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.