5 Encouragements for Short-Term Summer Mission Teams

by Jack Swift

Summers provide great opportunities for short-term mission teams to serve the cause of Christ around the globe. At the same time, missionaries in cross-cultural settings are anticipating the arrival of those teams—a process that can bring joy and excitement, but sometimes fear. Short-term summer mission teams can provide much needed help for missionaries, but for both the missionary team and the volunteer team to profit, each side needs to prepare well.

I’ve been on both sides and benefited greatly from the other. The Lord used short-term opportunities to speak to me about my call to missions fourteen years ago, and I’ve also received great help from summer teams during my time on the field as a career missionary. I rejoice that the Lord will use experiences this summer to call short-term volunteers into lifelong service and real needs will be met at the same time. Although this is true and exciting, volunteers who aren’t careful can hinder the work of the missionaries and cause more harm than good.

5 Mistakes That Could Derail Your Short Term Trip
As I look back on my time as a short-term volunteer, I am reminded of the help, hospitality, and grace that was abundantly and repeatedly given to me by the missionaries on the field. I was, like most volunteers, highly motivated. But while I had much energy, I did not understand how to best serve the missionary team, which is the role of the short-term worker. In light of this, here are five encouragements I could have benefitted from as a short-term summer volunteer. I hope that they will encourage you too as you serve the Lord this summer.

Press into Christ
Short-term trips provide a great opportunity to refocus and recommit to pursuing a vibrant relationship with Jesus. Go into this summer with a plan for spiritual growth—a plan that relies on God’s Spirit to speak to you and God’s Word to transform you, and that also leads you to a recommitted resolve to actively participate in a spiritual journey. I encourage you to sit down with a parent, pastor, or mentor before you depart and ask that person to help you map out goals that point you to Christ-centered spiritual growth.

Prepare for Your New Context
Packing for an international trip is a lot of fun. I remember falling victim to the hypothetical scenario syndrome, carefully thinking through every potential scenario and trying to pack accordingly. I didn’t know what I was going to face in a foreign country, but I knew I would be prepared for everything. Everything, of course, except for what really mattered. Take this opportunity to learn everything you can about the culture where you will serve. A quick Google search on the city or peoples will help you get started. Don’t be afraid to ask the missionary for good resources related to their context. The missionaries will fill in the gaps concerning relevant issues when you arrive, but you should do your part to prepare first.

Follow the Lead of the Missionary
Missionaries are on the field because God has given them a vision for reaching that city or peoples with the gospel. Missionaries don’t study just the language of the people; they study the cultural values, historical setting, and religious strongholds of the people too. They will be your best source of information for understanding the religious worldview of that context and explaining how to share the gospel in a culturally relevant way. Ask good questions and listen well. They want to see your team make a meaningful contribution. Remember, the more effective your team is, the more it benefits the missionary. Make it your goal to be a blessing to the missionary team by following their lead and contributing in a significant way.

Volunteers who aren’t careful can hinder the work of the missionaries and cause more harm than good.

Detach from Home
Detaching from social media, academic studies, and jobs allows you to narrow your gaze to a laser-focus that is much needed on the field. Social media is a helpful tool that informs supporters how to be praying for you, but oftentimes it becomes a distraction rather than an instrument for good. You have limited time. Use every opportunity to maximize your impact. You can’t do that if your mind is somewhere else. Even on days when plans fall through—and they will—use that time to prayer walk, or check in with the missionary team and ask for simple ways you can help make their life easier.

Preach the Gospel with Grace and Boldness
Regardless of the context to which God has called you to serve, the needs are ultimately the same: people need the hope of the gospel. The sovereign, holy Creator of the universe has purposed a way to redeem disgraced sinners of every nation, tribe, people, and language to himself in the life, death, resurrection, and power of Jesus Christ. And God is calling you to share that message of hope with faith, boldness, and a spirit of grace. Therefore, seek to communicate the hope of Christ to every man, woman, and child the Lord places in your path.

Short-term mission trips are a wonderful blessing to the missionaries on the field, and they have the potential to be life-changing experiences for the volunteers, too. This summer, may the Lord bless you and your team, and use you to declare the glory of God and the majesty of Christ among those who have and have not yet heard the name of our Lord Jesus.

This article was originally found here.

Greatest Week of Southern Baptist Cooperation

by Scott Hildreth

A lot will be said about cooperation in the Southern Baptist Convention over the next couple weeks. We will gather in Birmingham, Alabama and participate in our cooperative convention. We will talk about Cooperative Program giving. We will learn about the work of our cooperative institutions, boards and agencies. We will even commission missionaries and pray together for their success.

In my estimation, one of the most overlooked weeks of Southern Baptist cooperation happens the week before the gathering of the Southern Baptist Convention. Crossover is one of the greatest moments on the Southern Baptist calendar; hundreds of seminary and college students gather in the convention city to worship together, pray together, celebrate together, and spend hours sharing Christ together. It is SBC cooperation at its finest!

