Don’t Know Much About History…

Dave and Joe: As promised, the two of us (Joe and Dave) will be offering some ideas (in the form of questions) in our coming blogs to help in assessing your church’s missions-mindedness and to enable you to shore up your foundation in missions.

Today: Question #1 – “What does your missions team know about missions history? What books on missions history have you read? How familiar are you with missionary biographies?”

Dave: Quick! Can you answer any of these 3 questions without resorting to Google or pulling a history book off of the shelf?

1. What are 3 significant breakthroughs in world missions in the 275 years that followed the Reformation?

2. If challenged, could you write a one-sentence description of any three of the following individuals and explain their contributions to missions history?
Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf, William Carey, Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor, John
Mott, Cameron Townsend, Donald McGavran, Elisabeth Elliot, Ralph Winter.

3. In what century and state did the Haystack Prayer Meeting occur? What happened in the century following as a result of that prayer meeting?

How did you do on our brief quiz?

Joe: For some, studying history can be one of those terribly unnecessary activities that you can indulge in after retirement. After all, why spend time now learning about things that happened ages ago to people who are now quite dead?

Dave: Remember the song line, “Don’t know much about history…”? We figure the guy who sang those words was admitting he was a dummy. The importance of understanding history was once a focus of education, and those who didn’t know what went on before were believed to be handicapped in their ability to see the way forward.

But interest in the historical perspective has, sadly, waned with our preoccupation over the present and our worry about the future. This is clearly true in terms of missions history.

Joe: From a world missions point of view, shouldn’t it be helpful to know some of the ways God has moved throughout history? Wouldn’t it be advantageous to know how God took this fledgling movement of lowly born people in backwater Palestine and turned it into the movement it is today? If you took a large world map and used colored pencils to color in how the church has spread over the centuries, you would be amazed.

Dave: I discovered our missions history illiteracy a few years ago while teaching a class of upper classmen in Bible college. I had made a casual reference to William Carey. The blank stares of my students revealed to me that I had invoked an unfamiliar name. Picking up on this, I asked for a quick show of hands of those who had never heard of WiIliam Carey before. Shockingly, the majority of my class was unfamiliar with “the father of modern missions.”

Joe: A healthy curiosity about missions history does raise questions. Why did the church grow at certain times and not at others? Why did it sometimes advance during fierce persecution and not so much during times of peace? How did technology fit into the growth of the church? How did major world events like wars, economic collapse and the rise of other religions affect this progress? Who were the people God used to bring this massive expansion of His church? What can we learn from them? Were there changes in methodology over the years? Are there things we can learn from how missions methodology has changed?

Dave: History is vital because it gives reasons and explanations for why things are the way they are. For example, if I don’t know why my sump pump malfunctioned turning my basement into a swimming pool, I can’t decide how to prevent it from flooding in the future. This capacity for reflection based on historical precedent adds beauty to human experience because we are wired to be inquiring people who want to know “why”.

Joe: You see, history isn’t quite so irrelevant after all. In addition to seeing the different causes for the growth of the church, we can be blown away by how God can use rather small groups of inexperienced people of seemingly no consequence to change the world.

“Yes,” you say, “we see that sort of thing in the Bible with the apostles, but that doesn’t happen now, does it?” When you read a couple of these missionary biographies and missions history books, you will realize that it does happen and is still happening now. No, you won’t see it on the cable news channels, but it is happening and in some very exciting ways.

Joe and Dave: Here are 4 recommendations to enhance your personal growth in understanding the history of missions so that you can challenge your missions committee to grow in this area as well –

(1) Take Perspectives and get the big picture of what God has been doing for the past 2,000 years. Three whole lessons in that course address the history of missions.

(2) Assign readings in missions history to various members of your church missions committee. Ask for 15-minute reports at subsequent missions committee meetings. (Ask us if you need suggestions on good articles or books on missions history.)

(3) Have everybody on your missions team purchase a copy of “From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya” by Ruth Tucker. This is a simple, yet fairly comprehensive overview of the last 2,000 years of missions history in a readable, biographical format.

(4) Challenge the members of your missions team to master one historical character out of missions history. Let each person select a key person, read their biography, and report back to the committee on what they learned. This can be an enormously fun project. Learning about people can ignite a passion for missions.

Well, that’s question #1. Our next blog will bring you a 2nd question. Bet you can’t wait to see what it is!

Dave Shive and Joe Steinitz

If I were just hired… The Sequel (which actually should have been the Prequel)

Awhile ago I posted a blog entitled “If I was just hired to be a missions director at a church”.  It was pretty heavy on the resources, but it really didn’t give much info on specific next steps.  I recently received a call from someone who used to be involved at my local church but has moved to a new church plant and has been tasked with heading their missions efforts.  She was excited about the opportunity but really didn’t know where to start.  Below are some ideas I sent her that just might be helpful to others as well.  I edited it so it would apply to a broader audience.
“Delighted to hear about your role and what is happening at your church.  I wrote a blog awhile ago that you might find helpful.  It is fairly generic but will at least give you some resources to think about.  https://unmissions.net/2012/10/08/if-i-was-just-hired-to-be-a-missions-director-at-a-church/
The beautiful thing about where you guys are right now is that you are at the beginning, so you can start to form your missions outreach from the ground up.  As you know I am a big fan of focus and having a church do a few things well rather than doing many things.  What sometimes happens is that missions programs evolve at a church… a niece of an elder is going as a missionary to Buenos Aires, so the church supports her.  Never mind the fact that the church really doesn’t have much of a relationship with her or the fact that Buenos Aires, Argentina has, per capita, more followers of Christ than we do here.  So, you want to move slowly and prayerfully with things like that.
On the other hand, you don’t want to be so afraid of being scattered that you don’t do anything.  You want to be able to experiment and put your toes in the water.
So I asked myself, what I would do if I were in your shoes right now?
Some of this is so painfully obvious that I hesitate to mention it, but I will anyway.
1. Pray that God would give you a team.  Be praying about who you should  be approaching.  Of course, folks with missions background and interest are a good place to start thinking but you need to be careful.  Sometimes those who have been involved in missions for awhile have some biases and pet ministries they are very committed to and, when they serve in missions leadership, they will over-advocate for their particular areas of interest.
2.   I know that you are a fan of Perspectives.  (as am I)  Some churches actually require those who serve in missions leadership to have taken the class prior to joining the team.  There is a class that will be starting locally this January, so its not too early to be talking to folks about this.  If you are able to recruit a team now that can take the class together, that would be an amazing start.  One of the big benefits of this is giving the group a common vocabulary as well as helping them to be a bit more informed as to areas of priority.  For many, “missions” is defined as doing something good somewhere else than where you are right now.  If that is the primary criteria for what qualifies as missions, you’ll have as many opinions as to direction as to people on the team.
3.  Be thinking in terms of focus and help your team to be thinking in terms of focus as well.
4.  Be a student of the culture of your church.  I love that Kwast (from Perspectives) model of analyzing culture where the most outer concentric circle is “behavior” going inward to “values” to “beliefs” to “worldview”.  So, by analyzing the behaviors of your church, you will be able to discern the actual worldview of the church.  This understanding of your church’s DNA will help you as you decide where to focus as well as how to communicate missions to them. Though I don’t share this with everyone, I encourage Perspectives students, as they try to bring this back to their church, to think of their church as an unreached people group.  As a cross-cultural worker needs to know the culture of the people they are sharing with, so a missions mobilizer needs to know the culture of the people at their church.  Both are trying to change a way of thinking.
5.  Look for that local / global connection.  I worked with a church once that was considering adopting a particular unreached people group in Nepal.  One of the missions team members happened upon a Nepali store in the area.  We later found out that, at the time, the city where this church was located was the second most popular immigration destination of Nepalis after New York City.  So, there were lots of opportunity for local ministry that had a global connection.  There may be some group in the region with opportunity to minister that might lead to overseas opportunities later.  I have seen more than one of these divinely inspired connections being made between church and unreached group.
6.  Find out what others are doing.  I find my best ideas I have managed to steal from someone at least in part.  There are lots of churches doing lots of things… all of them different.  My guess is what you guys end up doing will look a lot different than what gfc is doing and perhaps different than what you are envisioning right now.  I can give you some different folks to talk to whenever you would like and will even do the introductions if that would be helpful.
7.  Take time to celebrate.  We are terrible at celebrating victories in the church.  So make sure you mark the milestones.
This can be an exciting process but can also be discouraging, particularly when you don’t feel that things are moving.  Please, let’s talk regularly.  I think some exciting things are coming!!!”

The Quest for the “Missions-Minded” American Church

Dave: Joe and I are teaming up for some blog posts over the next few weeks that we hope will be challenging and insightful for church leaders, missions committee members, and members of congregations. These blogs on the www.unmissions.net website will focus on the question: “What constitutes a ‘missions-minded’ church?”

Joe: You may be wondering, “Why would we even ask such a question in the first place?” I mean, how can you measure such a thing? Well the reality is – it is quite hard to quantify the “mindedness” of anything. Having said that, most of us have a gut feeling as to how “missions-minded” our church is, though we don’t necessarily have the empirical evidence to prove that gut feeling is accurate.

Dave: To answer that big question, we will be raising other question and posting our thoughts and ideas for any church or missions committee to consider if it wishes to determine if it is truly “missions-minded.” During our four-year partnership, Joe and I have had the privilege of developing a working relationship with a number of churches in a variety of contexts. Virtually every one of these churches, if prompted, would declare, “Yes, we are ‘missions-minded.'”

Joe: But organizations and committees can be stuck and when an organization is stuck, it’s not always obvious how to get unstuck. When we meet to consult with a church or missions team, we find it far better to be inquisitive rather than prescriptive. This is for a variety of reasons. Asking questions tends to do two things. It may expose underlying assumptions. It may also reveal solutions that God has already given to a team, solutions just waiting to be unearthed.

Dave: I remember the first church that I advised almost four years ago. This was a good church with a long missions history. Their founding pastor had been very passionate about missions and the church had been very active in missions over the years. They had supported a large number of missionaries serving in a wide variety of contexts.

When the missions committee of this church invited me to advise them, they assured me that they were very “missions-minded.” And I really had no reason not to take their opinion at face value. But as I met with this group, I began to have doubts. That night in my hotel room, I decided to actually analyze their church missions budget to see how they were using their missions resources

The results hit me right between the eyes. When I met with the missions team of this church the next day, I showed them the results of my analysis. They were surprised at the evidence which indicated that they were not nearly as “missions-minded” as they had assumed.

Joe: So, each of these blogs will begin with a question. These questions might be good to wrestle with as a leadership team. Most of these questions have probably crossed your mind at some point, but airing them tends to help them grow and gives you permission to seek the answers. Hopefully the answers will encourage, reveal blind spots, and bring greater clarity to the vision the Lord has for your role in making God famous among the nations of the world.

Dave: Our next blog will address the first of these questions – “What does your missions team know about missions history?” This question may appear to be unrelated to your committee. But you may be in for a surprise.

Check back in to see how helpful it may be for your mission team to wrestle with a question like this is…

For mobilized churches – Dave Shive, Joe Steinitz

In praise of innovation: Tony Sheng and The Ember Cast

Joe and I named our website “unmissions.net” for a simple reason. We aspire to mobilize by outside of the box thinking and to encourage fresh approaches to reaching the nations.

And very few in my small world typify the “unmissions” worldview like Tony Sheng. I want more people to get to know Tony and his work.

Here is how Tony describes himself:

“I mentor, resource and inspire the next generation in the areas of global missions, world cultures, and leadership development with a tribe called The Ember Cast – we throw fire. I’m also a technology professional and live in Columbia, MD, USA with my wife and two daughters.”

“We throw fire” – I love that! When I see that phrase, I am reminded of the quote (often wrongly attributed to John Wesley): “Set yourself on fire with passion and people will come for miles to watch you burn.” This is a great word picture for Tony and The Ember Cast – they are on fire, they throw that fire around, and many are drawn to see what’s on fire.

