“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
As the calendar turns from December to January, the seasons change, and the new year unfolds. Annual Meetings, Lent and Easter preparation, new year’s resolutions – and if you live in the north, long winter days! Still ringing in our ears and echoing in our hearts, I hope, are the Advent and Christmas reminders of the global implications in the Savior and King born in that humble manger.
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned… For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:2, 6 NIV
When Simeon saw and celebrated Jesus’ arrival at the temple for His circumcision, he exclaimed prophetically:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
Luke 2:29-32 NIV
There are still millions walking in darkness, waiting to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ, the “Immanuel – God With Us.”
When I was growing up in Minnesota, the long January winter days would yield to thoughts of the start of spring training in Florida. As a Minnesota Twins fan, this was the first sign that spring really was on the way, and it made the winters feel just a little shorter. Conversely, a sure sign of fall was Minnesota Vikings training camp in Mankato. Lurking behind the hot two-a-day practices in late August was the fact that winter was on the way. Can you tell that I wasn’t a big fan of snow and cold?!
Of course, these annual happenings were far more than seasonal markers! From Tony Oliva, Kirby Puckett or Alan Page back in the day, to Byron Buxton, Kirk Cousins and Adam Thielen today, the activities are the same. The stars, veterans and prospects take the field, working on fundamentals. The goal: have a winning season by becoming even better at something they already do better than most people.
What does that have to do with Celebrating Global Mission? Consider this: if elite athletes need training camp to work on the basics to become better players, then why don’t we ‘review the fundamentals’ of a healthy global mission ministry annually as we pursue excellence in this calling to the nations given us by Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Church!
What an honor! What a calling!
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”
2 Corinthians 5:17-19
Our Global Calling
Our global calling, echoed in the Christmas message, is made explicit as the resurrected Jesus commands us to Go and make disciples of all the nations!
What does the global mission outreach ministry of your church look like? Are you seeking to be faithful to the call of Jesus? He said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Global Mission Building Blocks
So, how is your Global Mission outreach ministry doing?
Do you have a team of people committed to helping your church carry out your unique global calling?
Are you doing more than simply allocating and dispensing benevolence?
When churches with a healthy, global mission outreach are surveyed, there are some common characteristics. This cuts across denominational lines.
The common building blocks are:
Encouraging short-term mission trips
Holding an annual missions festival
Developing a missions vision and guidelines that move the church forward step by step
Having a missions education plan for the church
Developing an increasing supply of funds to support missionaries
Partnering with and personally supporting foreign missionaries and indigenous workers through trusted and fruitful agencies
Most churches would not consider abandoning confirmation, Sunday school, adult education, a music ministry or youth ministry. But not so world missions! Most congregations do not have a world missions team or task force at all.
A generation ago in many Lutheran congregations an annual mission conference or mission emphasis was relatively commonplace, and missionaries were regularly welcomed into the pulpits. Now, for many churches, this is just a distant memory.
Many congregations have become so accustomed to ceding active participation in the Great Commission to the national offices that this decline in visible, personal world missions at the congregational level is considered the norm.
The cliché is true – a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. In everything we start where we are, not where we wish we were.
So, if you want to take steps in establishing or improving your Global Mission Outreach ministry, start at the beginning. Set a goal to launch a ‘global mission team’ in your church or to improve the one you have! Gather a few mission activists with a heart for the Great Commission.
Perhaps you already have a ‘mission team’, but as several pastors have told me recently, “Mine needs help, some new people, and our mission program is all over the map!”
Looking for help? There are lots of resources available on the internet, or perhaps a nearby church is willing to share what they are doing. You will find resources through the agencies that partner together in CGM!
Under the warm Florida sun, the Minnesota Twins hope for a better year by putting in the hard work to improve their skills. What happens when things do not go well in preseason, when you’re not prepared for what is ahead, when the fundamentals get lost? Perhaps some remember the 1984 Minnesota Vikings under Bud Grant’s successor Les Steckel. His unorthodox approach to preseason led to a poor training camp and a 3-13 season, and he was fired after one year.
What about the church…your church? We have a higher calling, with much more than a baseball or football season to prepare for! We are entrusted with the water of Life and the word of Truth: the Good News of Jesus Christ! This message is the heart and purpose of Celebrating Global Mission! If you and your congregation fail to answer the call of Jesus to do your part in taking the Gospel to the nations, who else will step in?
“The thief [still] comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”
Yet, Jesus entrusts and empowers us with the message that He has “come that they may have life, and have it to the full!” (John 10:10)
Wherever you turn for resources to ‘improve your game’, please decide to invest the time. Don’t settle for status quo in your outreach to your neighbors, or even more, to the nations. Lives hang in the balance, so some hard work during ‘training camp’ is a process worth pursuing with diligence.
“But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”
2 Corinthians 8:7