This year, we are gathering on the campus of The University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB). Each afternoon we will go as groups to partner with local churches in the Birmingham area. Our goal each day is to support the ministry of the local church by promoting their ministries and sharing Christ door-to-door. On Wednesday night, we will participate in an evangelism training simul-cast that us sponsored by the North American Mission Board equipping Southern Baptists to share Christ as part of The Who’s Your One campaign. It is going to be a great week as we share Christ and watch God work in us and through us.

It is no secret that the past couple weeks have not highlighted the best side of our denomination. However, as I gather each year with our denomination’s future leaders, I am not discouraged. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that our future consists of men and women who love Jesus and are committed to his mission. I know that our future is in the hands of a God who loves the lost more than we do.

Crossover is an event that highlights our better side and also reminds us that the struggles of our present day are worth it. We are stewards of future leaders and a message that will change the world.

Special shout out to the North American Mission Board for helping underwrite Crossover expenses. This week, we will cooperate to fulfill our “one sacred effort.” Taking the gospel to those who need to hear it.

The Down Payment Of Prayer

by Will Jackson

We know the apostle Paul as the greatest missionary in the history of the Christian church. It goes without saying, Paul’s ministry was one of proclamation. He preached to Jews, Gentiles, pagans, philosophers, criminals, and dignitaries. In a sense, we can somewhat quantitatively estimate the reach of Paul’s ministry from Luke’s account in the book of Acts. But what if we consider the thousands of people Paul also impacted, not through proclamation, but through participation—specifically participation in praying.

From what we can gather in his letters and in the book of Acts, Paul multiplied his ministry by raising up and sending out leaders—all under the commissioning of Jesus. Paul called for prayer from the churches that the gospel may go forward in his ministry (Colossians 4:3, 2 Thessalonians 3:1) but also reminded all Christians of their equal responsibility to proclaim the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). Specifically, in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, we see him exhort Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5). Whether by his mouth or through his disciples, Paul wanted to see the gospel spread throughout the ancient world like wildfire.

Consider how Paul might have prayed for the fruit of Timothy’s ministry or the evangelism that would take place through the churches in Philippi or Colossae. If his letters are any indication of his desire, he likely prayed for his disciples to preach the gospel boldly but also prayed for its hearers to respond with repentance and faith. It would seem, in His providence, God has ordained prayer as the thunder to the lightning of proclamation.

Praying it Forward

This past year, my wife and I began caring for foster children in our community. As Christians, our natural desire is to not only provide shelter and comfort but to introduce children (and if possible, their parents) to the God who loves us. So, as soon as we began receiving calls for kids in need, we started rehearsing our ministry plan: model worship at meal-times, read from the Jesus Storybook Bible before bed, and regularly engage in deep gospel conversations. Human plans are great . . . until the Lord shows you something greater—ministry to toddlers.

My wife thinks I’m crazy, but two-years-old may be my favorite age. They are full of life, full of energy, and soak up everything like a sponge. However, I don’t know about you, but I find it particularly challenging to walk through the Four Spiritual Laws or Two Ways to Live with a two-year-old. My plans for reaching foster kids for Christ seemed thwarted. Then as the Lord continued to move our hearts to action, we were quickly reminded of the power of prayer while sitting under the preached Word at my local church.

People often ask us, “how long are kids in your home?” Honestly, it depends. The time in our home could last a year or more or be as brief as a few days. But foster care by definition is always temporary. For us, whatever length of time the Lord has kids in our home is the exact amount of time He has called us to at least intercede for their future salvation. If we aren’t able to share the gospel with them today, we trust and pray that God will send another laborer to preach the good news when they are older. We hope that our prayers will provide the down payment for evangelism in the same way Paul prayed for the kingdom to expand far beyond his efforts in the 1st century.

Praying Far from Home

Our God has a heart for the nations. I don’t know if any truth has been further pressed upon me during my time at Southeastern Seminary. Not only does God desire to save the nations but He has perfectly planned and initiated an execution strategy—the church.

Jesus’ final words to his disciples couldn’t have been more clear. Our calling as Christians is to preach the good news continually and constantly. Yet, no matter where the Lord has called us to live out our faith we can all participate in global mission work as well. Giving resources? Yes. Taking short term trips? Absolutely. What about the ministry of prayer? Have we considered the thousands we could impact through our participation in praying?

I’m thankful for the ministry of The Joshua Project. Their mission is to “highlight the ethnic people groups of the world with the fewest followers of Christ” so mission agencies can be well informed for strategic deployment. They also resource “everyday” Christians like me with much-needed exposure to people groups who have little to no gospel presence. I recommend signing up for their Unreached of the Day newsletter or mobile app which prompts users to pray for various people groups regularly.

There are villages and towns that have never been reached with the gospel. But missionaries are on the way. The Lord is daily raising up laborers to go. Will you go before them in prayer? Will you, like Paul, lay the groundwork for their evangelism while on your knees?

