Timing proves critical to sharing gospel with refugees

A word from IMB workers and The Global Refugee Network:

Time is never a guarantee when Christians meet a refugee in Greece. They may have years, months, weeks or just hours to share the hope that is found in Jesus. This is why International Mission Board missionaries and ministry partners who serve in Athens, Greece, developed an eight-hour, eight-day and eight-week ministry strategy to share the gospel and disciple refugees based on the time available.

“You never know how long you are going to have with someone,” Derrick Pennon* said. Pennon and his family formerly served with the IMB in Athens, Greece, before accepting a position at a Baptist church in Kentucky.

“You might lead somebody to faith that morning, but they’re on a train that night, leaving for Macedonia, so drop everything you’re doing. You’ve got eight hours,” Pennon added. “What are you going to give him in eight hours, or a family who might be leaving in eight days? What can you give them in eight days so that they can reproduce it whenever they land?”

Pennon says eight weeks to eight months with new Christians is ideal. They’ve found this time frame gives them opportunity to more fully share biblical truths before the refugees are relocated.

Greece is a transition country—no refugee comes with the intent to stay, Pennon explained. The Greek unemployment rate is high, making it difficult for many Greek citizens to find work.

Refugees typically first arrive on a Greek island, many of them coming by boat from Turkey. On the islands, initial checks are performed and then refugees receive approval—the timing of this varies—to be ferried to Athens. Refugees are placed in camps in the Greek capital as the asylum process continues, and while they wait to hear what country will admit them. Once refugees move to their host countries, gaining residency and citizenship is often another long journey.

It wasn’t always this way, but Pennon said refugees on the islands now might be there for years before they are ferried across to Athens. The islands are very overcrowded, and the conditions are poor. Pennon said the unfortunate reality is that many refugees stall in Greece due to a backlog of cases. The country has had difficulty managing the caseload of refugees coming through and COVID-19 exacerbated the situation.

Some of the refugees that Pennon has met have been there two years. Though many refugees have long stints in Greece, Pennon and other believers will often meet refugees interested in the gospel during the tail end of those two years. Sometimes they meet refugees who use smugglers to expedite their move to other countries. Timing can be frustrating and unpredictable, making preparedness key.

“God in His sovereignty—He knows when someone is going to come to faith,” Pennon said.

Pennon said they leave the timing up to the Lord and are committed to being prepared, no matter what.

“We’ve learned that the hard way during the height of the [refugee] crisis, because, literally, people would get off the boat in the morning in Athens, and then that night they’d be leaving for Macedonia. And so, you literally had eight hours—what are you going to do in that time that you have with someone?”

The height of the refugee crisis in 2015 led to the formation and galvanization of their eight-hour, eight-week and eight-day strategy. Though the crest of the crisis has passed, the strategy’s efficacy continued and IMB missionaries currently on the field are continuing the ministry.

Pennon said those ministering to refugees operate with a movement-minded strategy with church multiplication as the end goal. Their team includes multiple nationalities working together.

When possible, they pair refugees with a Christian from the same or similar background for evangelism and discipleship. One of the strengths of the diversity of their team is having same-culture or similar-culture Christians sharing the gospel.

In this way, God makes the most of their time together—however short that time might be.

A Word of Thanks

Dear Southern Baptists, 

As the facilitators of the IMB Global Refugee Network, we would like to express to you our sincere thanks for your ongoing concern, gifts and prayers for refugees and displaced peoples around the world and our workers among them. Your generosity and faithfulness help to spread God’s love and saving gospel to those who are often seen as, “the least of the least of these.” (Matthew 25:40).

Blessings, 

Barry and Sarah Holtman*

To discover how you and your church can get involved in reaching Forcibly Displaced Peoples both locally and globally, contact John Barnett, Missions Strategist, by email: [email protected] or phone: 502-654-3385. We are here to serve you today!

Link to this IMB article on the web:

Timing proves critical to sharing gospel with refugees

Embracing the World at Your Doorstep!

God is opening gospel opportunities by bringing diaspora and displaced people to our doorstep! Church, now is the time to embrace the nations as our neighbors, and share the love of Christ with those who have never heard!

Welcome the displaced locally.

We live in an incredibly unique time to fulfill the great commission! Technology, migration, travel, and media has made the world more globally connected, yet culturally diverse.

Every day, millions of people are moving across the planet, and communities, cities, and countries are literally changing overnight.  Most have been displaced through war, famine, persecution, racism, human trafficking, natural disaster, or forced migration. Many of them have never heard the name of Jesus and are desperately seeking help, healing, hope, purpose, and truth.

In midst of this global crisis, God is opening new pathways for the church to respond to needs, share the gospel, build community, and plant churches. Here are 3 ways the Mission Mobilization Team can serve you today:

Discover the Opportunities:

Learn about ongoing opportunities for your church to embrace displaced people both locally and globally. Mobilize your church to pray for the nations next door, by using the IMB Prayer Points calendar for April 2021. The document is attached below.

Develop a Strategy:

We want to help you develop a comprehensive strategy to reach displaced people in your area. The steps of this strategy are summarized as follows:

  • Step #1 – Hear & Share
  • Step #2 – Access & Discover
  • Step #3 – Develop & Implement
  • Step #4 – Train & Equip

Equip your Church:

Our team can provide personalized resources and trainings to your church as they prepare to minister to displaced people in your region. Read more about our resources below.

Go to the displaced globally.

For training and resources about how your church can embrace this global call, please contact John Barnett. You can email him at [email protected] or call him at (502) 654-3385. Get involved today church.

“So then you are no longer slaves and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” Ephesians 2:19

REIMAGINE MISSIONS

In the remaining months of 2021, leaders will better see if the COVID pandemic was simply a blip in planning or a complete disruption to ministry as we have known it.

In a recent Barna webcast, the question was posed, “Is this an interruption or a disruption?”

An interruption means this is only a temporary interference and things will be back to normal soon.

A disruption requires more of a pivot to lasting adjustment. It means that the way we have done things may be incomplete for this season and beyond.

Will you dare to reimagine how your church can carry out the mission of God in light of our current reality?

Today’s Realities

COVID-19 Impact

As COVID-19 began to spread, many missional activities came to a screeching halt. Though the mission has not changed, our circumstances have. As we come out of the pandemic, we must move from self-preservation to selfless sacrifice for the sake of the nations. This will take intentionality and avoiding the inclination to return to overly programmatic and pragmatic approaches to missions.

Tips & Tools

Whether we succumb to fear and focus inward or seek to overcompensate in our own strength for the perceived slowing of missionary advance, we must return and trust our sovereign Lord who has promised a “people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” around the throne of the Lamb (Revelation 5:9).

During this season, we need a Mindshift when it comes to missions. We need to pivot away from overly programmatic and pragmatic approaches to missions and begin to see the people of God as the primary means through which God has determined to see His glory spread throughout the whole earth, by preparing and equipping the people of God as ministers of the gospel.

Tomorrow’s Possibilities

Reimagine

The clear biblical pattern and expectation is for every disciple of Jesus to reproduce others who walk with Christ by making disciples. Similarly, the clear biblical pattern and expectation is for every church to reproduce themselves. Disciples make disciples, churches plant churches. Reimagine a church that recognizes that their salvation is not for themselves, but that they have been blessed to be a blessing. Reimagine a church whose missions strategy is its people, where every ordinary follower of Christ is actively ministering the gospel among their friends, family, neighbors, and the nations.

Remember, the vision and mission of God never changes. Below you will find a simple Missions Assessment Tool and a resource on the Biblical Pattern of Missions in the Acts and the Gospels that can help you begin to reimagine today.

Tips & Tools

4 Helpful List: Custom Assessment for Missions

Resources

Patterns of Mission from Acts and the Gospels

The KBC’s Missions Mobilization Team is here to help you find resources and tools as seek to fulfill the great commission. Churches must learn how to innovate our practices while we maintain essential biblical convictions. Email, text or call John Barnett, KBC Missions Strategist, and let us journey alongside you as you Reimagine Missions in 2021 and beyond. Contact info email: [email protected] cell: 502-654-3385.

How to approach evangelism with different cultures, faiths, and worldviews

The United States is a melting pot of cultures and worldviews. Migration brings thousands of Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists to cities all around the country every year. This trend continues while agnosticism, atheism and apathy marks the worldview of many Americans.

For Western Christians, being a witness for Christ in a religiously plural society is no longer an international missionary challenge. In the midst of a melting pot of faiths, Christians must learn how to adapt in their evangelistic efforts.

The first-generation Muslim immigrants who frequent your local park have different assumptions about issues of sin and salvation than those of the postmodern college student who works at your local coffee shop.

Christians in such a diverse context must learn to show how the gospel speaks to each of these differing worldviews. Evangelistic adaptability can be developed in the following four ways:

Listen to the person’s story.
Whatever religious context you face in evangelism, listening is crucial. Listening conveys a person’s value as one who is uniquely made in the image of God. Asking good questions helps one understand two major issues: what is most important to the person (the object of their devotion) and the story that person tells themself in order to explain reality.

Ask questions about the person’s hometown or country, family, cultural holidays, hobbies, passions, and future goals. For example, you may say “Tell me the story behind one of your festivals or holidays.” A natural follow-up question might be, “How do you live out your faith? Tell me about your devotional life.”

A concrete type of question is often better than a theoretical one such as, “What do you believe about God?” Listen intently to how the person describes their views of God, humanity and the stories embedded in their devotional practices. You are not only listening for cognitive beliefs. Religious traditions, experiences and societal values communicate just as much about a person’s worldview as does their intellectual beliefs and convictions. You can then naturally begin sharing your own story of meeting Jesus and then share the story of Jesus.

Remember the essentials. 
In order to share the story of Jesus (i.e., the gospel), it is often natural to introduce it by sharing your own story of how you became a follower of Jesus. When sharing the gospel, keep in mind some essential elements, such as God, creation, sin, Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and the need for repentance and faith. The four-fold model of the Bible’s grand narrative as creation, fall, redemption, and restoration is also helpful. Another approach is to answer the following four questions in your gospel presentation: Who is Jesus? What has Jesus done? Why is Jesus important or the only way? How should we respond?

The ideal evangelistic encounter will include all of these elements. Do not be discouraged if you are only able to share aspects of the gospel in conversations with lost people. Any attempt at sharing Christ is not a vain activity. However, these essential elements can serve as foundational components for any contextualized gospel conversation.

Respond to their story with the story of Jesus. 
Once you have given a genuine ear to listen and learn about the other person, keep in mind what you learned as you speak about the story of the gospel. Responding to their story with the story of Jesus.

For example, if the person shares that their family is the most important thing in the world to them, it can be helpful to include Abraham’s story of how God used his descendants to spread the good news of salvation and bless all the families of the world. Perhaps the festival that is important to them has aspects of the gospel embedded within it. Use those elements to connect them to the gospel.

For example, the Hindu festival Diwali is about light conquering the dark. You can highlight the fact that Jesus calls himself the light of the world. You are not claiming that Jesus is the fulfillment of their festival. Instead, you are taking a familiar concept (light vs. dark) and connecting it to the biblical message, i.e., the truth.

Contextualizing the gospel is not making the gospel more relevant. The gospel already is relevant. Our job is to share the gospel with the nations here, there, and everywhere. We do this best when we listen well and then apply the gospel to what we learn about a person. However, this is difficult to do in the first conversation. That is why there is one more principle for learning adaptability.

Walk alongside them moving forward. 
If possible, do not just share Christ with a person one time. Follow up with them. Evangelism should not be a one-and-done approach. Jesus called us to make disciples, which involves investing time in people.

As long as an individual is willing to talk, continue to process the gospel with them. We describe this as “walking” because it is a process, and it is a relationship that is moving in a direction toward faith in Christ.

People who have very little exposure to a biblical worldview, such as Hindus and Muslims, need time to process everything. This involves getting them in the Scriptures as much as possible. Let the Holy Spirit speak to their hearts, as you share the Word of God. Let them see how Christ is truly alive and working in your own life. Help them meet other believers and witness the love of God in the body of Christ.

We also describe this as “walking alongside” because we are not in a position of authority over them. You are letting the Word of God serve as the authority as you continue to listen and learn about the person. Walking alongside others is how we can best learn to apply the gospel in a variety of cultural settings.

Contextualization in gospel ministry is best learned in relationships with people. Listen to them, remember the revealed faith, apply the gospel to their life, and walk alongside them towards Christ.

For more information on how to share Christ cross culturally, develop an Acts 1:8 paradigm, or build Great Commissions Pathways for you Church, contact John Barnett, KBC Missions Strategist, on the Missions Mobilization Team. Email: [email protected] Text or Call: 502-654-3385. We Are Stronger Together!

Prayer: Reaching the Nations Next Door!

The mission of advancing the gospel is the great work of the church, and prayer is the engine that moves it. As God brings the nations to America, he continues to open the eyes of believers to see the unreached and least reached people across our state. Of the 200,000 plus foreign-born and their children living in Kentucky, over 160 unique people groups have been identified. We need more intentional prayer and intimacy with Christ, producing more heartfelt evangelism by believers among the lost. Here are three ways focused prayer can empower the church:

Prayer lifts our eyes to the Harvest field.

In Luke 10:2, Jesus said, “The Harvest is Plentiful, but the workers are few. Pray earnestly for the Lord to send out laborers into his Harvest.” As you discover and pray for various unreached people groups in Kentucky, our prayer is that your eyes will be open to the lostness that exists in your community, across Kentucky and beyond.

Prayer opens the doors for the gospel to advance.

Spiritual work requires spiritual power, and united biblical prayer opens doors to share Christ in our communities (Acts 4:23-33). As God’s people faithfully pray for the lost, unbelievers are convicted of their sin and become more receptive and open to the gospel.

As the pandemic began, our mission team was praying for opportunities to share gospel with our Muslim neighbors. That very night, my Muslim friend, Ibrahim, sent a message asking if I could share about Christ (Jesus) with his neighbor, Fatima, who had a dream about Jesus! I never thought that one of my Muslim friends would ask me to share Christ with another Muslim! After meeting with my wife and I, Fatima is now a follower of Christ! Prayer connects us with people who are open to the gospel, lead us to the right place at the right time, and empowers the church to fulfill the Great Commission.

Prayer provides a challenge toward engagement.
When believers experience Christ in intimacy through prayer, our desires begin to align with God’s. Thus, developing a burden for the lost, but also a passion to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

When the church prays, God’s people move closer towards God’s heart for the nations. May God raise us up to advance his kingdom, as we fall on our knees in prayer.

We are here to serve you and your church as you seek to fulfill the Great Commission. For further assistance, email, text or call John Barnett, KBC Missions Strategist, at [email protected] or 502-654-3385.

The Cooperative Program is more than Money!

When I think of Kentucky Baptist, one word that rises to the top is generosity. Kentucky Baptist are generous people, who have a vision to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to all people everywhere.  I do not take for granted the compassionate prayers, the personal commitment, and the financial sacrifice that Kentucky Baptist make to support missions and ministry efforts in our state, nation, and world. As a former IMB missionary from Kentucky and member of the Missions Mobilization Team, I am thankful for the faithful generosity of Kentucky Baptist in their passionate support of missions through the Cooperative Program.

As stated on the SBC.net website, The Cooperative Program (CP) is the financial fuel for reaching every person for Jesus Christ in every town, every city, every state, and every nation. Since its inception in 1925, the CP has been the primary way Southern Baptists “do” the work of ministry together both locally and globally. Standing on the firm ground of the Great Commission, the CP is a powerful tool that has galvanized the missionary zeal of our denomination for the past 95 years.

The Cooperative Program is far more than money or a funding system for missions and ministry. It has been an effective means of bringing the gospel to those who have never heard of Jesus. In a time when the many people are skeptical of institutional structures, the theological conviction and purpose driving the CP must be elevated above and beyond the tool itself. The tool is wonderful, but the vision of reaching Kentucky and the world for Christ is greater. Missiology is not methodology; it is applied theology.

Through Cooperative Program giving, the Lord allows us not only to partner in fulfilling the Great Commission, but also to fulfill a vision that is greater than ourselves. Each church plays a vital role in discovering the lost, making disciples, and strengthening and planting churches both locally and globally. Collectively, we can accelerate not only authentic gospel impact, but also sustainable gospel witness.  Here is what the Lord has taught me, through the faithful CP giving of our Kentucky Baptist:  

  1. It is Beyond me: I obey God by giving my tithe to our local church. My tithe, combined with the tithes of fellow members, enables our church to reach our community and to live on mission.
  2. It is Beyond us: Our church partners with thousands of others across Kentucky to support missions and ministry statewide through the Cooperative Program. Together, we equipped people to welcome and share Christ with refugee families from more than 10 countries, started a Bible institute to equip International pastors across KY, and partnered with International Churches to make discipleships among unreached people.
  3. It is Beyond Kentucky: As KBC churches partner with 46,000+ Southern Baptist churches, our CP giving sends thousands of missionaries across North America to reach people for Christ and Plant urgently needed new churches. Together, we helped Send City missionaries in Chicago, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, and New York share Christ and plant churches
  4. It is Beyond the USA: Our CP giving sends thousands of missionaries around the world to share Christ and plant churches among unreached and unengaged people groups. Last year, CP giving helped over 3600 workers plant 12,368 churches and see 89,325 new believers! South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Central Asia are only a few of the locations KBC churches are with IMB workers around the world!

The strength of the CP is that it allows all Southern Baptist’s churches to prioritize, elevate, and participate in the Great Commission, by partnering together to make Jesus known Here, There, and Everywhere. This is why I am thankful for Kentucky Baptist generosity, and I proud to serve KBC churches as they seek to reach Kentucky and the world for Christ. We are stronger together!

If I can help you develop, share, or equip your church on the impact of cooperative program, please contact me: John Barnett, KBC Missions Strategist, email: [email protected] or call: 502-654-3385

Hard Places, Hard Times!

SUPPORTING GOSPEL WORK IN OPPRESSED PLACES AND DURING TURBULENT TIMES!

“14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? 17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-17)

The Apostle Paul not only understood that the Great Commission belongs to the local church, but also that “sending churches” must pray, encourage, and partner with their “sent ones.” As Kentucky Baptist Churches, we have the joy of supporting and partnering with IMB missionaries around the world, through our Cooperative Program Giving and Lottie Moon Christmas Offerings. However, the Great Commission is more than simply our giving, it includes our willingness to have gospel partnerships in hard places, among hard people, and during hard times. The spread of the gospel faces challenges because people are battling their own personal sin and pride in the face of the “offense” of the gospel. In addition to the challenge of human sinfulness and depravity, sometimes the gospel runs up against challenging settings. Christians in places of religious freedom still carry the biblical burden to take the gospel into higher security or closed settings. The Great Commission is not an option clause, but a command from our living Lord, Jesus Christ. The ultimate goal for these difficult settings is to see the Holy Spirit establish a long-term, doctrinally sound, multiplying church presence for the glory of God.

If we are to partner in a high security location, we must first build and maintain a relationship with a committed missionary who resides in the difficult place or among the difficult people. Workers in hostile areas live with spiritual oppression as a constant companion, much like a tumor that cannot be removed. A good partner carefully considers the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical challenges that exist in this particular setting.

God can use you and your church to not only preserve the wellbeing of your missionary partner, but also play a critical role in fulfilling the Great Commission by doing three critical things:

Pray
We must pray for our missionaries, but beyond that, they need to know we are praying for them. Ask them for specific requests and then follow up to see how the Lord worked. Find out their specific cultural challenges and commit to pray for them. Paul asked his friends to pray for him, and he gave them specific prayer requests.

Encourage
We must also encourage our missionaries. These are real people who have real interests, hobbies, preferences, etc. Do not forget that they have a favorite genre of music, a sports team they keep up with, jokes they enjoy, frustrations as a parent, concerns as a spouse, and a thousand other facets that make them human. Treat them the same way you treat other friends. Talk with them about their interests, fears, joys, and sorrows.

When neglected, the humanity of our missionaries is what often takes them off of the field. When cared for, the humanity of our missionaries is often what makes them the most effective. People who live in spiritual oppression are looking for someone who is living out hope. Ask your church members, how can we play a part in ongoing encouragement to our field personnel? Find ways, be practical and be consistent.

Go
The Bible is overflowing with commands, reasons, and motivations to go, serve and spread the gospel with your physical presence. It is not only important for some of us to go to difficult places long-term, but also for others to go to these places short-term in order to help our missionaries by encouraging and supporting them. Due to the travel restrictions caused by the current pandemic, you might consider “going” on virtual mission trip, which is an excellent way to pray, encourage, and connect with workers in hard places!  But as you go either physically or virtually, go for the benefit of your spiritual partners and the lost, not to fulfill your own dreams. There is a specific danger present in any type of mission trip that makes it about the individuals going instead of supporting strategy of the workers living on the field.

Also, be realistic about the results you will see during your time in a difficult area, or during your time of virtual trip. In many of these places, the work is long and often times they have yet to see the “harvest.” Radical Prayer, persistence, and patience in working the soil is required. The Lord is free to work in any way that He desires, but those who “go” must keep in mind that they might not see a massive turning to the Lord on their first trip.

As you partner with missionaries in difficult and possibly hostile locations, you are part of bringing unreached and unengaged people to the throne room of God. There are many places you could go or ways you can participate in fulfilling the Great Commission, but the greatest blessing is to go and serve where the Lord calls you. The work is large, the challenges are daunting, the need is overwhelming, but the eternal value of even one soul is worth every bit of effort we can summon. Remember the words of the Lord Himself in Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest.”

The Missions Mobilization Team is here to serve you and your church as you seek to fulfill the Great Commission. Even during the pandemic, we can help you Discover the Opportunities, Develop a Strategy, and Equip your Church to Pray, Encourage, Go! Whether you are just getting started or needing to start a new, our team can help you take the next step. Email John Barnett, KBC Missions Strategist, at [email protected] or call 502-654-3385.

Prayer, The Church, and Christ’s Commission!

4 Reasons Why Prayer Empowers the Church on Missions!

“What we need in China is more workers. The harvest is very great, the laborers, oh! so few. Why does the Southern Baptist church lag behind in this great work?” – Lottie Moon, November 1, 1873, Tungchow

One of the greatest resources the church has for advancing the gospel is the ability to come before God in prayer and plead for what is already on His heart, the growth of His kingdom in the world. As we learn from scripture, in James 5:16, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” When we wonder if prayer accomplishes anything, the book James encourages us not only is prayer powerful, but it is effective. James reminds us that prayer is not a waste of time, and that it pleases God to use the prayers of His people to accomplish his will!

Lottie Moon was not only a missionary, but also a revolutionary for global missions. As a teacher called to share the Gospel in China, Lottie Moon’s life offers believers a compelling narrative with powerful lessons. Her story of conviction, persistence, and courage to spread the Gospel throughout late nineteenth-century Northern China helped shape Southern Baptists’ global work for the Kingdom of God. Lottie understood the power and purpose of prayer, and the vital role it plays in every church’s call to fulfill the Great Commission.

Lottie Moon, November 11, 1878, Pingtu

“Oh! That my words could be as a trumpet call, stirring the hearts of my brethren and sisters to pray, to labor, to give themselves to this people. … We are now, a very, very few feeble workers, scattering the grain broadcast according as time and strength permit. God will give the harvest; doubt it not. But the laborers are so few. Where we have four, we should have not less than one hundred. Are these wild words? They would not seem so were the church of God awake to her high privilege and her weighty responsibilities.”

With that in view, here are four reasons why churches must pray for missions.

1. Jesus taught his disciples to how pray for missions and modeled it as he trained them.

Early in his training of the disciples, Jesus taught them how to pray (Matt. 6:9-13). Then, after facing the challenges of ministry, the disciples came back to Jesus and asked him to teach them how to pray. He brought them back to the same prayer in which the petitioner first cries out, “Your kingdom come” (Luke 11:2).

Later, Jesus would model how spiritual battles, to accomplish the Father’s mission, would only be won by faith through prayer as he cried out “not my will, but yours, be done” in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:42).

Before Jesus sent out the seventy-two, he pointed their faces toward heaven and said, “Pray earnestly for the Lord of the harvest to send our laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2). Therefore, as we go to share Christ and fulfill the Great Commission, before community engagement even occurs, we must begin with prayer, and it must be an integral part of our daily lives! The church must never lose sight of the fact that training disciples to pray is the first step in bringing the gospel to the mission field. 

2. Prayer moves the heart of the church toward the heart of God for his mission.

After Jesus sent the disciples to the places he planned to visit and told them to pray that God would send workers into the harvest field (Luke 10:1-2), he said “Go! I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves” (Luke 10:3). They became part of the answer to their own prayer!

As IMB missionaries in Africa, my wife and I were blessed to lead a church planting team that saw the Lord do a mighty work, and prayer was an intentional part of the foundation. The Ugandan believers would gather weekly for early morning prayer and all-night prayer gatherings were not uncommon. In these times, God did something extraordinary, more powerful than any small group meeting or corporate worship experience. It was through prayer and fasting that God unified our hearts for lostness and gave us a church planting vision to reach Kampala for Christ. Out of these churches, missionaries were sent, church planters birthed, and a church’s heart was shaped for the kingdom.

During those days, God thought us how he uses prayer to shape the hearts of his people. Church, in order for us to have the boldness of Acts 4 and the clear direction of Acts 16, we must be on our knees asking God to open a door for His word! Through prayer, God reminds us of the powerful truth that He did not create us to live for Him, but instead, He created us to live with Him! Prayer requires us to totally submit to God’s sovereign plan for both the nations and our neighbors. Missions in the New Normal is Missions in the New Testament (Acts 4:12, 23-37). God will change our hearts, and he will open a door for His Word.

3. Prayer opens the doors in the world for the gospel to advance.

In Colossians 4:3-4, Paul asks the church, “Pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ”. Prayer opens opportunities for the gospel to be shared that previously seemed closed, even in the midst of a pandemic!

In prayer, the impossible becomes practical. Like when Peter was imprisoned in Acts 12, the church was praying and God released Peter, opening the iron gate leading into the city (Acts 12:10)In that experience, Peter realized that nothing would hold back the kingdom of God from advancing as the church prayed.

It is prayer that helps us connect with people who are open to the gospel. It is prayer that leads us to the right place at the right time to take the steps that only God could orchestrate. Prayer connects the church to the activity of God who is empowering his people to advance the message of his kingdom.

4. Prayer empowers the message of those going to share the gospel clearly and without fear.

Without prayer, fear will rule the hearts of those sharing the gospel. Paul knew his own need for courage to proclaim the gospel. In Ephesians 6:19-20, Paul asked the church, “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel. . .Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”

Paul faced his own timidity and overcame his fears through the prayers of the church. Through corporate prayer we realize no one is alone, and we strive together through the power of the Holy Spirit. When the church prays, the Holy Spirit increases the spiritual fervor of the body that affects all its parts.

It is imperative that a church prays and engages in the spiritual work of kingdom advancement. When the church prays, Christians begin to get a clearer glimpse of the mission. It is by prayer that God’s people move closer toward the heart of God for the world. It is by prayer that fears about sharing the gospel are defeated.

The mission and vision of God has not changed. It is by God’s marvelous design and for his magnificent Glory, that he calls his bride to fervently pray for missions. In these uncertain times, the church is being tempted to lose her first love, turn against one another, and vision-drift away from Christ’s Great Commission. Pastors, church leaders, missionaries, and members, we must be a people who are quick to repent and fervent in our prayers, lest the Lord may come and remove our lampstand!

The mission mobilization team is here to serve you and your church, as you seek to fulfill the Great Commission! Please feel free to contact me, John Barnett (KBC Missions Strategist), by email [email protected] or text/call 502-654-3385. I will be happy to serve you or connect you to someone who can. The Lord is Good.

“The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history.”-Andrew Murray

What is Missions in the New Normal?

In Matthew 13:44, Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from the joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” As pastors and church leaders empowering our congregations to reassemble for worship and live for Christ in a post Covid context, we must ask ourselves and our churches some challenging questions. Has our hope and joy always been in Christ and the kingdom of heaven? As church buildings have been empty, attendance numbers not counted, budgets potentially altered, are we striving to simply return to normal, so we can persevere and endure as the church at Ephesus? Who or what is our first love? Is Christ calling us to “go” back to Church or to “be” the Church?

As a Great Commission people, we are called to preach the gospel and make disciples of all nations, by either planting churches among those who have never heard of Christ, or by revitalizing churches among those who have forgotten about Christ. But during this pandemic, it feels like everything has been on hold. Church members are asking how to be the church in our current situation, and what does missions in the new normal look like?  

The book of Jeremiah reminds us that because of Israel’s unwillingness to turn from their idols, God allowed the Babylonians to destroy Israel and the temple. Most of the vessels of the sanctuary and many of the Jews were carried away to Babylon as slaves for 70 years. Israel had their nation and their identity taken from them, and they longed to get back to the way things were. The false prophet Hananiah told them what they wanted to hear, which was that they would return home in two years. But God told His people that while they were captives in Babylon, they were to build houses, plant gardens, and instead of decreasing, they were to marry and continue to increase. In addition, they were to seek the welfare of the city in which they lived and to pray to the Lord for it because their own welfare would come from the welfare of that city.

Their situation should resonate with us during this time. We must recognize that God does not always want us to get back to the way things were. He is doing something during this time to awaken His people. We may be in these circumstances for a while, or at least in some form. God uses times like these to challenge His people both personally and corporately. He desires idols to fall and the church to return to its biblical core.

So, what are we to do as we come out of this pandemic? How has God refined us during this situation, and what has changed moving forward? Remember, during this time of sheltering in place, many have been plowing new ground for the kingdom. The kingdom advances every time you teach Scripture in a Zoom Bible study and someone turns to the Lord or they surrender a part of their heart they have been holding on to. The kingdom advances every time someone who never would have come to church watches an online service. The kingdom advances every time the church is pushed to get away from traditionalism and to define their worship services by the core elements seen in Scripture. The kingdom advances every time another pastor stays the course instead of yielding to discouragement.

Pastors and church leaders, as the ones whom the Lord has called to feed His sheep, may we lead our churches to Repent of our Idols, Return to being the Church, and Reimagine Missions in the New Normal:

  1. Repent of our Idols
    • Idol of Event
    • Idol of Success
    • Idol of Gifted Leader
    • Idol of Busyness
  2. Return to being the Church
    • Return to the New Testament Vision of the Church
    • Return or revisit God’s call to Worship, Discipleship, Ministry, Fellowship, Evangelism, Prayer
    • Return or Revisit the characteristics of a healthy church
      • Evangelism, Discipleship, Membership, Leadership
      • Preaching and Teaching, Ordinances, Worship, Fellowship
      • Prayer, Accountability and Discipline, Giving, Missions
    • Return or Revisit leadership roles
      • Pastors equipping the saints
      • Servant Deacons caring for the vulnerable
      • Every Believer ministering the gospel
  3. Reimagine Missions in the New Normal
    • Maintain missions as our catalyzing principle
    • Ground our mission strategy in God’s Word. Missiology is not methodology; it is applied Theology.
    • Work together and serve one another. Individualism is killing the American church.

Shepherds, as we seek to be the church and share the gospel in the new normal, let our first love be Christ and His word!  Let us equip the saints to not only find their joy and identity in Christ alone, but also to share their joy and the hope of the gospel in a fallen world. Let us love and serve our families well, and may we be willing to sacrifice everything for the glory of God. Remember, missions in the New Normal is simply missions in the New Testament.

The Missions Mobilization Team is here to serve you and your church as you seek to fulfill the Great Commission. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please contact me, John Barnett, at [email protected] May the Lord continue to give us wisdom, as we continue to seek His face. (Ref: IMB, BSCNC).

Listen, Lament, Pray, Repent

Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-21. The Gospel is about reconciliation with God through Christ that results in peace between all relationships, where God and man, man and woman, humanity and creation can flourish and work as He intended. As believers, we are ambassadors for Christ, and we are to proclaim the gospel to people from every nation, tribe, and tongue. Questions: How do we partner with Him? How do we become faithful, obedient witnesses?

As the Body of Christ, it is not just in the wake of scandal, civil unrest, abuse or unjust actions, that we should speak forth the gospel, but in all places to all peoples where brokenness reigns and Jesus’ kingdom is not being reflected or preached. As believers in a fallen and broken world, we should continually lament, confess, repent, and seek reconciliation through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here are some steps to help us in these challenging days:

  1. Acknowledge that these are not isolated incidents. Abuse, racism, mass shooting, brutality, corruption, and war are not isolated incidents. Violence, oppression, land theft, racialization, classism, and genocide against people of color and other vulnerable people exist not only in other countries around the world, but also in the US as well. Poverty, inequality, and abortion are not one-off happenings and the scourge of greed, self-absorption, and fractured families are part of every community and daily life in a fallen world. Current events are moments that push suffering to the forefront of man’s consciousness, but this suffering is constant. As believers in the States, we need to speak out against racial oppression and atrocities that are committed against our neighbors, who are black and brown, not only today and tomorrow, but also every day until the Lord returns. Romans 12:15-16 says, not only to rejoice with those who rejoice but to mourn with those who mourn. As the church, we must place our hope in Christ alone, and work together as His ambassadors!
  2. Please stop talking and listen. Take time to listen to those people in pain and who are immobilized by grief and wrestling with anger and rage because of the constant and consistent suffering and violence in the world highlighted by events in the headlines or a particularly tough season in their lives. Read James 1:19-20.  
  3. Lament and Confess.
    1. Cry. There is no shame, condemnation, or weakness in weeping.  Share with a friend, pastor, or leader out loud why you are angry, sad, or afraid and allow your emotions to come. Read Psalm 13 or 88 and write out these truths in your own words if you have difficulty getting thoughts together.
    1. Confess: It is sin and violation of God’s purposes in this world when we crush the image of God in other people either implicitly or explicitly by actively oppressing the poor and marginalized or passively allowing them to continue. Read Psalm 103 and write these truths in your own words if you have difficulty.
  4. Forgiveness and Blessing.
    1. In Isaiah 6, Isaiah enters God’s Holy presence, and he is convicted of sin and immediately confesses. Instead of being condemned, he was cleansed and sent out as a witness. Similarly, when we confess our sinfulness before God, He is just and mighty to forgive us, not condemn us.
    1. Ask the Lord to expose any tensions or challenges of prejudice, racism or unexposed anger or bitterness in your heart. If needed, ask your neighbor, brother, or sister for forgiveness for your words, deeds, actions, or inaction.
  5. What does it look like to Repent & Reconcile practically? Repentance means that we turn away from our sin by confessing our sins to Christ, asking for forgiveness, and following God’s word in deed and action through the power of the Holy Spirit. Reconciliation is the work of God, through the gospel of Jesus Christ, to bring about peace with God and man. Here are some first steps:
    1. Pray: Alone or with a group, grab your bible, a journal and pray. If you do not know how to pray, the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-12 is a great place to start. You can email [email protected] and we can share some resources with you as well.
    1. Proclaim: Read Psalm 24. In it we see that the “earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof”. That means our schedules, finances, the ground we stand on, the air we breathe, and the bodies we have belong to Him. Write down the time, talent, and treasure that you have and ask the Lord to show you can use those gifts to share gospel and be an ambassador for Christ! Praise the Lord for what he has given to you and offer it ALL back to God because He gave it to you!
    1. Partner: With the time, talent and treasure you brought to God, look at ways you can partner with your church and leverage them to share Christ and serve the poor, marginalized, oppressed, and displaced people in your community, state, nation, or around the world. Then, follow through with what the Lord shows you. Keep in mind, success is not in the progress but the obedience to the God who loves us.

The Missions Mobilization Team is here to serve you and your church as you seek to fulfill the Great Commission. If you have any questions, concerns, or need help getting connected, email me at [email protected] or call 502-489-3404.