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Dispel the Darkness

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It is a scientific fact that darkness and light cannot exist in the same place. In fact, darkness is just the absence of light, so, if there is light, there is no darkness. Shadow can exist as something blocks the light but shadows are still impacted by it. Remember the last big solar eclipse? Even if you were in the complete blackout zone, it was not dark. For it to be truly dark, no light can exist.

John 1 describes Christ as the light.

“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

(John 1:4-5 NIV)

Jesus, himself, reveals himself as the Light of the world.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”

(John 8:12 NIV)

When Jesus talks about the church he says that the gates of hell will not be able to keep it out. This makes total sense because Jesus left us here in his place. He is with us. He is light. We are light. Hell is darkness, the absence of light, but when the light approaches it, darkness flees. Hell cannot stand against the Light of life that shines out of us.

We should not get smug about this, though, because darkness can still have impact. Shadow exists, even in a well-lighted room. To rid our world of shadow, we must remove the obstacles that block the light. Some of those obstacles are within ourselves and some are presented by things and people outside of us. This takes intentional effort on our part. We must humble ourselves and admit our selfishness and pride, asking God to forgive us. We must also confront, in love and humility, those around us who put obstacles before the light. This is a task that will not be complete until Christ returns and dispels all darkness and shadow.

Consider these three ways to bring Light to wherever you are.

1)      Smile – There is nothing like a smile to lighten any space. A genuine smile is an outward sign of inward joy, that joy that goes beyond understanding. When you smile, others around you will smile as well. It’s contagious!

2)      Praise – Encouraging someone by telling them they are doing a great job brings light into their life. It doesn’t matter if this person is a friend or someone you haven’t previously met. It doesn’t matter what their day has been like up to that moment. Your praise and encouragement will make a difference.

3)      Love – Sacrificing yourself for someone else, the love that Jesus demonstrated for us brings the most powerful light into the world around you. Loving someone that way is completely counter to the way the world operates on a day to day basis. Sacrificial love is like a flash of lightning in the middle of the darkness of the storm. As you pour yourself out for someone else, you are being Jesus to them and there is no better way to represent him than that!

Be the light in your world by living Jesus every day. Smile widely. Praise lavishly. Love deeply.

How to Change a Worldview in Five Steps

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There is little doubt among cross-cultural workers that the focus of the church in the United States is changing, or has already changed, from global outreach to more inward facing priorities. Most have not given up the global focus completely, but have prioritized local needs and ministries, including committing a large amount of money to short-term trips, above money given for longer-term, resident mission workers. There are certainly many needs locally and we would not want to say that a focus on the community where the church is located should be abandon. The church exists to have impact in its “Jerusalem.” It also exists to have impact in its “Judea” and “Samaria” and the “ends of the earth.”

Our friends at GlobalCAST Resources (www.globalcastresources.com) put up a great video introducing this idea on Vimeo. Watch it here. We would like to piggyback off those thoughts and throw out five steps we can take, as people and as agencies, to help change the worldview of the church in the U. S.

                Step One. Pray. We spend a lot of our time focusing our prayer to the globe as kingdom workers. There is a great need to focus our prayer at home as well. Our church leaders need prayer. Our church mission committees need prayer. Our neighbors who sit in front of, or behind, us in church need prayer. Discernment of God’s leading in the areas of praying, giving and going/sending should be one of the things we pray for regarding them, and ourselves! We believe God answers prayer when we pray for more harvesters or some other global need. We should also believe that God can move the hearts of his people back toward the global harvest.

                Step Two. Be Active. Change can only begin in one place…with us. If we hope to see the worldview at our home church changed, we need to be part of that change. Get involved. Be part of the sending group at your church. Speak up for what you think should matter. Be an activist (a graceful one) for a more complete understanding of the Great Commission in your body of believers. Meet with pastors. Correspond with missionaries. Be a good financial supporter of your church and its work. Volunteer. In short, make your home fellowship part of your global ministry focus.

                Step Three. Partner. We would direct this step mostly to agencies. Agencies need to be good partners with the local church. If we are honest, the church (body of Christ) is the hand of Christ on earth, not para-church organizations. We exist to facilitate the role of the church in the world. The church sends. We assist and partner with the church to provide logistical support, oversight, care, community, encouragement, resources and opportunity in the countries of service. We are all on the same team working toward the same goal; to see the kingdom fill the whole earth!

