At the beginning of the year, Wes and I had the privilege of going on a trip to see what God is doing in another part of the world. We saw and experienced a lot and came away with a great deal of excitement about what might be ahead for the future. When we shared some of this with the folks back home, we got some responses that needed to be addressed more fully than we were able to do in passing. So I thought I would do it here. I hope this helps!
Here are just a few of the things we heard…
Why do we need to do ministry overseas when there are enough needs here in our own community? That’s a great question! We should definitely be addressing the needs of our community, but it doesn’t have to be an either/or when we consider ministry beyond our city limits. If we genuinely feel a burden to reach our community, then we as individual people and as a collective church will give ourselves to that task. (And I believe that we’re continually doing so here in Vidalia, more and more all the time!) The issue with many unreached places overseas is that there is no Christian church or believers to speak of who can do the same for their own communities. Who will do Gospel ministry in a place where the Gospel has yet to go? This is where God invites us in to be messengers from afar, so to speak. While we minister in our own community (as we should), we must also make it a priority to go to the unreached places and do likewise. We can reach our own community AND the ends of the earth at the same time!
What does “unreached” mean? Unreached refers to a place or a people group that has had no significant access to the Gospel. Simply put, theses are the people who are living in places where they have had no opportunity to hear about Jesus in a way that is culturally relevant or meaningful to them. Whether they’re unreached because their laws prohibit the good news from reaching them or because we’ve forfeited our responsibility as believers by refusing to go and share with them, the simple truth remains that they will stay lost until the Gospel makes its way to them. This is why our focus as a church has begun to be on unreached people. The need there is so great and so urgent!
Isn’t “missions” just going and building church buildings for people and donating things to them? Well, it can be these things at times. I would caution groups who want to be on mission to refrain from becoming just “givers of stuff” or providing services that harm local businesses. In other words, if you build a church building for people in an area of the world where local people are able to build their own buildings, you’re unintentionally taking away business from that country’s own economy and setting up a bad precedent. Another danger of doing just these services is that often times, we neglect to connect service with Gospel ministry. There is a danger that we will build churches and give things without pointing people to Christ and verbally sharing our faith. When we do this, we’re nothing but a humanitarian organization, addressing temporal needs while neglecting eternal ones.
What does mission work look like, then? We find our example in the books of Acts, as the disciples and the new believers began to spread throughout the world, sharing the news about Jesus with others. I know – thinking about sharing our faith verbally and boldly in difficult places sounds a whole lot harder than bringing people stuff from America and building churches for them, right? But this is the heart of Gospel ministry. And if we were already doing this, here at home as believers, then it wouldn’t be so terrifying to think about doing it overseas. Let’s get busy doing this at home! Let’s get ready to do it overseas!
I don’t think I’d over go over there. It’s too dangerous. Don’t believe everything you see on Fox News. There are places here at home that are way more dangerous than destinations in the Middle East. That being said, I think God calls us to be faithful witnesses, not to live our lives valuing safety and comfort above all else. If God calls you to go and join Him in the work He’s doing, then you need to go, no matter what.
All that said, I’m so excited to see what God is going to do in the days ahead. Get ready!