This week Jeddidiah Coppenger shared five ways to lead a local church towards effective engagement in the work of international missions. His list wisely included counsel for local church pastors to regularly take short-term trips to strategic mission locations. In partnership with our state convention and the North American Mission Board, I have had three such opportunities to experience a taste of international mission work first-hand. These ventures have solidified my passion to lead our church to pray, give and send our people to serve among the unreached around the world. Here’s why:
I’ve put a face to the brokenness of the world
It’s easy to lose sight of the overwhelming needs of those around the world. Certainly poverty and oppression are pervasive, but even among prosperous nations, there are clear evidence of the implications of the fall and the plight of humanity apart from Christ. It is one thing to preach abstract sermons about the nations; it is another thing altogether to put a face to these nations and know specific people, by name, who are running full speed into a Christless eternity.
Certainly poverty and oppression are pervasive, but even among prosperous nations, there are clear evidence of the implications of the fall and the plight of humanity apart from Christ.
I’ve been encouraged by godly servants
Missionaries are heroes. Yet, I am often guilty of an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality when it comes to those serving to declare and demonstrate the gospel among the nations. By going, I’ve been able to share meals with missionaries and see the fruit of their character and their passion to see the lost come to faith in Christ. This vibrant faith has been a God-given means of convicting me of apathy and spurring me on towards conformity to Christ.
I’ve witnessed effective, contextualized mission strategy
The work of missions among the nations provides a compelling learning lab for those seeking to lead God’s people on mission in North America. Often I fail to discern how my missionary strategy is marred by factors deemed necessary for the American church, although they may not demonstrate strategic missionary insight. As I am around those who are creatively engaging those far from Christ, I can consider my own missionary context and blind spots that may hinder our churches mission in order to develop savvy missionary strategy for the missional context of the North American church.
I’ve seen the fruit of our cooperative giving
The Cooperative giving of Southern Baptist churches enables scores of missionaries to do what they do. The giving of Southern Baptist churches also allows thousands of pastors and local church members to embark on short-term trips to serve around the world. As I have visited the fruit of this investment, I am challenged to call God’s people to continue to grow in their generosity in order continue to send and support those who are called, trained, equipped, and passionate to see the good news spread to the end of the earth.
I’ve seen the vast need for laborers
The one consistent refrain from those I’ve visited is the need for laborers. While it may seem that the church in North American is increasingly outnumbered, this is merely a drop in the bucket compared to the needs of those serving in certain parts of the world. I’ve been reminded of the need to consistently urge members of our church to consider how God may be calling them to go to the nations themselves. As Jesus instructed, I’ve also been prompted to pray that God would continue to raise up people who will go.
But, international missions must not be relegated to a nice thing to do once everything else gets done. If it does, we should not wonder why out people yawn when we speak about God’s mission among the nations.
These five outcomes are birthed though personalized involvement in the work of international missions. Church pastors and leaders are busy – there is no discounting this fact. But, international missions must not be relegated to a nice thing to do once everything else gets done. If it does, we should not wonder why out people yawn when we speak about God’s mission among the nations. Instead, we must trust God to birth a deep passion in our hearts for the nations that shapes the prayers we pray, the sermons we preach, the emails we send, the meetings we lead and the mission we are entrusted in the hopes that God will continue to use his church to be a light to the nations, that the earth might be filled with knowledge of the glory of God.
Published October 1, 2015