I’d like to throw a few embers your way so more can know what Tony is doing and be inspired to creativity and innovation.

While Joe and I regularly lobby for a sound missions philosophy grounded in reading, studying, and broad understanding of the world and missions, the reality is that we need a Sheng-like healthy balance between sound missiological thinking AND solid practical “doing.”

Tony is a doer, a practitioner, a hands-on implementer. (In fact, I want to coin a new word to describe Tony: “imple-mentor.”)

While the idea of mentoring is increasingly bandied about these days, for The Ember Cast this is more than a clever motto. Mentoring (sometimes called “discipleship”) is not a slogan or code word for Tony: it is rooted in his very DNA.

One of the staggering aspects of Tony’s ministry is how much he accomplishes while being employed fulltime as a technology professional. Notice how he so casually puts it after describes his exhausting missions vision – “…I’m also technology professional…my wife…two daughters.” Oh? Is that all you do, Tony? And what do you do in your spare time, Mr. Sheng?

I find this inspiring, since I can barely keep my head above water though freed up to devote all of my vocational time to the ministry of mobilization.

You can follow Tony’s thinking at http://tonytsheng.blogspot.com/.

Be blessed as you learn more about the young(er) missions activists who are reshaping how missions is done in the 21st century.

In Praise of the Plodder: Remembering William Carey

I am ashamed to say that there is a dark side of me that has at times hungered for fame. In a day where “celebrity Christians” gain fame for books, TV programs, and public speaking, it is far too easy for us “normal people” to feel inadequate because we are not famous. Or we can compare our measly achievements for the kingdom with those of the superstars and come up lacking.

Which brings my June thoughts to “the father of modern missions.” The 220th anniversary of his departure for India is June 13 and the 179th anniversary of William Carey’s death is June 9. Permit me to make much of the self-described “Plodder.”

It was Carey who told his nephew: “If after my removal any one should think it worth his while to write my life, I will give you a criterion by which you may judge its correctness. If he gives me credit for being a plodder, he will describe me justly. Anything beyond this will be too much. I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.”

Like the widow whose only claim to fame was her relentless quest for justice from the unrighteous judge (Lk. 18:1-8), Carey simply persevered against incalculable adversity. And like the persistent widow, I doubt that Carey every thought that he would acquire any fame in the years after his death.

Many things could be said about the plodding man who has been called “the father of modern missions.”

It was in 1793 that Carey went to India. At first his wife was reluctant to go — so Carey nevertheless set off to go alone with only one of his three children. After money problems and a lack of a proper license prevented his departure and forced him to make two returns from the docks, he was able to persuade Dorothy to join him.

Three months later they left on the five-month voyage for India. He would never see England again. Because the East India Company did not accept them, they entered illegally. Dorothy’s health and mental stability steadily declined. The tragic death of 5-year old Peter (1794) broke Dorothy’s mental health and she became totally deranged. She would never recover. After 6 grueling years of labor, could not claim even one Indian convert.

Carey was not deterred by these things and spent hours every day in Bible translation. He often worked on his translations while his insane wife was in the next room. To Carey’s relief (!), Dorothy died in 1807.

In 1812, a warehouse fire destroyed his massive multi-language dictionary, two grammar books, and whole versions of the Bible. He accepted the tragedy as from the Lord and began all over again with even greater zeal.

Carey often lived with disunified teams as well as a co-worker who was utterly irresponsible.

When Carey died at 73, he had seen the Scriptures translated and printed into forty languages, had been a college professor, and had founded a college. He had seen India open its doors to missionaries, had seen the edict passed prohibiting sati (burning widows on the funeral pyres of their dead husbands), and he had seen converts for Christ.

On his deathbed Carey called out to a missionary friend, “You have been speaking about Dr. Carey; when I am gone, say nothing about Dr. Carey — speak about Dr. Carey’s God.”

At his death, Carey was considered by many to be a “unique figure, towering above both contemporaries and successors” in the ministry of missions. I have a feeling that if Carey had lived during the modern era of news outlets and social media, he would have been unmoved by adulation and fame.

