Ingrained in the minds of many Christians is the idea that to be involved in mission work means one thing only: living overseas long-term. This is a limited way to approach missions because it excludes most people. Even those that go long-term will eventually come home and need to appropriate their vision in another way. If it is an attribute of God to desire the redemption of all nations, then it must be cultivated into every one of His followers as an attribute. That is why it is vital to the Church that other avenues of involvement are explored. The following five habits are not to be viewed in terms of “which one is for me?” The idea is that a person who prioritizes God’s global plan will do all or most of them.
The Main Habits
“The calling of the missionary to the heathen is a glorious high calling. He who thinks himself above it, ought not to call himself a follower of Christ” – Samuel Mills, 1806
This habit is most commonly associated with missions. In the past and even still today, when someone thinks about missions, going is the most natural association. A definition of the goer is the person physically present, laboring cross-culturally on the mission field. Going may mean a short-term trip or an extended amount of time. Ultimately, the goer is willing to completely immerse himself in an unfamiliar culture with the intention of furthering the gospel in that culture. The best goers tend to be characterized as innovative, low maintenance, steadfast, and persevere with little fellowship.
In Exodus 3:7-10, God mentions nine different times to Moses that He is concerned with the Israelites and their condition as slaves and is getting ready to bring them into the promise land. During this discourse, God makes one reference to Moses. Look at Moses’ reaction: “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’” (Ex. 3:11). Doesn’t this sound like us sometimes? Our temptation is to focus on ourselves and our insufficiency! We think there is no way God could want us involved and so many of us never enjoy the blessing of participating. Look at God’s reaction; He puts the focus back on Himself in the next verse by saying, “I will be with you” (Ex. 3:12). Before Robert Morrison left to be the first Bible translator in China, someone asked if he really thought he could change the 2,000 year problem of idolatry in China. His response was, “No I don’t, but I expect God can.” It is not so much about our ability but instead our availability.
I can remember just after I graduated from college, when a friend of mine said, “Hey Todd, come with me to North Sudan to share the gospel with Muslims.” I said, “I am not ready!” He said, “No problem… you’ve got 20 minutes.” What was I waiting for? For some, we assume we have to be pretty close to perfect spiritually before we can move forward. This is paralyzing to so many potential goers who, in reality, would be great cross-cultural workers. As you begin to consider going on a short-term trip, it will be natural for you to look at your abilities (or inabilities) and become discouraged. It is at this point you must be reminded, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things - and the things that are not - to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). In light of this truth we are all overqualified!
“I used to think that prayer should have the first place and teaching the second. I now feel it would be truer to give prayer the first, second and third places and teaching the fourth.” - James O. Fraser
If you could ask Jesus to teach you anything, what would it be? Personally, I think I would want to learn how He multiplied the bread to feed the 5,000! Can you imagine? Well, in all the scriptures we see only one time when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them something. This request was, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Isn’t it interesting that after knowing and living with Jesus, their desire was to pattern His prayer life? Maybe after following Him around for a few years they realized that when Jesus prayed things happened. Listen to Christ’s response. “This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” (Matt. 6:9-10). Jesus was saying, when you pray, you should ask God to bring the activity of heaven down to earth. In other words, pray that what is going on up there would go on down here. Well, what is going on in heaven? Right now in heaven all eyes are on Jesus, as a multicultural worship service is being held. Does this sound like your church? This is what Jesus asked his disciples to pray.
Another passage that challenges us to pray for the world is found in Matthew 9:36-38. It says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’” Jesus saw the vastness of lost souls compared to the scarcity of the laborers and He looked to the disciples and said, “Ask.” What a powerful image! Not go, or preach, or have a conference, but ask. It is hard to read this passage and not get convicted about your prayer life. Let’s evaluate our own prayer lives and see if we come to God with our desires or if we are concerned with His. It is said that the average Christian prays 2 minutes a day. I have to say…that could be high! Think about two things…how often do we pray and what is the content of that prayer? Obviously, we need to pray for ourselves and yes, we need to lift up our family and friends, but God also desires that we join together and intercede on behalf of all nations and beg Him to send forth laborers into the field. What would it take to truly see a prayer movement in your heart of purposeful intercession for the nations that would spill out to your community?
“Do not think me mad. It is not to make money that I believe a Christian should live. The noblest thing a man can do is, just humbly to receive, and then go amongst others and give.” - David Livingstone
Paul the Apostle has an interesting observation: “And how can they preach unless they are sent?” (Rom. 10:15). The unreached do not have a chance at hearing the gospel if there are not people on the home front funding and praying for those that are going. It is like asking the question, “which is more important – the rescuer who goes down into the well to save a life or the man at the top holding the rope?” You can’t have one without the other. There was a principle in Israelite warfare, “The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” (1 Sam. 30:24-25). Why? Because they are equally important in God’s army.
In our culture we think we are entitled to live at whatever standard matches our income. Our reasoning is that since a person makes $80,000 a year they should live at $80,000. When a person gets a raise, their standard of living gets a raise too! But the World Christian should have a different mindset. Maybe when a Christian gets a raise or comes into unexpected financial gain, God intends that person to be a resource for someone else! This thinking is so contrary to our culture.
The activity of a sender is not only integral, but diverse as well. The most obvious aspect of sending is giving of one’s financial resources to support a missionary. But this is certainly not the only facet of sending. A sender may work in one or all the following specialized roles: logistics, prayer coordination, communications, research, finances, or re-entry coordinator. A specialist in logistics deals with the practical side of sending. They deal with packing the missionary’s goods, travel plans, cost and acquirement of items needed on the field. The prayer coordinator can find specific prayer needs based on research, missionaries in the field and missions societies. They are also needed to enlist others in intercessory prayer for the team and organize special prayer meetings. For prayer needs to be known, a communications specialist is enormously helpful. It is their responsibility to open lines of communication to the team so that prayer requests and equipment and other needs are known. Sending is neither glamorous nor easy. The task of dealing with the day-to-day, behind the scenes tasks of mission work may even seem thankless, but it is not without reward.
This is a seemingly difficult habit for young adults to develop because they always feel broke! But the point is not the amount that is given. The point is that they are building a habit of sacrifice. Bill Stearns in his book, Run With the Vision, has a few incredible observations regarding the sender:
“How different are World Christians from other Christians? In some ways, very little. They still spend much of their time doing day-to-day chores, filling their role in life (being a parent, spouse, friend), fulfilling the requirements of a job, fixing things around the house. They too work on character issues in their own life… But in other ways, they are very different. The World Christian uses his free time differently, keeping in mind a global perspective…He spends his finances wisely, freeing up more money for the global expansion of the kingdom. He always envisions how his ministry and activities can somehow result in eventually having an impact in the nations.
Living a World Christian lifestyle as a sender doesn’t mean taking a vow of poverty – since poverty isn’t necessarily spiritual and wealth isn’t necessarily unspiritual. But being good stewards of money as we seek first the Kingdom of heaven is definitely a mark of a World Christian sender…the lifestyle of a globally significant sender isn’t mostly about money. It’s about character.”
I believe he is right on the mark. May we say, “Lord, I hold my wallet with an open hand!”
“Would you mind buying me a study Bible for Christmas…that way I can read and understand?” -Saudi Arabian Student to my father-in-law in his kitchen
America is hosting the largest number of internationals of any country and thus, the world is at our doorstep! Over 650,000 international students and scholars are studying here from 188 countries of the world. What a perfect opportunity to extend God’s grace and love to the world, and you don’t even have to leave! The Welcomer gets his name from the idea that he welcomes those from other countries to his country.
The foreigner is close to the Lord’s heart. Over forty times in the Old Testament alone we are commanded to care for the foreigner in our land,
“The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Lev 19:34).
“He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt” (Deut 10:18-20).
God reminds the Israelites of their past exile in Egypt so that they will be motivated to love the foreigners, for they once were foreigners. Similarly, we should be reminded of our past, how we were foreigners to God, yet he had mercy on us.
