Karen Coleman is a dear sister I worked with many years ago at my home church, Good Shepherd. She and her family spent 23 years in Cameroon, West Africa involved in Bible translation and missionary care, and we had the privilege of having her on our EPM staff. I can’t think of anyone better qualified to write about developing a heart for missions.
David Bryant asks, “Who wouldn’t like to end each day, putting our heads on our pillows, confidently saying, ‘I know this day my life has counted strategically for Christ’s global cause, especially for those currently beyond the reach of the gospel’?”
May that be true of all of us. —Randy Alcorn
It might come as a surprise to some, but if you do a Bible search for the words “mission” or “missionary”, you aren’t going to find much. To understand the role of believers in reaching the world, we have to dig a little deeper.
The heart of missions, when we get down to it, is God’s heart for lost people. It’s the Gospel, the Good News of Christ’s completed work for us through His death on the cross and His resurrection. And it’s not just for people who look like us, speak like us, or live near us. It’s for everyone.
So how can you become a more “Global Christian,” that is, someone who thinks and loves like God, who has God’s heart for the world and the lost? (Obviously, by that definition, every Christian should strive to be a Global Christian!)
1. As you read the Bible, mark any passage that relates to world ministry. I have “WM” marked all through my Bible. For example, The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 and the “Be my witnesses” passage in Acts 1:7-8 come to mind quickly. But world ministry goes all the way back to Genesis 3:15, the prophesy of crushing the serpent’s head, and Genesis 12 in the Abrahamic Covenant, where God promises to bless all the families of the earth through Abraham’s line. With hindsight, we now know both of those passages are references to Christ Himself—the seeds of the Gospel in Genesis!
Proverbs 24:11-12 speaks of rescuing those who are being taken away to death. Isaiah 9 tells us of the Child who comes to bring light and joy, as well as justice and righteousness. With an eye for this, you will start to see the ministry of God to the world everywhere in His Word.
2. Meditate on and memorize passages that have to do with God’s heart for the world. Here are some of my favorites to get you started:
3. Pray for God’s wisdom and guidance. It’s worth noting that after Jesus told His disciples to ask the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers, He sent them. He intends for us to have a heart that cares for the world around us, and instructed His followers to pray to that end.
4. Sign up with the Joshua Project to discover who that “world” is. To learn more about Unreached People groups, the Joshua Project will send you (daily or less often if you choose) a little information about one group with progress to date, obstacles to the Gospel, prayer requests, and one photo of a person in that group that helps you realize these are real people headed for a Christless eternity.
They also have a section on hot spots. I’ve heard it said that most of the “easy” groups have been reached with the Gospel. There are many obstacles to reaching those that remain: their languages may be more difficult to learn; they may live in some of the most inhospitable places on the planet; they are mostly in closed countries where missionaries aren’t welcome (that’s putting it nicely). Therefore, extreme commitment is required, as well as extraordinary sensitivity and innovative strategies. But no obstacle decreases the need for those people to hear the Gospel!
5. Read good missionary biographies. They can be just as exciting as any fiction! Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
6. Meet with your pastor, or the missions person at your church, to let them know of your interest. Ask them for ideas on how to learn more, and ask them to pray for you.
7. Take a course such as “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.” This life-changing 15-week class is being offered in Portland, Oregon starting this August. It can also be taken online, but the regular classes are recommended.
8. Attend a conference like Mission Connexion or Urbana. There are excellent speakers and workshops, and representatives from various organizations you could interact with. You can go online and listen to past messages at Urbana. Multnomah University in Portland, Oregon has a similar conference for their students, and you can listen to messages from past conferences. (A connection I made there is how I ended up in Africa for 23 years!)
9. Find out about the missionaries your church supports. Sign up to receive their regular updates and pray for them. Write them an email and tell them you’re praying for them. See if there are any currently on home assignment and living in the area. Have them over for a meal and ask lots of questions.
10. Browse through this inspiring list of missionary quotes.
11. Look around you locally for opportunities to interact with and learn about people of other cultures. It could be something easy like having dinner at an authentic Ethiopian restaurant, or something more stretching like finding international students or refugees in your area to connect with and serve in some way. God is literally bringing the world to our doorstep—what a great chance to be Global Christians in our own communities.