Matthew 6:9-10. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (ESV)

You Are Called to the Nations…But Which One?

by Caleb Walker

What about those who never hear the gospel? The question does not concern those who hear it and are indifferent or those who hear it and reject it, but those who never, ever hear the bad news of their rebellion against their Creator and the good news of the reconciliation found in Jesus. My wife and I began wrestling with the implications of that question and its clear biblical answer while in college. Though we had been raised in Bible-believing, missions-supporting churches all of our lives, we had yet to embrace our God-given role in getting the gospel to those who have no hope apart from a personal encounter with Christ.

The weight of Romans 10, the stirring words of men like Platt and Piper, the inspiring testimonies of Jim Elliot and his comrades, and the undeniable urging of the Spirit sent us, two naïve, but zealous newlyweds, on a journey to the nations that included taking part in an international sponsor-a-child program, increasing our missions giving, enrolling in seminary, and participating in short-term trips to South America and the Caribbean. It was during one of those trips, amidst foreign sounds, smells, and people, that the Lord confirmed our call to long-term missionary service. Our call to the nations was sure, but one important detail was noticeably absent. Our answer of “Yes, Lord” was followed by “But where, Lord?”

I have found that the call-to-field process is different for every cross-cultural missionary and church planter. Some describe a definitive call early in life while others sense God’s redirection well into their professional careers. Some receive specific instructions concerning a people group or a geographic context while others cite a general obedience to the Great Commission and possess some degree of flexibility concerning field assignment. Our family would identify with the latter group. There was little doubt that we were supposed to go to the nations; we just were not sure which one.

Admittedly, the lack of clarity concerning a specific people or place proved to be a challenge for us in the beginning. We had friends and classmates who had a heart for Turks, Jews, or Spaniards or who had traveled to Africa or Asia multiple times and possessed a certainty of both their calling and their context. Had we misinterpreted our call? Had we missed a clue from the Lord along the way? Or were we embarking on a leg of our journey that would shape us for the task ahead? In our case, it seems a year of praying, fasting, seeking counsel, and waiting on the Lord was in order.

If you are called to the nations and you possess a God-given clarity directing you to a specific region or group, then pursue this with passion and purpose. But if you (or someone you pastor, mentor, or encourage) are wrestling with this crucial aspect of the call, then consider the following recommendations:

  • Take part in short-term trips or internships in various international contexts.

Nothing compares to actually spending time in a foreign context. You personally interact with a target people, experience the climate, hear the language, and may even wrestle with some of the unique challenges associated with that location or culture. Many of these trips also pair you with experienced field missionaries. Thankfully, international travel is extremely accessible and opportunities abound in almost every locale around the world. Our short-term trips were an indispensable part of our decision-making process.

  • Speak with current or former international missionaries who serve/served in different regions.

One of the greatest resources available to future missionaries is the testimony of those who have personally lived and ministered cross-culturally. These like-minded missionaries can specifically speak to the joys and trials associated with each region and people. They can speak with a degree of realism that many travel books neglect or ignore. We are indebted to IMB missionaries from Central and Eastern Europe who helped us refine our call and connect us with our first field supervisors.

  • Learn from those who were faithful in the past.

Plunging into the biographies and autobiographies of missionaries from church history should be a part of your preparation for the field, regardless of whether you are struggling with your future location. These accounts often explore the depths of missionary service and shed light on the complexities of cross-cultural work in distant lands. These true stories often reflect on God’s faithfulness and the missionary’s perseverance in the midst of spiritual darkness, loss, heartache, and struggles, whether physical, emotional, or relational.

  • Examine yourself and think practically.

One of the best pieces of advice we received during this period of waiting came from a professor who had previously served overseas. “Do not be afraid to think practically and be honest,” he advised. Thinking practically initially sounded terribly unspiritual, self-serving, too pragmatic, and generally unmissionary-like. Despite my initial reservations, his counsel was quite possibly the single-greatest factor the Lord used to guide us to the Balkans. As a couple, my wife and I prayerfully answered a number of questions and reflected upon how God had shaped our personalities, our interests, and our experiences. We then shared our results with trusted friends, pastors, and missionaries and asked God to use them as a compass. While God is certainly not beholden to our preferences and often delights in stretching us beyond our perceived limits, I believe that he also strategically prepares us for our service long before we reach the field.

Consider the following questions:

1) In what climate or terrain would I best serve?
2) What level of physical danger can I emotionally and mentally tolerate?
3) Do I envision myself pioneer church planting or coming alongside existing believers in their efforts?
4) How important is the ability to host short-term teams?
5) Do I feel comfortable utilizing a platform to enter a country?
6) Do I only want to target unreached peoples?
7) How important are services and utilities such as Internet, running water, electricity, etc.?
8) Do I prefer to live and work in large cities or small villages?
9) Do I have medical concerns that will limit my options?
10) How do my current/future children impact my decision?
11) What education options for my children are important?
12) Do I wish to live in close proximity to teammates?
13) Do I prefer to work among the affluent or the impoverished?
14) Do I have unique skills, interests, education, or work experience better suited for certain regions?
15) Does working amongst a certain culture or worldview (e.g. Islamic, Post-Christian, Animistic, etc.) appeal to me?

  • Commune with God.

Assumed, but often neglected, parts of the preparation and decision-making process are fasting and prayer. God very well may use these times of concentrated focus and communion to reveal his will for your future or he may be honing you spiritually for the spiritual battles that lie ahead. Our family made it a habit to pray for a different nation and people each day utilizing resources like www.operationworld.org and www.prayercast.com. We asked that God would clearly direct our minds and affections to the region where he would have us serve.

  • Develop relationships with internationals where you currently live.

Thanks to an ever-connected world, one need not take a flight to minister and befriend internationals. It is very likely that your community or city is home to international refugees, job seekers, and students. Be intentional about finding ways to volunteer, serve, and connect with those who need exposure to the gospel. They have the privilege of hearing eternal truth; you get an introduction to their culture and homeland. During the year leading up to our assignment selection, we took part in a local German social club and developed friendships with Eastern Europeans.

  • Expose yourself to foreign peoples and places through available media.

In addition to missionary testimonies, you should immerse yourself in a variety of written and electronic media that will equip you and potentially steer you to a certain people or place. These may be cross-cultural tools that specifically compare and contrast the different peoples and regions of the world such as Sarah A. Lanier’s Foreign to Familiar: A Guide to Understanding Hot- and Cold- Climate Cultures or the anthropology-focused works of Paul Heibert. One should also consider secular travel guides and books, which seek to aid tourists or highlight conditions and events in unfamiliar locales. The Culture Shock! series and National Geographic are great examples.

  • Trust the sovereignty of our good God, who desires the nations even more than you!

Without a doubt, the most important truth of all to remember is that God is sovereign, good, and unlimited in power. From the human perspective, the decision of where to serve overseas can be overwhelming. The choices are many and the need great. But even greater still is the trustworthy providence of our God who is working for his glory and your good. Do not give into the temptation, the quiet whisper that suggests that the entirety of God’s plan for the nations hangs on your selection of the perfect city out of the thousands on the planet. Our God is far too powerful and his plan is far too secure for such a notion.

As you continue to explore your future, I pray that you will remain reliant upon our gracious God for wisdom, guidance, and power. Remember, we do not serve a God who is desperately trying to get the answer to you but is hindered by some external force or opponent. If God is delaying your answer, he has his reasons. Do not feel the pressure to make a random cloud out to be the outline of Nigeria or cast lots between the continents. God may suddenly overwhelm you one day with a divine clarity that leaves little in doubt. He may also elect to strategically withhold his plan so that you will walk forward in dependent trust upon his goodness and guidance. This process may be as frightening as it is sanctifying. Regardless, it is my prayer that you hold tight to his hand every leg of the coming journey, whether the way is marked with deserts or jungles, mountains or plains, snow or heat, cities or hamlets. Know that wherever you choose to serve, there will be a people waiting that desperately needs the gospel and there is a King reigning who unconditionally deserves their worship!

Giving Missionaries a Cheerful Welcome

by Matthew Hirt

The only constant in the life of a missionary is change. Missionaries live through seemingly endless transitions. Beloved teammates depart, and new teammates arrive. Meanwhile, all missionaries are at various levels of language acquisition and cultural acclimation. On top of all of this, missionary teams frequently adopt new strategy initiatives, leadership vision, and even experience massive transitions in organizational structure. Despite being professionals at transition, nearly all missionaries seem to struggle with the same transition: the move back to the United States.

Welcome Home?
Missionaries leave the field for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they are between terms, their term is ending, or the Lord is calling them to a new place of ministry. Other times they may be leaving due to team conflict, fundraising shortfalls, or illness. Whatever the reason for the return, missionaries often have a hard time identifying “home.” Home is not the United States anymore, but it’s not exactly where they were living overseas either.
Lottie Moon recognized the need for churches to welcome returning missionaries back to the United States. In an 1887 article in the Foreign Mission Journal, she urged Southern Baptist churches to love returning missionaries well. She exhorts, “Give the returned missionary a cheerful welcome, even if he breaks down in two or three years, remembering that in his place you might not have done so well as he did.”* A cheerful welcome, however, means more than meeting them at the airport with balloons or throwing a “welcome home” party for them. The questions you ask them and the phrases you say (or don’t say) can do a lot to help a missionary.

Become a Cheerful Welcomer
Most Americans do not place a high priority on hospitality. This distinction of American culture is demonstrated not just in our lack of eagerness to welcome people into our homes but also in the way that we talk to one another. Here are a few common questions and phrases that many missionaries receive from friends and family followed by some suggestions to help you become a cheerful welcomer.