Sadly, as available as this ministry is to college students, it is going sorely overlooked. Did you know that 80% of the internationals on your campus will never be invited into an American home? With high hopes they come to study, but soon realize that the hospitality they are used to is just as foreign to America as they are. So they live in their isolated community with fellow internationals and eventually return to their homeland. I wonder what they tell their friends about this renowned Christian nation.
Everyone can be a welcomer. All it takes is a little time, energy and a willingness to say hello. There is no reason that Christians on campus shouldn’t have 2-3 new international friends each semester. As we wander the aisles of Target and pass an international, why not reach out and say “hello”? Can you imagine how the opportunities would increase and the gospel would spread if that were a reality? At the college where I worked, there were 80 students from Saudi Arabia who hung out in their corner of the Student Center. I can remember the first time I took two guys from my Bible study to meet and get to know them. After a few weeks of just saying hello and making ourselves available we became part of the group. We shared the gospel with about 10 of them over the next year. It’s amazing to think of the hardship I would face should I go to Saudi Arabia and try to do the same thing! Yet here we have complete freedom to share with otherwise unreached people! The one who welcomes is willing to serve internationals and reach out to them in the hopes that Christ will be glorified. They will see how easy it is to get involved and soon they will be loving internationals and this strategic ministry.
“The business of the recruiting officer may not blazon the pages of history but it wins battles.” – Thomas Richards, 1906
A mobilizer is a normal, everyday Christian who walks with God, yet has a global perspective and stays on the home front to rouse others to action. Anyone who has a vision for the world has at one time been mobilized. Whether someone asked them to go on a short-term trip, invited them to a missions conference, took them to a Bible study on the topic or introduced them to a missionary, somehow they were recruited. In a nutshell, a mobilizer is a recruiter. Mobilizers are out looking for others to enlist in God’s agenda with their entire lives. Their focus is on Christians who are unaware of God’s global plan and they consistently seek to raise the missions awareness in creative ways, whether it is in a small group or large group setting. Like Habakkuk, they “Write down the vision and make it plain on tablets so that the one who reads it may run” (Hab. 2:2).
Claude Hickman makes an incredible observation when he says, “Every Christian a World Christian and every World Christian a mobilizer.” Think about the awesome potential in that statement. Every Christian is orchestrating their life around God’s heart for the world and fulfilling the Great Commission and at the same time passing on that vision to the new believers and next generation. Unbelievable!
Whether it is just the right missions book or a short video, magazine, agency, prayer profile, or something else, you need to be able to show others resources. I can remember when I was in college gathering my own collection of tools. I labeled a manila folder “Mobilization Resources.” Now it fills two filing cabinets! Part of being equipped with resources is being a networker. You will need to know what God is doing and who He is doing it with. I challenge anyone trying to cultivate their mobilization skills to help others collect and learn how to use the resources and material available in missions. As they are collecting and learning this material they are building a confidence that will enable them to teach others.
Every great mobilizer thinks in terms of three areas: Motivation, Information, and Attention. With Motivation the key issue is understanding how to story-board the missions theme of the Bible and be able to share your own story in a powerful and concise way. Also, they understand the Information that is available and are able to pass it on to others. Whether that means magazines, books, websites or stats of where the reached vs. unreached are, the mobilizer is informed. Beyond Motivation and Information, mobilizers are also able to give Attention. This is bringing the key ingredient of follow up and accountability so that those who enter the pipeline stay in the pipeline. The mobilizer is a key player in the process of raising up laborers. It takes a burning heart for the world and yet a willingness to stay. It has happened to every World Christian and every World Christian can do it!
So What Does This Mean?
In the end it is about balance. Take a look at these five habits and ask these questions: What habits can I major in while in this season of life and which should I minor in? What habits are my strongest? Which are my weakest? What are some practical applications I can make regarding each habit to build them into my life? Just like a wheel must be well rounded to work effectively, so the World Christian must carefully watch to see how well-rounded they are. If the Church is to truly reach the world, it will take the enlistment of all believers to be engaged in going, praying, welcoming, sending and mobilizing.