Mission Enthusiasm - Stimulated by Golden Opportunities
Rev. Jason Kortering (at the time of writing this, Rev. Kortering was a Protestant Reformed minister-on-loan to Singapore.
This article is about opportunities--opportunities to practice missions.
The world is changing. Nations are mixing with nations, ethnic groups are intermingling with others. This is the biblical pattern if we understand the nature of the world in the last days. Commercial leaders call it globalization. Politicians speak of the New World Order. World communications no longer depend upon the infrastructure of individual nations; satellites eliminate all of this. The Bible speaks of the coming of the anti-Christian world power ( Rev. 13). It's closer than we like to think.
And we are in the middle of all of this.
We are called by God to bring the gospel to these nations, these peoples.
Opportunities have never been better.
First, this is true concerning the objects of missions. We have established that missions includes both witnessing of the individual Christian and the official preaching of the gospel. As we intermingle in today's world, we must realize that almost every person who crosses our path is an object of missions for us. The reason is that almost everyone who crosses our path is either a non-Christian or a Christian. For the non-Christian we ought to be burdened for his lost condition. For the Christian who does not embrace the Reformed faith, we ought to be burdened for his lack of spiritual understanding. That covers a lot of neighbors. The opportunities are almost endless.
Second, the intermingling of the nations gives us many opportunities to reach out to different peoples. Many work places are like a little United Nations. Many jobs require foreign travel which affords excellent contact with many non-Christians. A family from another country may move into the house next door to you. How do you react as a family? In all likelihood these are lonely people who are going through cultural shock. If you befriend them and take an interest in them, you will expand both your own horizon and that of your family. It is an excellent opportunity to sit down with your children, get out the encyclopedia, and learn something about India or their Hindu religion. That way you can understand their background and their needs when you talk to them. When you do this, it can open the door for this neighbor to ask you about your community as well as your Christian faith and church.
The biggest hindrance to sharing the gospel today is our impersonal society. We all live in caves and ignore neighbors. The Christian has to come out of his cave and engage in meaningful exchange to show genuine love and care. There are so many opportunities for this. I challenge you: when you finish reading this, sit down and focus on one such person or family that God placed on your pathway.
Thirdly, the same holds true for the global community as expressed in the internet. It is exciting that our churches are developing excellent "home pages" to make our literature available. If you want to try something more personal, I suggest that you join a discussion group on any religion, including Christianity. Yes, there are a lot of odd-balls out there, and you have to sort it out. There are also worthwhile discussions about different religions in the news-groups. If you follow them, or better yet participate, you will sharpen your skills in communicating the gospel to the non-Christian world. You will also be toughened to take abuse from those who do not appreciate the gospel. I am amazed how much some non-Christians know about Christianity and how skillful they are in attacking it.
We could also cite statistics which indicate how little of today's world has even heard the gospel. It is quite easy to say that almost all the nations have heard about Christ. Yet, if you sit down and really examine what Christian missiologists are saying about people groups, you get a different picture. One significant quote: "Out of 24,000 distinct ethnic people groups in the world today, about 13,000 have been evangelized. Eleven thousand people groups have yet to hear the gospel" (from "Overseas Mission Fellowship's Newsletter"). Connected with that is the extreme difficulty in getting the written Word of God into their languages. We have personally observed the hard work our friends in East Malaysia are doing. They work with the Summer Institute of Linguistics (Wycliff). The tribe had only oral speech, no written language. They had to listen and formulate an alphabet, then a dictionary, followed by a grammar. After all this they had to teach that to the people before even beginning the translation of the Bible into that language. To accomplish this, one has to be dedicated to a lifetime of work, and only under God's blessing will one ever see it accomplished. And this is for only one tribe among thousands. For all sorts of reasons, over half of the world's population has not heard the gospel, even today.
Opportunities abound at home and abroad.
As churches and individuals we need to be more aware of them in order that we can do something about it. We can compare this situation to a married couple who are not interacting together as husband and wife as they ought. All of us who do marriage counseling know that such a couple may have developed bad habits and have to be given a vision of a different way of life which they can hardly imagine. This requires four steps. First, they have to be made aware of or be sensitized to their lack and to a better way of doing things. Second, they have to be motivated to behave differently. Thirdly, they have to be counseled how actually to change their behavior and even coached in this process. Finally, as they put these changes into practice, they have to be monitored and encouraged. It seems to me this is a good approach to challenge each other to be more active in missions.