How was your trip?
This question is only okay if you mean, “Did you have a good flight?” Missionaries know that you mean well by this question, but the question reduces their years of service to the category of a “trip.” A trip is something a person takes in between their normal life. A missionary has often spent years learning the language, understanding the culture, ministering to the people, crying with them, and celebrating with them. In other words, it wasn’t just a break from normal life. The time overseas was normal life, and they are struggling to figure out what normal looks like now without ignoring everything they experienced overseas. The important point here is to not minimize their experience.

I bet you are happy to be home!
This statement usually means, “I’m happy to see you again!” If that’s what you mean, then please say that. Missionaries need family and friends to love them. There are, however, two main problems with this phrase. First, as mentioned above, returning missionaries often struggle with the concept of “home.” By assuming that the United States is home causes disorientation and confusion commonly referred to as “reverse culture shock.” This kind of culture shock is usually harder for returning missionaries to deal with because they should feel most comfortable in their original culture, but they don’t. When someone indicates that the United States is home, it can create an involuntary surge of anxiety and disorientation that makes them feel isolated, alone, and misunderstood.
Second, this phrase unintentionally communicates that the returning missionary doesn’t miss anything from their country of service, and they are pleased with everything they now have available. This, again, can result in some reverse culture shock as they immediately think of all the friends they already miss and struggle to quickly orient themselves to an elusive new normal.

Be a cheerful welcomer by saying “How are you doing? How can we be praying for your during this transition?”

Negative comments about the people/food/language/weather/culture
This is more of a general category because there are too many specific comments and questions that fit. Typical comments sound something like, “I bet you ate a lot of strange stuff,” or “I’m sure it’s nice to be around people who speak your own language again,” or “I read that the pollution is so bad there. You must be glad to breathe fresh air again.” Work hard to understand that there are parts of the culture overseas that all returning missionaries will miss. I still get cravings for certain foods and drinking milk tea with friends. There are times when I am tempted to jump on a flight just to get some buttered naan and momos from my favorite restaurant. I will always miss looking out my window on a clear autumn day to see the Himalayas or the sounds of rain falling during the monsoon. I miss the slower pace of life even though I found parts of it incredibly frustrating while I was there. I am certain that nearly every returning missionary has similar feelings.

Be a cheerful welcomer by taking the opportunity to learn something about the missionary’s host culture. Ask questions about what the missionary liked overseas. If you really want to show interest, ask the missionary to make their favorite foods from overseas for you or offer to take them to a restaurant that specializes in the food that they miss.

Be a Cheerful Disciple-Maker
If home is where the heart is, then it’s not hard to understand why so many missionaries struggle with this transition. Their heart is torn between at least two different places and groups of people they deeply love. Be patient with them, love them well, and give them a cheerful welcome. Returning missionaries should also work through this transition like the countless other transitions of the missionary life. That means showing a lot of grace to those who love you but truly do not understand what your life overseas was like. Instead of expressing offense or frustration, use the moment as a discipleship opportunity. Cheerfully teach them about daily life overseas. Cheerfully teach them about the people, language, and culture that is now a part of you forever. Cheerfully teach them about the way that the Lord is working and about the spiritual needs that still require prayer. After all, the command to make disciples persists even after returning “home.”

Lottie Moon, “The Breaking Down of Missionaries,” in Send the Light: Lottie Moon’s Letters and Other Writings, edited by Keith Harper (Macon, GA: Mercer University, 2002), 219–220.

Praying for the Harvest in Light of Global Christianity

by Anna Daub

A quick tour of the world shows a beautifully diverse group of Christians participating in God’s mission. South Asian Christians in saris reach out to their Hindu and Muslim neighbors. Korean believers mobilize hundreds of Christians to go to the ends of the earth. Chinese believers strategize how to take the gospel to the unreached in China and around the world. Believers from one Muslim nation train believers from another nation to take the gospel to another nation. African trainers courageously go into refugee camps to share the gospel with those who have nothing. Missionaries from Brazil, Peru, and other Latin American countries send missionaries to postmodern Europe and America.

The center of Global Christianity has shifted from the West (mainly Europe and North America) to the Global South and East (Latin America, Africa, and Asia). It has multiplied from one main center to multiple centers. Missions for many centuries has been one-directional (usually from the center to the other parts of the world) but is now, as Allen Yeh says, polycentric, moving from everyone to everywhere. [1] Timothy Tennent states,

“The church has, over the centuries, shifted to various cultural and geographic centers. But never before has the church gained strength, geographically and culturally, in so many different regions of the world simultaneously. The Christian message has been received by more new peoples, from more diverse cultures, than at any time in the history of the church.” [2]

Jesus commands his disciples to “Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matt 9:38, Luke 10:2). How do we pray for laborers in light of the reality of global Christianity?

