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:
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.
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.
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.