As church leaders, we have a keen interest in the concept of a “shrinking globe.” When we look at the church around the world, it seems there are more churches, more Christians, and more faith-based initiatives in just about every nation thanks to international missions. It seems as if, surely, Christianity must be close to fulfilling it’s ultimate calling to share God’s love with all peoples, nations, tribes, and tongues.
Let’s face it: the world is becoming smaller every single day. Travel has never been as easy and cheap as it is in 2017. The interest in getting to know cultures around the world is at its peak. Experiencing the world and all it has to offer is highly valued for many young people today who want to travel and see all there is to see. But if the world is becoming a global community with Christianity growing each day, do we sill need international missions?
The answer is a categorical YES.
While there is much encouragement to be found around the globe, the call to and need for international missions remains. Let’s have a look at why international missions remains relevant and what part we as leaders can play alongside our congregations as we seek to partner with believers worldwide to build the Kingdom of God today.
The Biblical Mandate.
The command given to believers in Matthew 28:18-20 is a clear and lasting instruction to all of us. There is little argument about this point. As children of God, we are to go into all the world, share the Word of God and make disciples. Many American and European churches have now turned the majority of their focus to the local church community aspect of this command. This is good and necessary. However, the Great Commission still issues a call to going to cultures and places that are not our own. International missions, in a wide variety of forms, is the response to this scriptural mandate, and it is still valid today. When done with sensitivity and cultural awareness, international mission efforts are still effective in helping people from all nations to embrace the love of Christ and grow in their relationships with Him.
Missions is Still Necessary.
There is no argument that there are more believers around the world today than ever before in the history of the Church. But there are still areas of the world where there are very few, if any, Christians. Those are the tough areas around the globe where our responsibility as followers of Jesus remains clear to share the love of Christ in word and in deed. The fledgling local Church in those places needs encouragement to stand strong in the face of persecution and poverty. International missions is the vehicle by which the Church will continue to grow and mature. We must stand together with the local Church as it builds its own indigenous style of worship and church growth that will propel its congregations into a thriving future.
Missions is Changing.
While the mandate to go into all the world, preach the Good News, and make disciples remains the same, the method by which we seek out Church growth is evolving. More and more nations have their own local believers who can join in God’s work. The role of the Western Church becomes more of an equipping and empowering role. Gone are the days of foreign missionaries conducting open-air evangelistic crusades. Today international workers focus on training local pastors, developing senior level local leadership, and building the laity to shepherd their congregations. There are even places across the Global South where the indigenous Church is ready to send out its own missionaries… sometimes even to minister to the Western Church! Times are changing, but the mandate remains the same.
Worthy of our Support.
International missions is the response to a biblical mandate and is still relevant in the growth of the Church. Therefore, international missions is something that is worthy of being resourced. Those entering the work of international missions need support. It is a valued, professional job, not a lesser calling or redundant ministry. Resourcing those doing international missions, whether it’s long term or short term, is an important and God-honoring activity. In fact, funding mission work remains a valid contribution to the Great Commission. The old mission work adage of “Pray, Give, Go” remains true today. International missions need people to remain at home and pray for them or fund their activities. It is a team effort and partnership that reaps eternal rewards. Therefore, believers around the world must carefully consider their participation in international missions and then act on all that God is calling them to do.