Recently, I wrote two articles about what it was like to grow up in a small church. From the responses, I realized most of my readers grew up in a church just like mine. If you still have that annoying “stand up” and “sit down” chorus from Vacation Bible School stuck forever in your mind, then you too grew up in a small church.
Our church may have been small, but it was always pointing us to a bigger and a more global aspect of the church. On occasion, we would have missionaries come and speak to us. Sometimes the church would have a mission dinner, with the food reflecting whatever nation our guests served. For a country boy who grew up on meat, mashed potatoes and gravy, something just wasn’t right about a dish wrapped in seaweed or an eyeball floating around in the mix.
In our little church, it was the opinion of most, and especially my parents, that National Geographic magazine was “not suitable for children.” Sometimes it would contain photos of people who lived in a far-off village, and these villagers … well, let’s just say there wasn’t enough material among the entire tribe to put together one proper set of clothes.
On the other hand, it was perfectly fine if missionaries came to our church and, during their slide show, showed the same kind of photos of half-dressed tribal people, because we as a church needed to be aware of the conditions these poor heathens lived in. Praying for them confused me. I didn’t know whether to pray for their souls or their clothes. So we just asked God to clothe them in His righteousness, crossing our fingers that it would come with a pair of pants and a shirt.
I loved it when missionaries came to our little country church. Many times, they would tell stories that centered around how God had chosen and called them from a small rural community and how they had been obedient to that call. They talked about counting the cost and what an honor and a privilege it was to suffer for His name’s sake. But they considered all this rubbish compared to the joy of serving Him. These men and women desired to blend into that culture so they could become all things to all men so they might win a few. They would tell stories of how they lived like the people they served, ate their food, dressed the way they dressed and spoke the same language.
To this day, I count it an honor to have met and known these missionaries. They are my heroes, and they will rebuke me for even calling them that. They are humble servants of God and have names like the Fletchers, Bowies, Raves and more. As an adult, I had the privilege of walking alongside many of them in their countries. Even though they have aged, one thing you will never meet is a retired missionary. They will serve Jesus until their last breath.
To this day, I can hardly look at a National Geographic magazine without feeling like I am breaking one of the Ten Commandments. But what’s odd is that I’m now in the pictures with these half-naked villagers. That’s what happens when you’re surrounded by true heroes of the faith. They inspire you to open your mind to see the world from God’s perspective. You see the joy of suffering for Christ’s sake, and neither I nor any of my missionary friends would trade the call of God for a castle on a hill. Besides, why would we want a castle when Jesus has gone and prepared a place for us? Many of these missionaries count me as an equal in kingdom work, but I have to be honest: When I am around them, I am just a little child who sits in awe as they talk about God.
I thank God for those small churches who exposed us to missionaries who gave us a bigger vision than just reaching the back 40 for Him. I often read about an event recorded by another small church: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:2-3).
No matter what God has planned for your children, you need to expose them to three things: 1) Missionary stories. One of my favorites is Bruchko, the story of Bruce Olson. 2) Go hear a missionary speak or (even better) invite one into your home. 3) Once in a while, let them see a National Geographic magazine.
I don’t know why I see things differently than most people, but I do. Our staff sat in the office, stunned, as we saw the news of the first plane slamming into the Twin Towers in New York City. We were sitting there in shock, mouths wide open, as we continued to watch the replay. Before too long, we stared in horror as another plane hit the second tower. Then came the announcement that the FAA was grounding all airplanes as soon as possible. Continue reading
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at ronniefloyd.com and is used by permission.
When it comes to missions, unfortunately, many churches practice without strategy. Even scarier than not having a strategy, is not having the right strategy. There are many possible strategies, some healthy and some not. Warren Wiersbe says, “Ministry is not done by imitation but by incarnation”. (Philippians 1:6) The best strategy would obviously be a Biblical strategy, and I love using Acts 1:8 as ours for Cross Church. It says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
As a pastor, when you are setting a missions strategy, you should ask yourself, “What is God doing in and through me as pastor, and our church, to fulfill Acts 1:8?”
Here are 4 things an Acts 1:8 missions strategy can do for your church.
1. Brings focus. Pastor, don’t just throw spiritual darts at a map to select where or what your church will do in missions. It is a key responsibility of the pastor to set missional focus for your church. Use Acts 1:8 to bring that focus. Acts 1:8 does not move on tracks like a train, with whistle stops along the way in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the world. It moves like the sweeping hands of a clock, never ending, and with continuous movement. I love the thought that I can connect Jerusalem (local) missions to the ends of the world! Focus on how your missions strategy can connect local missions to the far ends of unreached peoples around the world. Begin reaching the nations in your own back yard to learn about the culture and language etc. Then you will be equipped to travel to their nation more effectively and with great focus.
2. Prioritizes the focus. Start with local missions, then move to regional, national, and international. I have said for years, at Cross Church, we will not forsake Northwest Arkansas on the altar of the world when it comes to missions. I believe we earn the right to go abroad. Pastors, let’s make sure we are getting it done in our own communities equal to our efforts abroad. It is a tragic thought to think we have thousands of churches in America that aren’t reaching and baptizing people in their own churches, but will buy plane tickets to go overseas to share the gospel.
3. Empowers the people. Jesus said, “you will be”. When we have a biblical strategy, it actually empowers people to be involved personally in your church’s missional vision. I want to see as many people as possible empowered to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth. When we communicate clear, biblical strategy, it is amazing how many people feel empowered to get personally involved. When our people are empowered missionally, they will begin to live and believe “I am Acts 1:8”.
4. Honors Jesus and the Holy Scripture. “My witnesses”. The emphasis (mine added) on MY. Wow, what a thought. I can be a witness to the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ beginning in my local community, and extending to the ends of the earth. Now, that honors Jesus and His Holy Word. There is nothing that brings more honor to Jesus and His Holy Scripture than when people are led to place their faith in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. When we, as believers, practice being a witness for Jesus Christ, we can almost hear a proud Father say, ”they are MY WITNESSES and wow, I am honored!”
Pastor, ask yourself these questions: