By Chuck Lawless
I admit the topic of this blogpost might not quickly grab your attention – but I challenge you to keep reading. The world needs us to have this discussion. In fact, our basic Christian obedience is at stake if we ignore this topic.
Five times in the New Testament, Jesus gave us a version of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:45-47, John 20:21, Acts 1:8). Reaching the nations is clearly on God’s heart. For too many churches, though, a global focus is little more than an occasional study or an annual offering. 1.7 billion people in the world still have little access to the gospel, while most American Christians have more Bibles in our home than human beings. Somehow, we must refocus on winning the people groups of the world.
To help you and your church move in that direction, here are some ways to begin to think globally. Expand your vision, and perhaps your burden for the nations will increase.
- Listen to (or read) the news with Great Commission ears and eyes. Most of us hear the news as events, but we should hear newsworthy happenings as calls to prayer. People who have never heard of Christ die every day due to war and famine. Governments are in turmoil. Natural disasters destroy homes and lives. If we pray as we hear the needs, God will grab our heart for the nations. Indeed, it is possible in some cases we might be the only person who has ever prayed for some people around the globe.
- Talk to your kids about their classmates. Most public classrooms in North America include students from different ethnic or religious backgrounds. Use this opportunity to introduce your children to different cultures, languages, and beliefs. Invite your children’s friends to your home. Teach your kids to appreciate and respect others even as we believers seek to lead others to the gospel truth.
- Put a map on a wall in your home. Frankly, North Americans are geographically ignorant. And, it’s easy to ignore the spiritual needs of the world when people are only anonymous folks living in a nation we cannot name. You might find yourself more interested in the nations – and praying more for them – when a map is always before you and your family. Start by praying for a different country or people group when your family says grace each night.
- Meet a missionary. It might take some work to connect with a missionary on stateside assignment, but it’s worth the effort. Your pastor or a church staff member can likely help you. I wish I could introduce you to folks like S, who served in southeast Asia during a time of war; C, who is using sports evangelism to reach Muslims; and S, who is backpacking through the jungles of South America to reach distant tribes. Every one of these missionaries would love to tell you his story.
- Visit ethnic restaurants in your community. Instead of choosing restaurants based on your tastes, visit restaurants just to learn about other cultures and food. Ask to meet the owners, and introduce them to your kids. Talk to servers who’ve been raised in other countries. Even if you don’t like the food, you’ll probably like the people – and thus pray more for them, their family, and their country of origin. Pray specifically for opportunities to invite your new friends to church.
- Invite international students to your home. If there is a university near your home, I suspect you’ll find international students there. Many of those students will never be invited to visit an American home, and some will spend holidays alone on their campus. Opening your home will not only invite fellowship and learning, but it will also open the door to sharing your faith.
- Learn another language (or at least encourage your children to do so). In a world that is increasingly global, Americans are notoriously monolingual. Broaden your horizons by learning a second language, even if the learning is slow. It’s difficult to learn another language without also learning something about the people who speak that language.
- Read missionary biographies. Depending on the missionary and the setting, these life stories can have much to offer. Travel. Adventure. Animals. Strange foods. Sickness. New vocabulary. Danger. Miracles. Answered prayers. Changed lives. Sacrifice. You might even discover some new heroes among these missionaries.
Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary.