By Jason Polk
Five years ago, my wife and I felt God stirring in our hearts towards missions. We started to see what the North American Mission Board (NAMB) was doing through church planting and we wanted to be a part of it! The problem was we lived in the South. There is nothing wrong with planting in the Bible belt. As long as there are people who need to hear the gospel, there is need for more Biblically sound churches. NAMB, however, has identified strategic areas of great need based on population, diversity, influence and lostness among other things. This wasn’t where we lived, but it was where God was calling us.
We know there are others who feel like God is calling them from the Bible belts of the world to go into the hedges and the highways (Luke 14:23). I want to give 3 pieces of encouragement to you as you navigate this next season.
- Hospitality and intentional care for others goes further than you might think.
The West is filled with friendly people. They are more willing to engage in meaningful conversation than I originally thought. There is still a chasm that separates us, though. They are simply not used to the sweet-tea-drinking, Jesus-chicken-eating hospitality we sometimes exhibit. When you go out of your way to do simple things for them, such as telling them you are praying for them when they are going through a difficult time or buying them coffee, it is counter-cultural. They are used to friendly people, but they’re not used to overly generous and hospitable people. This opens doors that you could never image could be opened (1 Peter 4:8-10).
- Accents are noticeable, but that’s not always a bad thing.
We were told that our accents would hinder us from reaching people, but that is the last thing it has done. Our accents have helped us start conversations with people. When people hear us say things like “y’all,” they say things like, “You aren’t from here are you?” “Where are you from?” or “What brought you out here?” We can’t begin to tell you how many friendships we have already formed that started out because they notice our accents. Embrace where you are from, and use it as leverage to build relationships with people.
- Be Humble.
Just because you may come from the land of churches on every corner doesn’t mean that you are the expert on church planting, especially in the West context. There is much to learn from the many missionaries and church planters that have come before you. Listen well. Learn often. Be active at sitting at the feet of others regardless if they pastor a church that will have the rhythms of your church. This might be one of our biggest wins so far in learning to contextualize the= gospel in the West.
God is already moving and active here. Come be part of what He is doing!
Jason Polk is lead pastor of Echo Church in Orange County, Calif.
Published December 1, 2019