Let's take a look at the local congregation.
If you ask me what is lacking in our outreach ministries in the local congregation, I would say that it is the activity of the local members reaching out to others by sharing the gospel with them and eventually inviting them to come to church.
I would urge our pastors and church extension committees to concentrate on this lack. As pastors we are spiritual leaders in all areas of ministry. By our preaching and teaching we must sensitize our members to this responsibility. We must follow through and meet with our church extension committees to be sure that this aspect is also included in their work. The pastors cannot personally do the four steps mentioned above with each member of the church. It would appear to me that this is included in the ministry of the church extension committee.
Church extension is outreach. How do we reach out to our neighbors? Yes, in our outreach we publish materials, we arrange radio broadcasts, we hold lectures and class discussions. But, even with these projects, without the personal involvement of every member, they are very limited. The key to any outreach must include the activity of our members. Every church extension committee member knows this only too well. If our members don't invite others to come to a lecture or a special worship service, there will be very few visitors. As members we won't invite anyone to these meetings if we have not, on some regular basis, formed a sharing ministry with our neighbors. It is a good thing when our church extension committees give thought and make plans to train our members to reach out.
This is hard work, but important work if we truly care about our faithfulness to God in missions. Yes, it means we have to search out appropriate material that we can use for our training. It means that we have to do more than use lesson material, we have to hold actual practice sessions and challenge each other to do this work between meetings and discuss what we learned. I look back at our efforts in Grandville. We used Metzger's book, Tell the Truth. It was good material, but I failed to include actual hands-on experience, and without that it soon becomes theory without practice. All such efforts can best begin on a small scale with a vitally interested group. We must not take the approach that if we hold one such training session, then all the members are equipped for this work. Witnessing is a spiritual art, much like prayer. All such spiritual activity needs practice, constant reinforcing, and encouragement. If the Lord blesses such efforts, it will be like leaven in the church and will spread as the Holy Spirit works.
Be sure that as you undertake such efforts you pray fervently to God that He will work zeal for the spread of the gospel. No spiritual advance ever takes place in the church apart from fervent prayer. Because this is true, whenever we see fruits upon our labors there is no reason for boasting, for it is God's work and all glory is His.
It would seem to me that if we really come to grips with the importance of every member involved in outreach, it will also affect our home mission and foreign mission efforts. Because I am personally involved in foreign missions, I can speak from some experience in this area. I have learned many things, but I mention only two important factors that are involved in the spread of the gospel here.
1. The most significant resource for potential new members with which to work comes from the personal involvement of the membership. Hardly ever does someone show up at any church activity without being invited. The regular efforts on the part of members of every age provides plenty of new contacts for instruction and training.
2. Children's ministries are very effective. These include such things as Vacation Bible School, Holiday Camps, Church Youth Groups, Tuition (tutor) programs. By these efforts, non-Christian children and youth come for training and fellowship. Such programs afford opportunities to introduce children to the gospel of Christ. Obviously, these are long-range programs, so that we try to reach the same youth or children year after year. As they mature, some of them are open to the gospel and willing to be trained for membership. Many adult Christians testify that they were first introduced to Christ when very young and it had a lasting impact on them. God works in children and youth, also among non-Christian people. God frequently uses these children to speak to their parents who in turn become involved in classes and spiritual training.
Because we are so covenant orientated (and that with great blessing), we may resist the thought of reaching children if they do not have covenant homes. We may even resist the idea of reaching parents through children. Yet, God continues to do just this in many instances. I see it here in Singapore and I was encouraged to see the same in India, the Philippines, and also Myanmar. Is there a reason why the same would not be true of America and Europe and other countries? Yes, there is a difference in culture and history, but we do well to give serious thought to this possibility.
There is one more aspect we should consider. If this is true in foreign missions, why would it not be true in domestic missions?