Most of us labor for the advance of Jesus’ kingdom in obscurity and anonymity. The overwhelming majority of believers since the early stages of Genesis are unremarkable by any standards. We do dishes, change diapers, vacuum, commute long distances, work for unpleasant employers, mow our lawns, and take our kids to little league games.

The widow of Luke 18 made the most of her one forum: protesting to an unrighteous judge. Carey pressed on against formidable odds to use his latent gifts for the cause of Christ. What are your gifts and venue? It is all you have. God does not expect you to pursue or achieve fame. He asks you to be faithful to your calling.

Let this quote encourage you in your faithful plodding in God’s vineyard –

“This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.” — Elisabeth Elliot

In praise of passion: Happy birthday, Count Zinzendorf

Today, May 26, 2013, is the 313th anniversary of Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, a most amazing figure in missions history.

Zinzendorf shaped the modern era of missions as much as any man of his time though he himself never became a fulltime missionary.

In the roughly 275 years that followed the posting of Luther’s 95 theses, very few breakthroughs were experienced in world evangelization. Then, in the early 18th century, the modern missions movement was launched by the arrival of the Count and his followers, known as “the Moravians.”

While in his early twenties, Zinzendorf had visited an art museum in Dusseldorf where he saw a painting titled Ecce Homo, “Behold the Man.” It portrayed the crucified Christ with the legend, “This have I done for you – Now what will you do for me?” The young count was profoundly moved and appears to have had an almost mystical experience while looking at the painting, feeling as if Christ himself was speaking those words to his heart. He vowed that day to dedicate his life to service to Christ.

The movement initiated by Zinzendorf emerged very much from German Pietism. Pietism emphasized personal godliness and added an emotional component to the religious life. This was in contrast to the state Lutheran Church of the day, which had grown to symbolize a largely intellectual faith centered on belief in specific doctrines. Zinzendorf believed in “heart religion,” a personal salvation built on an individual’s spiritual relationship with Christ.

Zinzendorf’s theology was extraordinarily Christ-centered and innovative. It focused intensely on the personal experience of a relationship with Christ, and an emotional experience of salvation rather than simply an intellectual assent to certain principles. In this sense, Zinzendorf was like Luther – passionate, moved by strong feelings, emotional, and yet committed to theology and Scripture.

One of the great contributions of the Moravian movement was their hymnody. Both Zinzendorf and Montgomery were prolific hymn writers, and many of their hymns reflected the deep piety and passion that came to characterize the Moravian missions movement.

We owe much to the Count and his followers, not the least of which is the fervent passion that characterized their lives and missiology. The work of God’s mission cannot go forward merely because we hold to an objective faith, but it must also be driven by a warm zeal for God himself.

For this passionate approach to missions, we can thank Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf on this, his 313th birthday.

– Dave Shive

In Praise of Affliction: Happy birthday, Hudson Taylor!

May 21, 2013, the 181st anniversary of the birth of Hudson Taylor (born May 21, 1832), deserves to be noticed in some small way.

There is much that is inspiring and heart-warming about the story of this iconic missionary statesman. Before he was 5 years old, Taylor was telling visitors that he would be a missionary and that China intrigued him the most.

At age 18, Taylor began a focus on training in medicine and a rigorous program of self-denial. In an effort to live by faith, his diet was a pound of apples and a loaf of bread each day. He refused to remind his employer when he forgot to pay him. He broke off his engagement with a Miss Vaughn because she was not committed to missions. What a guy!

But we live in the year 2013, where having to reboot our laptop can be considered great suffering, and an inconvenient dirty diaper or flat tire is enough tribulation to drive us to madness. In light of our modern trivialization of true suffering, I thought it might be an appropriate memorial eulogy on Taylor’s 181st birthday to celebrate some of the difficulties that he worked through in order to bring the Gospel to China.

To challenge us to a greater rigor in following Jesus, permit me to give my “Top Ten” listing of the difficulties that confronted Taylor as he pressed on in his calling:

1. When he arrived in China, support money did not come and he survived on next to nothing and didn’t know where ongoing provision would come from.