1. Praise God for the Harvest

The rise of the global church illustrates a beautiful truth: the gospel traveled across the globe, took root, and bore fruit. Christians throughout the centuries participated in God’s mission and, through the work of the Spirit, saw people from various tribes, languages, nations, and tongues respond. The laborers went out. The harvest came. We have so much to be thankful for.

a. Praise God that He is faithful. He promised His word would not return void. The reality of Global Christianity illustrates that it did not in the past and gives hope that it will not in the future.

b. Praise God for the efforts of missionaries around the world. Through their faithful witnesses, the nations heard and responded.

c. Praise God for the harvest we have already seen, which proves that God has a heart for the nations and he calls a diverse people to himself.

d. Praise God that he continues to raise up laborers out of previous harvest fields who boldly take the gospel to new harvest fields.

2. Pray to God for the Harvest

Often when we pray for laborers, we (correctly) pray that he would send out laborers from our own churches. But I propose we add a few other prayers to mix.

a. Pray that the Lord would send out diverse laborers from churches in your area to go to the harvest.

b. Surprisingly for some people, many of the refugees that resettle in the United States are Christian. Ask that the Lord would raise up laborers from among these Christians to take the gospel to their refugee and American neighbors.

c. Pray that God will raise up a new generation of laborers from all parts of the world who will take the gospel to the unreached.

d. Pray for unity among missionaries from different cultural backgrounds who partner together to make Christ known among the nations.

[1] Allen Yeh, Polycentric Missiology: Twenty-First-Century Mission from Everyone to Everywhere, (Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2016), 4.

[2] Timothy Tennent, Theology in the Context
of World Christianity: How the Global Church is Influencing the Way We Think
about and Discuss Theology, 
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007),262.

Why is the Great Commission in the Bible?

Matthew 28:18-20 is not just a familiar passage to most of us, it is our missions anthem. In this scene, Jesus has his followers, His disciples gathered around him, and before he ascends he could tell them anything, but he sends them among ALL nations to make disciples…Jesus entrusts His disciples with a worldwide task! It is easy to cheer for and generally support the Great Commission, but why is it in the Bible?

Here are 4 reasons why I think the Great Commission is in the Bible:

1. Clarity

As a Christian, how do you know that you’re doing what God wants you to do? Jesus gives us a simple and straightforward answer: “Make disciples.” Make these disciples among the nations and among all peoples. Baptize these new disciples into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and then teach these believers to obey all of Jesus’ commands. The Great Commission isn’t necessarily simple, but it’s not complicated. It provides us clarity in a world where connection and access constantly clamor for our attention, time, and energy.

[bctt tweet="As a Christian, how do you know that you’re doing what God wants you to do? Jesus gives us a simple and straightforward answer: “Make disciples.”" username="theCGCS"]

2. Remembrance

The Great Commission is a summary and reminder of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He invites us to go and do likewise.

3. Motivation

Jesus commanded us to be about the business of going and making disciples wherever people are found. He also said that as we participate in this Great Commission, He will be right there with us, every step of the way!

[bctt tweet="The Great Commission isn’t necessarily simple, but it’s not complicated. It provides us clarity in a world where connection and access constantly clamor for our attention, time, and energy." username="theCGCS"]

4. Purpose

There are 3 characters involved in God’s mission among the nations: God, the Lost, and Us—You and Me. Sometimes finding our place, or role, in God’s mission is not as easy or comfortable as we hope or want it to be, yet missions is part of the plan of God and is essential to the identity of God’s people, the church! If you are a Christian, then central to your identity is one who is sent. That means missions is a non-negotiable for me and for you.

The Great Commission is great due to its scope and the fact that Jesus entrusted it to us! Hopefully asking and answering the question of “why” helps us more readily participate in God’s mission among the nations.

[bctt tweet="Sometimes finding our place, or role, in God’s mission is not as easy or comfortable as we hope or want it to be, yet missions is part of the plan of God and is essential to the identity of God’s people, the church!" username="theCGCS"]

Featured image by IMB.

How Far Are You Willing to Go to Reach the Nations?

20 minutes from the campus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and the College at Southeastern is a very unique community. It is a community comprised predominantly of refugees, refugees from more than 30 countries. These are men, women, and children who have fled their home country to escape war, persecution, or violence. Many, after fleeing their home country, have lived in refugee camps on average 17 years! They are part of a select few who have been chosen for resettlement by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). It is difficult for most of us to imagine ourselves in the story of a refugee. Each has truly endured trauma beyond our understanding.

Acts 17:26-27 (CSB)

From one man[a] he has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so that they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

As I read Acts 17:26-27 I am reminded our refugee neighbors are not here by chance or by fate but by the sovereign will and prearrangements of our God and for the purpose that they might seek Him and find Him. How can this happen if the body of Christ does not get involved? We have a great opportunity to be present for those who are seeking God.

