
2. It includes crossing barriers. Almost always cultural barriers but often also language, distance,
religion and worldview barriers.
3. It requires some special study and/or training, not only willingness.
4. It requires sending. A missionary must be sent or commissioned to go.
Being a missionary is more than wanting to travel and do good. It is about answering the call that God has placed in your heart.
So what about those who go on short term mission trips? Consider this; a doctor is a person who works at the hospital for their vocation. You can volunteer at the hospital 7 days a week but that doesn’t make you a doctor.
Christians who visit or volunteer on the mission field are not necessarily missionaries. They may be called to go and cross boarders to do the work of a missionary, but it isn’t a vocation. Short term missions also don't need special studies/training. Sometimes those who go are simply visitors or volunteers on the field.
Have you ever considered doing missionary work? Have you ever felt drawn to go on a short term missions trip, or felt a nudge to go serve overseas for a month or more? Is it something you are still considering? We would love to hear about your attraction to missions. Tell us about it in the comments section below!
I met a young lady at a missions event a few years ago where I got to hear about her story. Her name was Bethany and she was an undergrad wanting to become a medical doctor. Her marks were good but the limited amount of spaces in the program required more than good grades to get accepted. Unfortunately, Bethany wasn’t accepted right away.
I shared with her about the work that OMS Canada does with the Bethesda Medical Clinic in Haiti. I explained to her that there were many opportunities to serve there. Bethany applied with OMS and was accepted into our Embark program to serve in Haiti and spent many months working at the clinic having a transformative experience. When Bethany got home, this experience proved to be enough to get her into the medical program the following year.
Why am I telling you this? Well, Bethany is only one example of many whom we have met at mission events who have come to serve the Lord with OMS. Mission events are a significant part of OMS’ recruitment strategy. We set up an OMS booth and staff and volunteers interact with visitors at the event. If the visitor expresses an interest in opportunities available at OMS, we gather contact information and follow up at a later date. Through mission events we are able to meet, encourage and help those looking to serve have the opportunity to go.
We all have a part in missions whether we are the ones going or not".
We all have a part in missions whether we are the ones going or not. Besides the goer, missions also involves senders, encouragers, supporters and prayer warriors. OMS attends mission events so that we may become senders for those feeling called to go. From there we need encouragers, supporters and prayer warriors to join us.
The single most important and effective tool to leverage the work done at mission fests is prayer. Having made the needs known and explaining the opportunities, we must now pray to the Lord to send these contacts into the Harvest. That is God’s job. And so we pray to Him to do exactly what He wants to do.
You may not be called to ‘go’ but you are still called to serve and to play a part in God’s mission. Will you join us in the works of missions by committing to pray for each of the new contacts made this coming year? Become an encourager and supporter today!
(If you are interested in learning more of how you can be involved in missions and other ways to pray, visit our website at www.omscanada.org or contact the office).
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
A professor used to talk about the "fog factor" in communications. He multiplied the average number of words in a sentence by the average number of letters in the words to get the "Fog Index." The idea behind the Fog Index is that if you want people to read and understand what you wrote, it needs to be clear and simple. Someone once said, "When there's a mist in the pulpit, there's a fog in the pew." If people are to understand and support missions as a critical function of the church, we need to be clear about some things that have become foggy.
1. We need to be clear about the goal of missions.
For many of us the primary goal or aim of missions has gradually become dim. In a Christianity Today article on short term missions, the author mentioned that Christian young people have great compassion for the physical, social, and justice issues of people. Unfortunately many are theologically confused about the need for a gospel transformation of the heart by Jesus. What is it that missions is supposed to accomplish?
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”
Revelation 7:9-10 shows us a picture of people from every tongue, tribe, language and people worshipping the lamb. As we plan our missions ministry, this is our guiding principle, that it is primarily about God and not man. The end goal of missions is gathering the worshippers that John saw in Revelation, because the Lamb deserves the worship of everyone.
2. We need to be clear about the scope of missions.
Missions used to be reaching the pagans overseas, and church ministry was building up the church at home. The distinctions may never be this clear again because the world is too complex. But we must somehow draw boundaries between missions and church ministry. Missions is what we send people and resources to do because the congregation can't do it while church ministry is what we as individuals and the church can and should do as part of our life and ministry among people we can reach.
3. We need to be clear about the priorities of missions.
Many things may be included in missions but not everything is of equal value, importance, or urgency. Our planning must indicate what fields, tasks, projects, and activities we consider of greatest strategic importance. Usually this is most effectively done with budgets and budget goals and with public prayers, reports, and celebrations.
When these things are clear in the minds of our church leaders and our people, we may expect the kind of support and involvement that missions deserves.
Do you wonder where your church stands with regards to the three critical concerns? We have an assessment tool that can help! Click HERE to download our Missionary Assessment Tool for your church.