Perhaps this is something for us to ponder regarding our approach in home missions. We have many criteria for determining whether or not a certain group of people constitutes a "field of labor." Perhaps we have to include in our evaluation whether the group is mindful of their responsibilities in outreach to "bring them in," so to speak. If they lack in this regard, it may very well be the first duty of a local pastor or home missionary to engage in this training. If it is true for domestic missions, as we see it is in foreign missions (that the local congregation plays a key role in outreach), then we must expect this of those who form the core group, that they will be actively involved in gaining others for Christ. It is a fact that a pastor or a home missionary has his limitations in doing this. The reason is obvious. He has such limited contact with neighbors or relatives of members of the core group, that at best he can only function as one of them and not function for all of them. A key role of the pastor and missionary is to motivate members to go out to the lost and bring them in, so that he in turn can give such persons individual instruction as the Holy Spirit works in their hearts to prepare them for membership.
Then what about outreach to children and youth? There are different factors to consider with each community. What do we have to offer these children which would interest them in coming? Also, we must exercise care so as not to threaten good relations with local families by ministering to their children. This has to be done with great sensitivity. In today's world, parents are very cautious not to allow their children to be involved in religious activities with "strangers." This is exactly the point. We have to become friends and overcome the barrier of stranger. We must be the friendly neighborhood church. We have to be the friendly neighbor who is trustworthy because of past interaction. Virtually no outreach program will have any success without some personal interaction with others by us. But if such confidence is established, bridges can be built between the congregation and neighbors through the children. At least it is worth considering.
I would like to conclude this article on stimulating enthusiasm by suggesting two more things.
First, mission awareness trips are powerful stimulants to get the spiritual juices flowing. I can only speak from my own experience in this regard. My wife and I consider travel to the different countries for the purpose of developing mission interest as one of the greatest "fringe benefits" of being in Singapore. Nothing lifts the two of us up so much as such travel. We may come home coughing, spitting blood, dog tired, and whatever, but our spirits soar. Nothing excites us more than the opportunity to further the gospel in new areas. I am sure that you would experience the same if you could just have the opportunity. I have heard about such trips taking place to Jamaica and to Houston, Texas. That is good, and I am sure it produces mission enthusiasm. The more we can see firsthand the joys and sorrows of mission work, the better we will be in our own mission efforts. I have a dream that some day we can arrange such a trip from America to Southeast Asia. I don't have in mind a holiday. I have in mind a working experience in which those interested can get some actual exposure to mission work.
Second, as we become more aware of mission opportunities, I would like to encourage volunteerism. It seems to me this was one of the side benefits of Houston, Texas. Some of our people "wintered" there. And they didn't just sit on a chair in the sunshine; they helped out and worked. I am sure that everyone involved would testify they are spiritually better for it. As the Lord opens doors of opportunity for us as churches we should encourage voluntary help. So many young or retired people (seems as if both extremes fit this situation) travel anyway. Why not donate their travel for missions? Many youth and retired people are looking for something to do. Why not help them focus their talents in areas of missions. If our heart is right, it won't cost our churches a penny, and all concerned ought to find joy in giving this way.
Mission opportunities span the globe. God is working in America in our local congregations as we work together in our home mission effort. God is working through our churches in Northern Ireland and the British Isles. God is giving us opportunity in Ghana, Africa. God has established the ERCS in Southeast Asia as a sister-church with whom we are engaged in mission efforts. This is only a very small part of the work which Christ is doing by His Spirit through His church in the world. The work of the gathering of the lost is a wonder of grace, and all of us stand humbly before God when it pleases Him to use us as instruments in His hands to perform this work.
This is worth being enthusiastic about.
I trust you are enthusiastic with the confidence that God also uses you!
From the Standard Bearer July 1, 1998 - originally part of the rubric, "Go Ye Into All the World"
Rev Jason Kortering (Wife: Jeannette)
Ordained: September 1960
Pastorates: Hull, IA - 1960; Hope, Walker, MI - 1966; Hull, IA - 1970; Hope, Redlands, CA - 1976; Loveland, CO - 1979; Grandville, MI - 1984; Minister-on-Loan (Hope PRC, Walker, MI), Singapore - 1992
Emeritus: 2002Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Rev._Jason_Kortering
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