If you think the need is not urgent, let me share something I heard last week from a Nepalese refugee named Sam who was resettled to Louisville, Kentucky. At a very low point in his life after arriving in the US someone knocked on his door and invited him to a Bible study. It changed his life! He shared with me that the drug dealers, the gangs, and the sex traffickers are all reaching out to our refugee friends, seeing them as easy targets. Then Sam asked a very convicting question, why is the church not knocking on the doors?

Refugee Hope Partners is a local non-profit ministry that exists to glorify God by loving our refugee neighbors with the hope of the gospel. We love them by…

  • Engaging families and individuals as they face cultural, practical & emotional hurdles.

  • Equipping hands, minds, and souls for independence with dignity.

  • Encouraging healthy relationships & spiritual growth with the hope that all will thrive.

Practically, this is played out with many points of engagement and through partnerships with other ministries and a large army of volunteers. Here are a few of the ways we currently serve our refugee neighbors…

Homework Help is the gateway of our ministry. It is where we typically meet families and students for the first time, and is the program which involves our largest pool of volunteers. During the summer we encourage our students to continue to work on their reading by our Read and Swim Program. If students come and read for 20 minutes three days a week, they are awarded a trip to the swimming pool.

+100 children from kindergarten through high school

ESL Program is designed to help our friends thrive by providing multi-level English instruction. Our goal is to make each student proficient in conversation, reading, and writing.

+45 adults in participating ESL classes.

Bible Studies are offered year-round each week for elementary, middle, and high school boys and girls. It is our desire to see all come to faith in the One that came to give us abundant life through participation in these Bible studies.

+65 students involved in weekly Bible study

Early Learning Club exists to foster intellectual, physical, social, and emotional development through exploration and enriching experiences in a warm and loving environment for children ages 3-4. Our goal is to help equip and support students for a successful entrance into kindergarten by exposing them to the structure of a classroom and English as a second language.

+30 preschoolers preparing for kindergarten

Medical Ministry aims to be an advocate for the refugees in navigating the US medical system, educate to promote better health and to equip toward independence. On occasion, services are offered onsite to make healthcare access easier.

Countless men, women and children

The Bridge is the newest program offered by Refugee Hope Partners. According to UNHCR, only 1% of refugees enroll in college or university. We desire to partner with young adults as they move toward a self-sustaining future by providing them tools to assist them in taking next steps. These tools include things such as college visits and assistance in the applications process.

+8 High School Juniors and Seniors Moving Toward Next Steps

As you can see, there are countless ways you can get involved with Refugee Hope Partners to show the love of Jesus. So the question remains, how far are you willing to go to reach the nations with the gospel? A 20- minute drive? $1.50 in gas money?

To learn more about Refugee Hope Partners, visit their website: www.refugeehopepartners.org

Evangelism Remedy

There is little doubt that God’s mission and mandate for his church centers on evangelism. This means that, no matter what churches are doing, the primary objective must be clearly and plainly communicating the gospel. Our message is good news – God loved our sinful humanity so much that he gave his only Son. Anyone who believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life(John 3:16)

Carl F. H. Henry once wrote: “The gospel is only good news if it gets there on time.” Most Christians know this is true; however, we are consumed with other activities and forget the importance of evangelism. Below give 5 reasons for this misplaced focus and then give some recommendations.

  1. We fail to maintain an eternal emphasis — being evangelistic requires us to remember that every person is an eternal soul. The daily pressures of this world are distracting and we assume this is all there is. But, we need to live with eternity in mind.

REMEDY: Say to yourself, “This person is an eternal soul. They will live forever somewhere. What can I say today that will point them to heaven?”

  1. We are too concerned with approval of others — the church engages in many activities that will generate public applause. Evangelism is not one of these activities. If our ears are tuned to the approval of those outside the church, we will find other “noble” activities and neglect evangelism.

REMEDY: Seek God’s approval first and remember, when someone trust Christ, they will be eternally thankful for your courage.

  1. We are silenced by bad examples of evangelism — we all have seen bad models of evangelism, models that are mocking or humiliating. My friend, Alvin Reid calls these attempts “E-vandalism.” Fear of being labeled, or being viewed like these bad examples keeps many silent.

REMEDY: You don’t allow bad table manners to stop you from eating, instead, you strive for dignity when you eat. Rather than letting these bad examples of evangelism to keep you silent, determine to be a good example for others.

  1. We forget that the gospel is the solution to social needs — this world is broken! People are hurting. Lives are being destroyed. Evil seems to be winning. Physical needs overwhelm our senses and “mere words” seem so futile. In the face of social issues, it is tempting to neglect sharing the gospel.

REMEDY: Don’t stop providing help. However, never “just” meet physical needs. The gospel is the only lasting solution for this broken world and for those suffering under the penalty and pain of sin.

  1. We believe our lack of knowledge justifies silence — there is so much we don’t know about the Bible. We are afraid to share because there are so many questions someone could ask us. We don’t want to lead someone astray and we do not want to be embarrassed by what we don’t know. This fear keeps us from trying.