A warning: If you pursue these goals, you’ll start to think differently! A Christian who thinks globally will begin to change his or her views on many things like possessions, relationships, compassion, success, what is Biblical versus what is merely cultural, choosing a major in college, wealth, security, vocation, refugees, use of time, retirement, ethnocentricity, and so much more. It becomes a grid through which you view our very big God and the entire world He loves. I believe it’s a very God-honoring grid.
If you sense God’s call to consider serving overseas, here are some long-range goals for becoming a Global Christian:
1. Continue to involve the leadership at your church in your discoveries and plans. Everyone serving God in a global capacity needs the strong backing and prayer support of the local church. (If your church doesn’t have someone focusing on missions, God just might want you to be that person!)
2. Join a team to go on a short-term missions trip. The needs, opportunities and possibilities are endless, and this will stretch you out of your comfort zone for sure. For example, one opportunity with Operation Mobilization is to serve on the Logos Hope ship. You can sign up for two weeks, two months, or one to two years. My son Zac is currently serving on the ship and by the time he finishes, he’ll have visited about 18 countries and had amazing opportunities to be a Global Christian. My other son Noah is studying agriculture in college and is currently in Uganda to disciple young men while teaching farming methods.
3. Consider possibilities for additional Bible training with a cross-cultural emphasis. There are many Bible schools and Christian universities that have certificate or degree programs with a concentration in missions. It’s good to understand worldview, apologetics, and church planting, and to know something of the history and theology of missions. Learning specific strategies of how to be a Global Christian from those who have already done that work makes a lot of sense. Just make sure the doctrinal statement of any school you consider is solidly biblical.
4. Research and make connections with a sending organization. Sending agencies are groups that facilitate missionaries getting to the field through training and handling logistics, and they often have a particular focus like church planting, Bible translation, relief and development work, etc.
By the way, the word “missions” is used less these days. It can have a negative connotation in some places. Some people and organizations have switched to phrases like Global Outreach or Global Ministries. For security reasons, missionaries may be called “workers” now. In some closed countries, there are laws against becoming a Christian and a visa would never be granted to someone asking to enter as “missionary.” So people go in as teachers or businessmen or other professionals. This is often referred to as “tent-making,” a reference to the Apostle Paul’s trade which he used to support himself while he traveled to share the Gospel.
5. Pray for God’s wisdom and guidance. (Are you noticing a pattern?) As you seek God’s will, here’s a word about danger: if a Christian is in the center of God’s will, it’s the safest place on earth to be. It may not seem that way to others, but I believe that’s how God sees it. Corrie Ten Boom put it this way: “There are no 'if's' in God's world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety—let us pray that we may always know it!”
Many things in God’s economy appear upside down to the world’s eye. He has His own definitions for things like safety and danger and risk. In Psalm 4:8, David reminds us that it is God alone who makes us dwell in safety.
Lastly, here is a quote by Nate Saint which had a profound effect on my life. It was written in December 1955, about a month before he was martyred by the people he was trying to reach with the Gospel:
As we have a high old time this Christmas, may we who know Christ hear the cry of the damned as they hurtle headlong into the Christless night without ever a chance. May we be moved with compassion as our Lord was. May we shed tears of repentance for these we have failed to bring out of darkness. Beyond the smiling scenes of Bethlehem may we see the crushing agony of Golgotha…If God would grant us the vision, the word sacrifice would disappear from our lips and thoughts; we would hate the things that seem now so dear to us; our lives would suddenly be too short, we would despise time-robbing distractions and charge the enemy with all our energies in the name of Christ. May God help us to judge ourselves by the eternities that separate the Aucas from a Comprehension of Christmas and Him, who, though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor so that we might, through His poverty, be made rich.
If you take the time to let those truths sink in, I’m not sure how you can carry on with “normal” life and not become more of a Global Christian. If something breaks God’s heart, it should certainly break ours.
May God give you His heart for His world!
Photo by João Silas via Unsplash
Karen Coleman served as a ministry assistant at Eternal Perspective Ministries for three and a half years. She spent 23 years in Cameroon, West Africa involved in Bible translation and missionary care. Before going to Africa and before EPM began, she served as Randy’s assistant when he was a pastor. In June 2018, Karen went to be with Jesus.