Month: July 2015

Why Overseas Missions Scared Me. And Why It Shouldn’t Scare You.

During my senior year of college, I faced quite possibly the biggest decision of my life up to that point. I had two options: stay near my hometown of Chicago to find a job or move halfway across the world to do campus ministry.

Chicago was safe. It was comfortable. I could find a job, have a salary, see my family every weekend if I needed to, worship with a thriving church community, and maybe most importantly, eat at Chipotle anytime I wanted.

Or I could give it all up.

Most people thought my biggest fears would be the new culture, the new language, the new food, the rejection, the lack of family, or the lack of fast food. I knew those things would be hard, but deep down in my soul, they weren’t what was holding me back.

I was afraid of failure.

I felt unworthy.

I felt inadequate.

I felt like a poser.

I wasn’t afraid of failure on the mission field. I had been trained for years to do campus ministry, and I could walk through the motions in my sleep.

I was afraid of failing on a personal level.

I thought all of the other missionaries would be so much holier than me. I was afraid I would be alone in my deep sin struggles. I feared I would be the only person on the team who sometimes wakes up without the urge to share my faith with everyone I meet.

Here’s why you shouldn’t share my fear: I was wrong.

Missionaries are people. Missionaries are simply followers of Jesus in a different culture. Missionaries are sinners.

They weren’t super humans who have figured out the secret to perfectly living the Christian life. They weren’t scary to approach. They weren’t flawlessly bringing people to Christ every day.

They were just like me.

They got homesick.

They confessed some of the same sins I did.

They did things in their past they weren’t proud of.

They wished more people would email them.

They felt lonely when looking at social media.

They missed western food.

They longed to see their families.

Is that what you picture when you think of missionaries? People with loads of faults and problems? People who sometimes don’t have everything under control?

It was probably my greatest fear. And it turned out to be completely false.

This truth speaks to the reality of the gospel. That we are a fallen people. That we daily look at the world and choose to serve ourselves before God. That we will never be as good as we want to be, or as God demands we be.

Yet, God still chooses to use us. Despite our weaknesses, our fears, our insecurities, God uses us to magnify Christ among people of every tongue, tribe, and nation.

God doesn’t use us because we are worthy, but because Jesus is worthy.


 

You are not perfect, but if you are anything like me, you don’t need to be reminded of that. You remind yourself everyday. You already pour heaps of guilt and condemnation on yourself.

But I have good news: you are not alone.

The gospel frees us to follow Christ into what He calls us to. For some, that is certainly to serve Him at home. To send and give to overseas missions. There is no shame in that at all. It is extremely glorifying to God.

However, he also calls some of us to serve Him overseas among unreached people. To go.

Don’t believe the lie that you are not good enough. You are just like missionaries all over the world: you are broken. I am too.

How beautiful that this isn’t about how worthy you or me are. It’s about how worthy Jesus is.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

2 Reasons Why It Costs To Go And Stay

When it comes to missions, people often talk about the cost of going. During my college years, I was given examples of past missionaries who paid a price to go overseas. I was also encouraged to be open to giving up a year of my life to do missions after college.

I am supportive of people taking their post-college years to do missions, for a few years or a lifetime, and am actually currently doing so myself. That is what this blog and The Great Commission in Matthew 28 are striving to see.

However, we should think about the cost of going differently. Here are two reasons why:

1. Missions shouldn’t be that different. When I was in college, my church had a plaque above the doors that read: “You are entering your mission field.” It is when we walk out the doors of our churches, not our homes or nations, that we enter our mission field.

We shouldn’t tell others they need to sacrifice a year of their life to do missions; their mission has already started.

If we are Christians, then we will pay a cost to live as Christ did. It will be hard to fight for community, fight sin, and share the gospel with others. In fighting for these things we will face rejection, persecution, and have to give of our time and resources.

Our geography may present us with unique challenges, as new cultures and customs change the way people behave. However, the way we give our lives to Christ and for one another shouldn’t change.

Your neighborhood should look more similar to an overseas mission field than different.

2. Each person experiences cost differently. For some people, leaving their home to do missions may feel like a sacrifice; for others, it is hardly that at all. As Christians, we will all suffer and face persecution, but that happens differently for each person.

While one person’s suffering may be related to the act of leaving home and living in a foreign culture, another’s may be more related to their relationships and ministry.

The cost of following Christ may even be higher for you if you stay home. You cannot know beforehand, or even in retrospect, but each person will have a different perception of their costs.

Ultimately, that is why we don’t make decisions based on the cost; we make decisions out of obedience. Someone else’s cost may be different than yours, but Jesus says, “What is that to you, you follow me!” (Matthew 21:22)


It will cost you to go and cost you to stay where you are; living sacrificially is not just reserved for overseas missionaries. The cause of your sacrifice will differ from others, but you will sacrifice. As Christians, we are simply called to make disciples of all nations, whether that is across the world or with your neighbor next door.

3 Reasons We Plant Churches, Not Movements

The Sowers Project is all about campus ministry, but even more than that we want to see churches planted. But why? Why not start campus movements and call it quits?

Because movements are not the primary means by which God has designed his gospel to go global.

This pill can be hard to swallow for those of us who come out of a parachurch campus ministry model, like myself. In fact, the campus ministry I was involved with during college functioned more like the church than many of the churches around campus. To this day, I don’t think I’ve seen Biblical accountability, the pursuit of the lost, or discipleship modeled as well as I’ve seen it in my campus ministry during college.

This article isn’t trying to take a stab at people overseas who focus on starting fellowships or movements. It’s a plea to look at what the Bible says about church and what the implications are for cross-cultural missionaries.

That being said, here are a few reasons why I’m not a movement planter:

1. The Apostle Paul set out to start churches, not movements. If this was Paul’s M.O., it should be ours as well. He wrote his letters to specific local church bodies that had structure, including elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1), regular preaching of the Word (2 Timothy 4), and taking the sacraments (1 Corinthians 11).

2. Early church pastors knew who their flock was. In James 3:1, we read that not many should be teachers because those who teach will be judged with greater strictness. Pastoring a local body of believers is a scary thing because you’ll be accountable to God for each and every believer under your care. To faithfully accomplish this, you have to know who’s under your care!

This is why church membership, or covenanting together with a local church is so important. Most campus ministry leaders don’t have this view in mind while leading their movements, and they shouldn’t because that’s the church’s job.

3. Being part of a local church family is Biblical. I said local church family because this is one of the main metaphors we’re given in the Word to shape how we think about church. In Matthew 12, Jesus stretched out his hand toward his disciples and said “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

When you’re saved, you become part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12), and that body is expressed Biblically in the context of a local church, not a movement.


Campus movements, fellowships, and Bible study groups are great. In fact, they’re good, and often times necessary, stepping stones to planting churches. But they’re just that – stepping stones.

They’re the sign on the side of the road towards obedience to Christ that says, “The fullness of what God has for you in the Christian life is just a bit farther”.

You’re not experiencing the fullness of God’s design and joy in Jesus if you’ve stopped at movements. And you’re depriving your disciples if you’re a missionary who’s merely starting campus fellowships.

Start campus fellowships, but don’t stop there! Don’t stop at the five yard line, which is a good position to be in, but go all the way into the end zone.  Keep moving forward – evolve them into the healthy, robust, gospel-driven churches that the Bible teaches us to start.

Check out What is a Healthy Church? by Mark Dever for further information on this subject.

Bringing A Living Hope to the Unreached

I followed the line of four Muslim men into the back of the crowded restaurant. These were men of standing, of influence, so they seated us in a private room in the back of the gold-tiled, smoke-filled restaurant.

Waiters threw down a pan overflowing with skewers of mutton…and sheep kidney. “Kidney is good for your kidneys!” the men proclaimed and laughed hard, eating the whole time. I grinned and tried my best to put on a “happy face” that would make my mom proud.

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“Lamb Skewers (yangrou chuan’r 羊肉串)” by Jen Leung licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I hadn’t expected this reception and hadn’t hoped for sheep kidney kabobs, but I came for an old friend.

One of the men at the table was my first language tutor when my family and I moved to East Asia in 2007.  He comes from a very unreached Muslim people group and, though I shared the Gospel with him then, he seemed interested mainly in intellectual pursuits.

His educational passion took him around the world, but now at 34 years old he works in a rural university area outside our poor city. It’s bleak, arid and lonely – which is how he felt and why I came.

Timothy* walked close next to me, the cold, dry wind whipping between us. The rest of the men walked ten steps behind us. He looked me in the eye: “My mother died two months ago.”

Tears welled up in his eyes. “I spent almost all my money to pay for her hospital bills.” His mother and father are both dead; his siblings have their own families; he is unmarried.

He feels so very alone.

What can I say to someone like that? I have a few moments with him, and then I leave and return to my home, my wife, my kids…my Jesus! We’re separated by language, culture, economics, religion, and history. What can I say to show him love?

I’m praying in my head as we walk together, “Father! Help me! Help this man! Open His eyes and give Him hope in You Lord Jesus! What can I say, Lord? What can I say?”

I didn’t say much.

That night, he sent me a text thanking me for coming. But it felt so lifeless, so empty to be thanked for coming to eat kidney, for listening, and for aching so much for this hurting soul to find peace in Christ. I want Timothy to know Jesus and His resurrection power. A Living Hope – that’s what Timothy needs.

Doing this work is hard. Days like that just leave me aching for Jesus to come back, to rescue us, to bring us home. It’s a sacrifice on too many levels to list.

But at the end of the day, despite the pain, the suffering, the sacrifice, the helpless, the trial and on and on, I’m still convinced that this is one of the most privileged positions to be in on the planet – to proclaim to those who have never heard that indeed Jesus is risen! It’s among the highest honors given to men to proclaim the glory of King Jesus.

“But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'”  – Romans 10:14-15

Have you thought about joining God’s great plan of taking His glory global? What if you gave one year of your life to preach the Gospel among the unreached? I want to invite you to consider it. Come join us for the Sowers Project – one year bringing the Gospel to people who haven’t heard.

* Name Changed for Security Reasons

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