REMEDY: Share anyway! Study what you don’t know. Let your lack of knowledge be the impulse to study.Here is a link to a simple, free online course on basic Christian Doctrine.

Religion and Worldview: What Questions Do I Ask?

I get this question a lot, so I thought it fitting to address it in a post.

With the remarkable diversity we find around ourselves today, we can no longer assume we understand someone’s religious background. This is obvious when we talk about discovering and engaging unreached people groups around us. Discovery is more than finding out wherepeople live around us, it is finding out about who lives around us. Part of discovery is cultural acquisition, or learning someone’s culture. That is not as hard as it sounds, and there are five simple categories you can consider to learn someone’s culture. Faith is one of them.

But this issue is wider than working with internationals. I have a hunch that the average American Christian (faithful, church-attending believer) does not know as much about the average American’s religion as they think they do. We have grown up hearing people say they are Christians and we take it at face value. Or, people claim to be “non-religious” or “nones” on the census survey. However, I am convinced that these terms do little to actually tell us what someone believes. In fact, neither do the terms Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Atheist.

Nevertheless, when I tell people that part of discovery is learning someone’s religion, they most frequently treat it like a check box. They will ask, “What religion are you?” Their new friend responds with, “Muslim.” Then it is done. There is no follow up on what this actually means to that person. Instead, a bucket load of assumptions are dumped on to that person about what they believe. However, two different people who say they are Muslim will mean very different things by that term. Just like two different people who merely say they are Christian may have totally different belief systems.

We must dig deeper.

When proclaiming the gospel, we need more than the religious label someone applies to herself. We need to know what they believe.

Everyone has a religion.

Even people who say they are not religious, or classify themselves as “nones,” or claim Atheism have a set of beliefs. People seem to miss this fact. Every single person lives their life operating out of a belief system. Some believe there is a God who upholds the universe. Others believe there is an invisible fact of nature called Science that causes everything to be the way that it is. Now, my point here is not to debate the relationship between faith and Science. Suffice it to say they have one, and Christians shouldn’t be scared of science. My point though is deeper. Everyone believes in something. Everyone has a big story in their head that they think explains everything. The gospel operates this way as well, except the gospel is the one true story of the whole world. It can be shared in many ways, but an easy one to remember breaks it into four separate acts: creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.

If you want to share the gospel with people in a way that makes sense to them, you do well to find out what captivates their beliefs. The following simple questions allow you to move past that religious label and find out what people actually believe. In addition, they each analog with one of the major acts in the gospel story mentioned above.

Where did it all come from?

This first question frames a person’s worldview. Everyone has an answer, and people answers will be very different. For some, a personal force (a god of some form) made the universe. For others, it was a collection of impersonal forces (think Science) that caused existence. For others even, there is no beginning. They have a circular worldview and there is no beginning and no end, just cycles of life.

Knowing the answer to this question is important, as the gospel speaks differently to each of these worldviews. Of course, the gospel story starts with God’s good creation that met its climax in man (actually God didn’t say “very good” until he created woman!).

Where did it all go wrong?

Most reasonable people will admit that the world has problems. However, few have thought through why. If they have, then their answers are all over the map. Some blame politics, others blame religion. Some will say that no one is perfect. Others will admit that people are evil. Regardless, this is an important question to understand anyone’s belief system.

The gospel story speaks to this question with humanity’s fall. When the fall happened God’s good creation, while still essentially good, was radically directed toward evil. Humanity’s sin affected all of creation and society. Wars, famines, natural disasters, poverty, and eventually death are the results of sin.

What, if anything, can fix it?

In my experience, most non-Christians find this question hard to answer. Many worldviews have little to offer in terms of a solution. Many think there is no solution. Others think it comes through better government, or better economy, or more learning, but these are the same things they listed as the problem above! On a personal level, people all have a functional savior that answers this question in their own life. It may be a better job and finances, or it may the search for happiness, or it may be legalistically following the rules of a holy book (be that the Bible or the Qu’ran).

The gospel story tells us there is only one thing that can remove the stain of sin, and that one thing is  ultimately nothing that we can do. Humanity’s problem is bigger than any manmade solution. It took God himself stepping into his creation in order to redeem it. The life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ ultimately crushes evil. It fixes the brokenness, both in society and in our own hearts.

What will happen when this is all over?

Finally, a full understanding of someone’s beliefs is not complete without knowing their understanding of eternity. They may not believe in eternity. They may think life is over when they shut their eyes for the last time, or they may believe in reincarnation. However, everyone has to come to grips with both their individual destiny and the destiny of all of the universe. Those are big questions, and they will usually get someone thinking.

Certainly, the gospel story has much to say concerning the end of all things. While many worldviews have a grim finish line, the Christian story is one that ends in great victory. The ultimate restoration of all things under the total lordship of Christ himself is the glorious promise of the gospel. The Christian has unwavering hope, because we know that the current sin-sickness is not the end of the story. We await a king and a glorious kingdom that will have no end.