Friday, June 26, 2009

What motivates people to get involved in world missions?

Obviously, the Holy Spirit is the one that puts callings on our lives, but he can do that through a lot of different methods and delivery systems. I've discovered three ways (and I'd love to hear any others that you come up with) to get people excited about praying, giving, and going. Which of the following stirs you the most to get involved in missions and makes you want to pray, give, and go to the unreached?

1) The Isaiah pathway - This is basically getting so caught up in God that you can't help but have a heart for the unreached. As we hang out with God, we become more like Him and we know that one of His characteristics is that he wants all to be saved. It was while Isaiah was in the presence of God with angels worshiping that he got to the point of saying "Here I am, send me". Louie Giglio always says that "as you get lost in wonder, you can't help but wander about the lost." His team has a huge heart for the nations and do large Passion Conferences to get people excited about God which in turn should lead to more people serving in missions.

2) The "open your eyes" pathway - This is basically making people aware of the needs around the world to spur people to involvement in missions. Jesus told the disciples to open their eyes and look at the harvest field and reminded them how few laborers are going. He told them to pray to the Lord of the harvest for more laborers and in the very next breath said "go". Hearing statistics about how many unreached people groups are left, how many missionaries are serving in those areas, and how much of our church money is sent to the unreached is a big motivator for many. Organizations like Joshua Project might be considered strong in this pathway.

3) The "the harvest is ripe" pathway - This is a little bit of a tweak on the second pathway in that this is focusing more on the positive things that are going on in the world rather than the remaining need. Don't you get excited when you hear about a supernatural healing overseas? Don't you love to hear stories about how many people are coming to know Christ in Africa each day? Hearing that God is moving in a certain area spurs many people into action. Joel News is a good example of a newsletter that tells about some of the exciting things that are going on in the missions world.

How about you? What have you found to be some of the most motivating things to make you want to go and make the name of Christ great among the nations?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Shouldn't we just support indigenous missionaries?

There are lots of great missions organizations out there such as Gospel for Asia and Christian Aid whose main ministry is to teach, train, and support indigenous missionaries. Many of those agencies talk about the cost of keeping an average Western missionary (about $40000/year) on the field vs. sending an indigenous missionary (about $4000) per year. If you look at the economics of it all, people and churches are asking, "why would we send this couple from our congregation when we could send 10 local people in their place?" Some of the advantages of local missionaries are that they already speak the local language, understand the worldview/culture of the people, can live on an economic level similar to the rest of the country, etc.

On the flip side, several missiologists point out the fact that there are still only 14,000 pioneer missionaries going to the unreached people groups of the world meaning that most missionaries (98% to be exact according to World Christian Trends), both Western and indigenous are going to places that are already within reach of the gospel. When we were in India last year, we heard "we'll take anyone that is willing to come, there are 1 billion lost souls and over 3000 unreached people groups in our country. The harvest in plentiful and the laborers are few, so we don't care where they come from or how much they cost." Other people point to the fact that Western money might cause indigenous churches to be dependent on the outside world and never be able to sustain their own full-time pastors and missionaries, buildings, evangelism efforts, etc.

What do you think? What is the best way to sow financially into the mission field? And more importantly, are you doing so? Some day, we'll all have to give an account of our talents.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Does every people group need a written Bible?

According to the ethnologue, there are 6912 living languages of which about 4400 have no Scripture available. About 3/4 of the world's population is considered non-literate, so how necessary is it for people to have a written Bible in their language? If you went into an unreached people group, would translating the Bible and literacy be your top priority like Wycliffe or would you use more of an oral approach to the Bible?

The International Orality Network as well as projects such as One Story focus on making sure that every people group has access to an oral Bible in their native tongue by the year 2020. An oral Bible is generally made up of 40 to 60 chronological Bible stories that are chosen based on the worldview of the people group being targeted. The stories are often recorded on audio devices and also passed around by word of mouth and oral tradition.

We read a book in our missionary training school called Making Disciples of Oral Learners which is a free download and a great introduction to orality and storytelling in the missions world. What do you think about sharing the gospel, making disciples, planting churches, and raising up leaders by telling stories from the Word rather than using a written Bible?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Finish this verse: Be still and....

Most folks would say "Be still and know that I am God". That's a pretty good answer, but there is still more to that verse. Psalms 46:10 continues by saying, "I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth". Bob Sjogren wrote a book called Unveiled at Last where he teaches what he calls the top line and bottom line concerning the promises of God. Often times in Scripture, God gives a wonderful blessing for an individual or for a whole group of people. We would call that the top line. The bottom line would be the responsibility or the command that comes along with the promise or the reason that the blessing was given in the first place.

For example, 1Kings 8:59,60 says "And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the Lord, be near to the LORD our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day’s need, SO THAT all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other." Make sure that you look out for the SO THATs in Scripture. How have you been praying and reading your Bible....for the top line or the bottom?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Can people over 40 still do missions?

The American Dream is becoming less and less of a draw to many people that are questioning how they can use their life for greatest kingdom impact. There are organizations such as MissionNext who are focused on getting the 24-40 year mobilized for missions. Many mid-career people are realizing that a lot of the skills that they have learned in the secular world could actually be used to advance the cause of Christ among the nations. John Piper and many others have been writing books and preaching sermons about "Don't Waste Your Life" and people are starting to evaluate their lives based on what has been done for Christ. Maybe it's time for you to reevalute.

The Finishers Project focuses on helping the boomer generation find their niche in the mission field. Boomers are and will be the healthiest and best-educated generation of empty-nesters ever. Many of these folks would rather use the wisdom, skills, and life/ministry experience that God has given them to prepare the next generation and to pour their gifts, talents, and resources into the unreached people groups of the world. This generation still wants to make a difference and change our world.

All adult generations in North America are skilled and resourced with a multitude of talents. The question we must ask ourselves is how many of the ten talents we have been given, will we give back to Jesus and invest in the kingdom. Check out the two missions organizations mentioned above to find out more about getting involved.

Friday, June 12, 2009

College students: read The Blueprint by Jaeson Ma

This summer we will be taking our interns through a book called The Blueprint by Jaeson Ma. The reason that we enjoy using that resource as our discipleship manual is because the majority of them are college students and the subtitle of the book is "a revolutionary plan to plant missional communities on campus". The book starts out with a huge focus on prayer which we like because it is one of our foundational values and the first universal element of all church planting movements. The next section of the book focuses on the Holy Spirit and power evangelism. Jesus said not to leave Jerusalem but to wait and be clothed with power before going to be witnesses to the ends of the earth. So, we love giving our college interns some solid teaching about prayer and the Holy Spirit to help them be more equipped as they serve with us on the mission field, but also to have more tools in the bag as they go home to live missionally on their campuses.

The final section of the book focuses on simple church planting on college campuses. It talks about how college campuses can be divided into "people groups" since there are so many different little clusters at universities. Ma asks the question what would happen if instead of us inviting people to some of our larger campus gatherings such as Campus Crusade, Intervaristy, or Baptist Student Union group meetings, what if we Christians went out and lived incarnationally among those groups and took the church to the people. I really think that every campus minister, college/career pastor, and university student should grab a copy of this book and prayerfully read through it while applying the principles that are taught. Somehow the author was able to take the majority of the topics from our missionary training school and squeeze them into one book. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The role of the local church in missions?

Two thousand years ago, Jesus gave the mandate to make disciples of all nations. God's people, the church, were given the responsibility to take the good news of the kingdom to every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. These days the majority of missionaries get screened, trained, and deployed by missions agencies or organizations. Most churches have been working off of a pardigm that says "send off" rather than "send out". There has been a strong trend of "outsourcing" missions work to agencies and organizations, but there is a little bit of a rumbling in the Christian world and things may be changing...

Some friends of ours at LifePoint Church had a meeting with the International Mission Board (IMB) last week to cast their vision for the "sending church model". Basically, they are asking about a fundamental switch in missions strategy. What if instead of us sending our people to the IMB (or any other missions agency) to get equipped and sent out, the IMB (and other missions agencies) came alongside of the church by providing training and resources to help congregations send out their own church planting teams to serve among the nations.

The P.E.A.C.E. Plan out of Saddleback has a very simlar vision in that they want to send out small groups of people from local churches to help fulfill the Great Commission and tackle some of the giant problems in our world without the need for a missions organization to be "the middle man". How about you? What do you think is a healthy relationship between mission agencies and local churches? Are there any models that would work for house churches, traditional churches, and megachurches alike?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Technology and Missions

The internet is changing the way we do mission work by allowing more people to be involved, even when those people aren't on the front lines. For example, our church planting leader in Mexico is updating his Twitter and Facebook statuses several times a day, allowing people back home (and around the world) to know how to pray more effectively in real time for the church planting efforts here. He also recently wrote a blog post asking for ideas on how to get power into a little community with no electricity. Within a couple of days, ten different people had responded with some great ideas on how to meet this physical need. Can you imagine what could be done for the kingdom in our generation if we got creative and made better use of the tools and technology God has given us?

The internet allows us to connect people quickly and to rally around cause -- and is there any cause greater than seeing God worshiped and getting all the glory He deserves from people of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation?

What if every person who read this blog joined a movement`of people dedicated to seeing all the nations reached in our lifetime? Next, what if each of you joined Facebook and became a fan of Global Frontier Missions? This would allow a group of thousands of people to be in the "same room" to pray, find other mission-minded people in your area, talk strategy, share ideas on how to get our churches more involved, and ultimately have major kingdom impact among the least-reached people groups of the world.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Does short term missions produce long term missionaries?

I have been involved in hosting short-term teams for over twelve years. I got called to missions on a short-term mission trip with YWAM and have heard that 90% of long-term missionaries first got involved in missions because of a short-term trip. So, I have always been a big fan of short-term missions because I have seen the impact that they have had on people's lives and know that they have played a role in seeing people go long-term. Participants on our short term mission trips usually go home with a totally different worldview, gain a greater burden for the lost, see the poor in a new light, and catch a vision to live more missionally.

I have always worked on the assumption that the more people we have going on short-term mission trips, the more long-term laborers we would see going into the harvest field. However, the latest numbers in Mission Maker magazine say that the number of short-term missionaries increased from 140,000 in 1984 to over 1.6 million in 2005. MissionNext says that the number of long-term American missionaries sent out has dwindled from 55,000 in 1988 to 35,000 in 2006. So, while the short-term mission movement has multiplied almost ten times in the past twenty years, the long-term mission force has roughly been cut in half.

So, where is the long-term fruit from the short-term mission efforts. Some people say that it is coming and that it just takes awhile (average seven years) for missionaries to hit the field after getting the call. Some say that it will never happen due to the amount of debt and lack of finances to send Americans. Some say that less people are willing to go long-term now that they can see that they can get their "missions fix" on a short-term trip. What do you think?

Friday, June 5, 2009

A cold coke within walking distance by 2020

About a year ago, there was a bit of buzz about Coca-Cola and their business plan to try and have a cold coke within walking distance of every person on planet earth by the year 2020. I couldn't find many references to it on the internet except for an article in Mission Frontiers magazine. However, I would imagine that Walmart, Coca-Cola, McDonalds and any other for profit business have pretty aggressive goals when it comes to getting their products into the hands of the masses. Their! That brings up some pretty challenging questions for us so sent ones.

Why is that Christians who should be motivated by God's glory, obedience to his commands, and lost souls have less zeal about "our product" than the corporate executives do about their carbonated beverages and fast food? If I were given $1000 for each new consumer/convert or say $100,000 for each new population segment/people group that I reached, would I be any more motivated to go out. If I'm honest with myself, I think that I would have to say that I think money would be a pretty big motivating factor for being bold and taking more risk. How about you? What do you think it would take for the church to step up and see Jesus, the living water and best beverage out there, available within walking distance to every person on planet earth?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Interesting Muslim Demographic Predictions

I was sent this link by four different people last week, so I figured that there must be some buzz around it and that people would be interested in the video. It has some fascinating figures concerning Muslim biological growth, convert growth, and immigration patterns.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mourning one of Time magazine's 25 most influential evangelicals

We have lost a spiritual giant in the missions world. Dr. Winter has influenced thousands to live more simply, focus on the unreached and be well prepared when serving in missions.

Dr. Winter was the founder of the US Center for World Missions as well as the William Carey International University. He was editor of Missions Frontiers and International Journal of Frontier Missions. Dr. Winter was also the creator of the course “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement” which is taught around the world and has changed the direction of many from mediocre ministry to serving the Lord in areas of the world where the gospel is not known.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Can the house church movement reach the nations?

There are many popular simple church books that are have gained populairty in Christian circles such as Organic Church by Neil Cole, Revolution by George Barna, Reimagining Church by Frank Viola, and Simply Church by Tony and Felicity Dale. They all point to the statistics concerning the traditional church in the United States being in decline with the exception of some of the mega-churches. They claim that a lot of people are tired of church in general and looking for more organic expressions of the body of Christ meeting in homes and public places doing life together. One of the many pros of the house church model they say is its reproducbility and low cost. They point to the fact that there is no overhead for paid clergy and buildings which frees up finances to do missional kingdom work. Could the house church movement be one of the key players to seeing the nations reached in our generation?

A friend of mine, Don Davis, created a network called House2Harvest to help these house churches be more strategic in engaging unreached people groups. I think it would be awesome to see the house church networks in the U.S. adopting unreached people groups, consistently interceding for them, giving financially to the work being done among them, and hopefully sending many long-term laborers themselves.

Monday, June 1, 2009

It's time to finish the task!

Finishing the Task (FTT) is an effort by some of the major missions organizations of the world to see church planting work started among the least reached people groups of the world. When they started promoting groups that were unengaged by missionaries or Christian work, there were 639 people groups with more than 100,000.

The website states that now, of the original 639 unreached, unengaged people groups:

* 144 remain unengaged. No one is trying to reach them.
* 146 are adopted but not engaged.
* 308 are engaged with church planting.
* 299 have known believers.
* 69 have at least one known church.

Pray about how you or your church can get involved!