                Step Four. Get leadership Involved. We have watched churches in the U.S. go from totally uninvolved in global work to furiously involved after just one thing happens; the senior pastor goes on a vision trip to visit missionaries their church supports. There is nothing better than personal experience to help set vision in our minds. Encourage your church leaders to be personally involved in the mission of the church around the world. Offer to help fund their trip. Recommend some locations and ministries they should consider. Go with them and show them what you have seen and are impacted by. Congregations follow where their pastor leads them, generally. Help your pastor see the world like you do!

                Step Five. Serve. This step applies to both individuals and agencies. As we are servants of the church around the world in missions, we should also be servants of the church at home. Find out where the needs of the church are and network resources to meet those needs. Give service to the church and serve with the church. Everyone appreciates those who come alongside them, to help them. Be that person.

                In summary, if we want to see the worldview of the church in the United States change, our worldview needs to change as well. Where we have been mostly outward focused, we need to turn some of our energy inward and meet the church where it is, serving it, and praying fervently for it. We might say, we have identified the problem and it is us! As our worldview changes, we believe the worldview of the church will also change. God is faithful and he is directing the show. Let’s play our parts well and be encouragers of everyone else in the cast!!

 

The Most Infectious Disease in the World

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During a debrief of a young premed student upon finishing a one-year mission experience he stated, “I know what the most infectious disease in the world is.” We, of course, asked, “What is it?” His answer was not at all what we expected.

                                                               “Negativity”

He was not referring to the statements of people who see the glass half empty. He was also not referring to constructive criticism meant to lead to better things as learning happens and new strategies are tried. He was referring to negative comments made by people who know some of an issue and decide to assume the rest and then choose to condemn others…others who typically are not there for the dialogue. This kind of negativity is a cancer in human relationships and effort. It is not a respecter of faith, gender, or any other thing that may divide, or unite, us. It has no purpose except to place blame for difficulties not understood, devaluing others in the process.

We have seen this happen in kingdom work in two major areas. The first area, and maybe the most shocking, is in negativity expressed toward a different culture, or people group. Often the negative comments are made by those who have sacrificed much to provide ministry to that people group. Nearly always the comments made relate to differences from one culture to another and they often reflect a lack of knowledge about, or a misunderstanding of, the culture. If a minister of the gospel has these kinds of negative feelings toward the culture they are serving, what positive outcome can there be? By God’s grace, lives are still changed.

Remember Paul’s comments in Philippians 1:15-18 (NIV)?

It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

The fact that God breaks though in these situations is not an excuse for those of us who allow this kind of negativity to enter our minds and pass through our lips. We need to stand against it within ourselves and from others for God’s glory.

The second place we see this “disease” is between mission workers themselves. Did you know that the major cause of a kingdom worker leaving the field is conflict between them and someone else on their ministry team? Conflict between people is not unique to the body of Christ. It happens everywhere and for everyone. What makes it a cancer is when it is not dealt with in a loving, honest way. We internalize our hurt, or frustration, and it soon becomes bitterness. That bitterness is then expressed, not to the individual in question, but to others in the circle and the disease spreads. Rumors and stories grow. Finally, separation seems to be the only alternative, though it is not. It is just the only one acceptable for those involved.

Our guess is that nearly all of us have been involved in some way with the disease of negativity. What can we do?

The Bible gives us some remedies for this ailment. One is found in 1 Corinthians 12 and 13. In chapter 12 Paul tells us that we all have different things to bring to the family of God and that we should respect each other for that, even in our disagreements. He follows that up with chapter 13, the love chapter. Let’s look at a couple verses just to refresh our memories. (NIV)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Another passage of scripture which is similar, and also from Paul, is Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

Please join us in a renewed commitment to not allow this kind of negative thought and talk be part of our life or work. We are to represent Christ, to actually be Christ to others, and these things have no place in that mission. Let us, instead, put our energies to loving each other selflessly and to thinking of each other in true, noble, pure, lovely and admirable ways!

We are praying for you. Please pray for us too!

Your Path to Mission: Fund Raising

SDM03P88BOWelcome to the fourth installment of the “Your Path to Missions” posts. The previous posts have been “Calling,” “Preparation,” and “Selecting an Agency.” Check them out if you haven’t already.

Without a doubt, fundraising, or ministry partner discovery, is the part of getting involved in cross-cultural ministry that people dread the most. To some it feels like begging and others struggle to believe that anyone would actually be willing to give money to a ministry they were involved in. Sharing what you are doing with someone else is easy. Asking them to fund it financially defines “hard.”

There are several approaches to raising money for ministry and our purpose here is not to explore all of them, but to lay a foundation for you to consider that will help you see fundraising in a new light.