2. Taylor experienced difficulty in mastering Chinese. His language acquisition struggles led him into depression.

3. Other missionaries were embarrassed by his determination to become Chinese in his hairstyle and type of clothing. Conversely, he was bothered by the lifestyle of the other missionaries; in order to get away from them, he began traveling into the interior. Due to difficulties with mission policy and practice, he felt it necessary to resign from the China Evangelization society in 1857.

4. Taylor experienced great loneliness as a single man. He contacted Elizabeth Sissons in England about marriage but she was not interested. He eventually married Maria Dyer in 1858. Hudson and Maria’s daughter (Gracie Taylor) died at age 8.

5. Returning to England in 1860 for more medical training, Hudson worked 13-hour days to translate the New Testament for the Chinese.

6. In 1868, the Chinese launched an attack upon the missionaries in Taylor’s fledgling organization, “China Inland Mission.” The “Times” of London blamed the attack on a company of missionaries assuming the title of “China Inland Mission.”

7. In the midst of these afflictions and out of his personal sense of failure, Hudson collapsed into despair and lost his will to go on. (While experiencing dark depression, Taylor discovered his “spiritual secret.”)

8. In 1870, preparing to send 4 of his children back to England for education, 5-year old Sammy died from the trauma of separation. That same summer, Maria delivered a baby that died at 2 weeks. A few days later, Maria died at age 33. His 2nd wife, Jennie, died in 1901.

9. In 1900, Taylor saw the death or expulsion of all foreigners from China and the extermination of Christianity.

10. Early in 1905 Taylor determined, though mentally and physically exhausted, to go back to China. After visiting various centers, he suddenly and peacefully passed from his labors at the age of 73.

So there you are. In a day where the mantra is “peace, prosperity, health, success,” we are reminded that the Gospel has often, yes usually, progressed through great difficulty. My hat is off to Hudson Taylor and his ilk. May his tribe increase! – Dave Shive

“Going”: Not the destination but a by-product of embarking on the journey

How does one talk about “going” without falling into the usual traps? I can either err in placing guilt (“What? You’re not willing to relocate to another part of the world for the sake of the Gospel? And you call yourself a Christian!?!?”). Or I could diminish the value of “going” (as in the response given to William Carey when he proposed to go into overseas missions: “Young man, sit down! You are an enthusiast. When God pleases to convert the heathen, he’ll do it without consulting you or me”).

Even though the booklet “6 Ways to Reach God’s World” puts GO as #3, I have chosen to make it the last of the 6. Here are 3 reasons why…

First, when confronted with the challenge of missions, the stock response is often “I haven’t been called to go.” This answer indicates that “going” is all the person understands about missions. It is a response intended to get the individual off the hook and freed of any responsibility to get involved in the Great Commission. If all one knows about missions is “going,” and if that person doesn’t sense God’s leading “to go,” then there is little reason to get involved.

Second, the call “to go” can easily distract disciples from other ways that they can get engaged in the Great Commission. In truth, because of the exalted status that “foreign missions” at times receives in the church, it is often believed that the purest response of the obedient disciple is to go somewhere as a foreign missionary. But, as I explained when discussing #5, MOBILIZE, the demand for mobilizers is equally more insistent and urgent.

Third, I believe the first five ways (Learn, Pray, Welcome, Send, Mobilize) set the stage for the act of “GOing.” In fact, we are already journeying toward “going” when we are in the process of educating (LEARN) ourselves concerning the world. And when we PRAY for the spread of the Gospel, we can participate in the front lines of the battle without leaving our homes.

I have always marveled as much at what is missing in Paul’s writings as in what is included. Here is the great missionary par excellence, writing to various churches and individuals. Would we not expect him to constantly tell his readers to “go”? And yet he never does. Even in his great missionary epistle, the letter to the Philippians, in which he thanks them for their full partnership with him in his work, he never once invites them to uproot themselves and go.

Why? Quite simply, they are already engaged. They are praying and giving to his ministry and Paul is content with that.

This is “the magic” of the philosophy behind this booklet I have been talking about for the past week. Tackling any or all of the first 5 “ways” draws the follower of Jesus into the orb of missions. If someone is engaged in any or all of these 5 – learning, praying, welcoming, sending, mobilizing – is it even remotely possible that they could miss God’s call to “go”? I don’t think so. In fact, the potential for “going” increases exponentially as we get connected to God’s mission through the first 5 avenues.

When the Great Commission says “Go…make disciples”, is Jesus implicitly trying to get all of his followers to go into vocational missions, raise support, and relocate? Or is he desiring each of us to participate in his Grand Campaign, even if we never travel far from home or learn a new language or get a passport?

Another way to look at the Great Commission imperative of “Go…make disciples” is to ask if Jesus’ intent was to get his followers to geographically move to another place? Or is the Master simply expecting his disciples to make movement toward making more disciples? Perhaps we have erred in stressing “go” and should have been emphasizing “make disciples.”

What if we taught that the Great Commission actually means “put yourself in the best possible position to make as many followers of Jesus from among the nations as possible”?

So I say to you: Don’t worry about “going.” Instead, get involved in:

 Learning about God’s world and missions

 Praying for unreached peoples and for God to raise up laborers for the harvest

 Welcoming immigrants and internationals who have come to our borders

 Sending missionaries by supporting them financially and with prayer

 Mobilizing the church to be involved in the Great Commission

When these 5 things happen, and God calls you to go, there will be no doubt, uncertainty, or reluctance.

Dave Shive

Go as ONE missionary? Or help send ONE HUNDRED missionaries?

“Anyone who can help 100 missionaries to the field is more important than one missionary on the field.” – Ralph Winter

In the booklet, “6 Ways to Reach God’s World,” #5 is MOBILIZE. I like the role of mobilizer because that is what I do. But I also enjoy talking about it because it illustrates a key point in missions: some of the most significant contributors to the advance of the Gospel around the world never served in foreign or cross-cultural missions.

For instance, Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf (1700-1760), founder of the Moravians, the first post-Reformation missions movement, sent and mobilized many missionaries though he never entered missionary service.

And then there is Samuel Mills, leader of the 1806 Haystack Prayer Meeting. As a result of Mill’s work, thousands of missionaries volunteered to proclaim the good news to the coasts of Africa, India, and Asia. Though Mills never served overseas as a missionary, he is nevertheless recognized as the “Father of foreign mission work in Christian America”.

And how about John Mott (1865-1955), who never lived overseas as a long-term missionary? Mott traveled the world in an effort to connect with missionaries and national students in each country he visited. He is most responsible for the success and impact of the Student Volunteer Movement. It was Mott who said, “He who does the work is not so profitably employed as he who multiplies the workers.” These words of Mott introduce us to the wonderful world of missions MOBILIZATION.

Ralph Winter believed, “The number one priority is for more mission mobilizers.” Winter asserted this claim out of his recognition that there were thousands of young people who intended to go into missions but never actually made it due to ignorance, indifference, school debts, and the like. In fact, Winter believed that mission mobilization activity is more crucial than field missionary activity.

Standing before a crowd of college students, Dr. Winter challenged them, saying, “Suppose I had a thousand college seniors in front of me who asked me where they ought to go to make a maximum contribution to Christ’s global cause. What would I tell them? I would tell them to stay home and mobilize. ALL of them.” Here is a former missionary and missionary statesman trying to talk people into not becoming missionaries!

Mobilizers are persuaded that it is better to awaken 100 sleeping firemen than to hopelessly throw one’s own little bucket of water on the huge fire. Yes, some need to go now as pioneer missionaries. But still others need to exercise the even more unusual faith to stay back from the field and assist the entire mobilization process.

What is a mobilizer?

 Mobilizers are the fuel that drives the missions engine

 Mobilizers are teachers who instruct, raising awareness of what is going on in the world

 Mobilizers rally the troops to go into the thick of the battle

 Mobilizers are the cheerleaders at the missions pep rally whose greatest joy is to spur the team on to victory

Every Christian should be a World Christian and every World Christian can participate as a Mobilizer. Though much of the results of the mobilizer’s ministry is unseen, there is nevertheless great power in mobilization.

Fired with a desire to see others trained, prepared and released to ministry, the mobilizer sounds the rallying cry by stirring other Christians to active concern for reaching the world. Mobilizers coordinate efforts between senders, the local churches, sending agencies, and missionaries on the field. They teach believers to pray missionally. They recruit students to Perspectives classes. Mobilizers put good missions literature in the hands of others. Mobilizers are excited, motivated, gracious, missions-aware, and radical. Mobilizers are essential.

Phil Parshall explains it like this: “To understand the role of mobilizers, think of World War II as a parallel. Only 10% of the American population went to the war. Of those, only 1% were actually on the firing lines. However, for them to be successful in their mission, the entire country had to be mobilized!”

Who is going to rally the troops? Who is going to initiate movements of prayer? Who is going to instruct the “goers”? Who is going to channel key resources, training and vision to those who will go?

The ultimate objective of the mobilizer is to recruit, train, and connect all believers to their most strategic role in fulfilling the Great Commission—whatever role that may be!

Churches are now realizing that if you don’t have people who work at spreading vision here, you will probably never have many people who go to the field there!

For more reading on “the power of mobilization,” check out the insightful article at http://www.thetravelingteam.org/articles/mobilization.

— Dave Shive

“You don’t need ‘a call’ to be fully engaged in the Great Commission”

The more I think about the little booklet (“Six Ways to Reach God’s World”) that I am beating to death in these short posts, the more convinced I become that this brief document can be an incredibly useful tool to open our eyes to the possibilities of getting involved in the Great Commission.

Each of the first 3 ways – LEARN, PRAY, WELCOME – describes something that any person can do that will give meaningful involvement in reaching the unreached. No specific education or training required. Just get started!

This 4th way – SEND – is a great example of a practical step anyone can take to be vitally engaged in what is most on God’s heart.

Since New Testament times, sending has been a solid contributor to the advance of the Gospel. Every one of Paul’s 3 missionary journeys began at Antioch, his home (sending) church, and 2 of the 3 end at Antioch. An entire epistle (Philippians) was written by Paul for the primary purpose of thanking a church for its role in supporting his efforts. Clearly Paul considered sending essential to the work he was doing.

But here is the problem. It seems today that, with the formal organization of church structures, the mindset of many church members is that the church (institutionally and the missions committee) sends missionaries and is responsible for making sure they are well taken care of. And this conveys an unintended message to the average church member that the job of sending belongs to the church corporate. And when a task is perceived as belonging to an “organization,” the inadvertent consequence is that individual members naturally do not have a sense of direct responsibility for the welfare of the church’s missionaries. The attitude that “the church takes care of our missionaries so I don’t need to be concerned” kills initiative and renders missionary care very impersonal.

And with the changing times, having the back of missionaries is even more essential. This is where sending can become exciting and where all believers can find personal usefulness in supporting and helping their missionaries. Here are a few ideas for getting involved in sending:

 Financially support a missionary personally and directly. This would be in addition to whatever support your church sends that missionary. You will develop a fresh sense of connectedness with those on the front lines.

 Redirect the focus of your small group to become a sending group with an emphasis on one of your church’s missionaries.

 If it is not possible to refocus your group to concentrate on sending, you can reorient your own life to design ways to have a closer connection with a specific missionary.

 Personally, or in your sending group, become thoroughly familiar with the country or region of the world where your missionary serves. Using “Operation World” and other tools, you can educate yourself with the religions, ethnicity, and political environment in which the missionary lives and works. You can talk the missionary’s language and encourage those on the front lines that you are trying to better understand their circumstances.

 You may familiarize yourself (or group) with recent updates from the missionary, pray about the missionary’s needs, have a conference phone call or Skype the missionary, etc.

 If the missionary is coming home, you may help find housing, a car, clothing, and other practical needs the missionary’s family might have. If the returning missionary has school-age children, prayerful involvement and sensitivity to those challenges will be gratefully received.

No call is necessary to embark upon the rewarding ministry of sending. In becoming a sender, you have launched out on robust, full-fledged missions activity and are as involved in the advance of the Gospel as any front-line missionary.

Dave Shive