Isn’t God wonderful? That God would love each one of us so profoundly! God knows our names, he pursues us with his grace, he sent his Son Jesus Christ to live, die on the cross, and be raised again to life, so that we might have forgiveness and new life–eternal life! If we pause for one moment to meditate on this truth, it makes our hearts sing.
This is the Good News (the Gospel) of Jesus Christ. Embedded in the heart of the gospel is missions. God is a sending God. He sent Jesus into our human culture, speaking a human language, experiencing all of human existence, in order to show us about God’s great love. So God is a missionary God, and every missionary who has gone out in his name is following his incarnational model, in order to bring the love and truth of Jesus into every culture in a way that each culture can understand.
Last week Pastor George wrote about a name change for our Missions Committee. We are now calling it the Global Outreach Committee. We think this is culturally appropriate to the realities of 2016. The heart of missions will always remain the proclamation of the gospel to all nations, but much of the format and thinking around how to accomplish this effectively has changed over the past few hundred years. Gone is the colonial mindset that imported Western religious and political practices attached to the gospel. Gone (or going) is the top-down paternalism that assumes that the US church is the giver of the gospel and other cultures are passive recipients. Gone is the control that Western churches have historically exerted. And good riddance, for these models always attached cultural biases to the gospel in ways that made acceptance of Jesus dependent on acceptance of a foreign way of thinking and acting.
So, new in missions is the desire of missionaries to work themselves out of a job-to have national Christians take over the spread of the gospel as soon as possible. New is creating partnerships with Christians of other nations, each group bringing needed strengths to work together. New is a missionary energy coming from the global South instead of the West. And new is the understanding that the word “missions” carries some negative baggage from its colonial past, and thus the name change to Global Outreach.
Our current crop of Global Outreach workers reflect some of these changes, and I’d like to highlight some of these:
- Ghislain Agbede came from Benin to earn a PhD at William Carey University, two miles from the church. His passion is evangelism, and much of his research involved analyzing the effect of colonialism on Christianity in Africa. He is now working with Francophone (French speaking) Africa in order to bring a non-white Jesus to the people.
- Steve and Amie are pursuing a staggering goal of bringing 200,000 Isaan Buddhists to Christ. As they can’t speak personally to this many people, they are relying on multiplication discipleship by training average Southeast Asian Christians to pray and to share their faith. They mentor and coach pastors and teams on the grass roots level.
- Larry Caldwell is working on a macro-level in Converge, to assist different fields to develop strategies that will help them multiply reproducing churches within their people groups. 6,000 house churches have been planted already among unreached people groups and a new goal of 14,000 new house church plants has been set for 2020.
- Jean Bouchebel‘s heart was torn by the plight of Syrian refugees. Millions have streamed out of their country over the past 5 years of war. Jean is using his retirement to help churches partner across denominational lines to reach these refugees (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Evangelical-Jean works to bring training, unity in prayer and organization to all these). In addition, he has founded a non governmental organization to funnel relief supplies to refugees, helping to meet practical and urgent needs through the churches in the Middle East, in the name of Jesus.
- Zach and Beth are recruiting, empowering and supporting teams of workers to live incarnationally among the urban poor in Muslim countries. These teams bring development resources, along with the Gospel, into areas where Christians are persecuted. Some of those areas have no viable national church. The teams are multinational-a lot of the recruiting that Zach does is from Latin American countries to Northern Africa.
- Ben and Anna Zobrist work with Global Outreach workers on the field, refreshing them through prayer and visits to their place of ministry. They are connected to many workers across many denominational lines, with a special focus on those working with Muslims. In addition, they also work to raise up fervent, sustained and continued prayer in the US for the nations, uniting the prayer movement that has grown in this country with missions.
- Lynette Young works in a traditional church planting ministry in Uruguay; Steve Wilkinson teaches in a seminary in the Philippines; Fred and Carol Lewis train outgoing missionaries on culture and language acquisition; J. and D. minister to global outreach workers in closed, Muslim countries; Dot Everett‘s passion is the First Nations people of this country; Paul Geary is a medical doctor overseeing the hand-off of a hospital in Indonesia to national Christians; Mark and Stephanie Dodrill are focused on evangelism to youth in Spain; Tess Chai is a Malaysian professor teaching in a seminary in the Philippines; Melody Wachsmuth is a writer, watching the birth of the Roma (Gipsy) church in the Balkans…
The great variety of people, gifts and ministries that make up ABC’s Global Outreach partnership is a reflection of the multi-faceted, changing world we live in. We like that our new name, Global Outreach, abbreviates to “GO” which is part of the Great Commission. When we think about what the sending God has done for us, how can we help but allow our hearts to sing over the nations that he loves?
– Pastor Connie Larson De Vaughn