1)      God set up the tithe for a number of reasons, but one of the most important reasons was to fund the ministry in the temple and support the Levites who were working there. God’s work requires money. It’s not that God can’t cause money to appear from nothing. He can; but he chooses, nearly all the time, to provide through people he has blessed with resources.

2)      Raising money for ministry was done in Jesus’ time. You may not realize this but Jesus had supporters; people that funded his travel, cooked his food, washed his clothes and took care of him in other ways, as well. The apostle Paul raised money for the needs of the people in Jerusalem. He self-funded through tent-making in his early ministry but clearly asked churches for money for later trips. Raising funds has its foundation in scripture.

3)      The Great Commission effort requires God’s people to play many roles. The role we think of the most is the “going” role; but, the success of the global work also depends on consistent prayer, giving and other supportive roles. No one role is more important than any other. When missionaries share their financial needs with others they allow those they partner with to share equally in the joy of the work.

4)      Giving to Great Commission work is a response of obedience to God’s leading, just as going is. The people you approach to partner with you should only give toward your ministry if they feel God is asking them to. You are not going to be asking them to give because of anything you are or will do. You are asking them to consider partnering with you out of an act of obedience to God’s will for them.

5)      God will provide funding for the things he is doing. He always has. The biblical examples and modern-day experiences are too numerous to list here.

Here are some other thoughts to consider as you approach finding financial ministry partners.

A.  You should only be on this path to missions if God has clearly led you to it.

B.  It’s not about you. This is God’s play. He is writer, director and producer.

C.  God’s plans unfold in God’s timing, which is almost always different than our timing.

D.  Funding is God’s responsibility, as are results. We have a role, but the success of the enterprise rests fully on God.

E.  If someone says “no” to your ask for financial support, they are not rejecting you as a person. They simply do not sense God’s leading to give or they do not feel they have the resources to partner with you in that way.

If God is leading you to raise money for cross-cultural ministry, you are not alone. There are around 35,000 workers from the US in other countries and nearly all of them have walked the path ahead of you. Take courage. Expect miracles ahead!

If you have questions, or want more information about this, or any topic, please feel free to contact us. We are here for you!

Your Path to Mission: Selecting an Agency

This is the third in a series of posts discussing steps towards cross-cultural ministry. The first two are “Calling” and “Preparation.”

The first question to ask yourself regarding agencies is “Should I join an agency?”
We covered this topic in an article on our corporate site and you can read it here. The short answer is that not everyone needs an agency, but most people benefit from being a part of one. The advantages of emotional and spiritual support combined with accountability and synergy, not to mention the logistical support, usually outweigh the cost and limitations that agencies often require. If you decide to go with an agency, what should you consider in choosing one?

Joining an agency is like buying a pair of good shoes. You should feel a comfortable fit with them, one that will continue to be good over a long period of time.

First, you should consider a faith fit. If you are part of a denomination that has a missionary sending structure, start with them. They are going to reflect and operate within the same beliefs that you have. If your denominational background is more mixed or you are from a non-denominational or interdenominational church, you might find the best fit with an agency that is broader in its doctrinal statement. If there are certain doctrines that you hold strongly to and you feel you could not work well with people who hold an opposite view, make sure that the agency also feels that way. Don’t be afraid to ask questions like this with agency representative or missionaries. Having peace in this area is critical to your effectiveness.

Second, you should feel the agency you are joining is a family you want to be part of. Agencies have personalities – some are more serious while some are more fun-loving, and some are adventurous while some are more safety conscious. You want to feel emotionally connected to the people you know in your agency. If you are single, you should look at how your prospective agency relates to singles; if you have a family, how does your prospective agency view marriage and children? Living and working cross-culturally is difficult. You want to do it with people who live life like you do and who understand who you are and where you are going. Talk to missionaries from your prospective agency and ask what their lives are like. There is no better way to get an honest feel for the “family” part of an organization.

Third, you should consider finances. Not all agencies are alike in the ways they handle money. Some agencies are employers (though you still need to raise money for your salary and ministry), while others are organizations that facilitate self-employed workers. There are advantages and disadvantages to both models, so it is important that you find out which system fits best for you. Also, almost every agency has an overhead charge. Some are a set amount, and some use a percentage of money raised. In nearly all cases, the money is used to cover organizational costs, most of which will benefit you as the worker. You should also consider how support requirements are created and what happens if you are under supported in different agencies. Since you will most likely be raising this money, it is important that you agree with how it is put together and how it is used.

Faith, family, and finances are just the start, but they are a good start. If you feel a good fit in these three areas, there is a great chance that agency will be a good fit for you all around.

Finally, pray a lot about this decisions and ask others to join you! Only move forward if you have God’s peace.