Cultivating a Heart for Missions
By Keith Neigenfind
Missions. This can be either a daunting or a confusing word. While your eyes glance across it, images may pop in your mind. An obscure couple living in the jungles. People with white shirts and black ties riding bicycles. Building a house in Mexico. As my wife, 7 month old, and I plan on moving permanently to Thailand as career missionaries, people have the tendency to look at us with perplexity and then wish us a fun time on our “trip.” Regardless, of what your idea of missions is, at the heart of the concept you probably view missions as something that is for others, or for “those people.” Is missions something that all people should be concerned about or is it just for the select few? At the end of the day, the question we need to ask ourselves is what about me, why should I care?
A shift in our understanding of God and of our world must take place. In Matthew 28 Jesus leaves his disciples with a command – “Go and make disciples of all nations.” True missions can be broken down simply to that statement, going and making disciples of Jesus. So how do we cultivate and ignite a fire for reaching the lost throughout the world? I believe if we are to cultivate a deeper heart for missions there are three things that we as Christians must regain.
#1 A TRUE UNDERSTANDING OF THE GOSPEL
Here in the west, we live in a culture of postmodernism – where people view all belief systems as equally valid. As the famous U2 lyric says, “All the colors bleed into one.” Herein lies the problem for missional out reach in that if we believe that either: a) all belief systems will eventually create the same result, or b) the gospel of Christ is simply an add-on or a basic improvement to our lives, then we will never be passionate about missions. But if we understand the gospel, we will treat others differently. It is important that we understand that all people have a disease which is sin. This disease is not only distorting and ruining people’s lives now, but this disease will ultimately lead to death, (and yes even the extremely un-cool word of hell), unless one finds the antidote. The only antidote doesn’t cost anything, it is free, but it is
found in the cross, Jesus Christ, and his sacrifice for our sins. People will never experience grace, peace, and salvation apart from an acceptance of fact that Christ died in our place; and a placement of him as Lord over ones life. By truly understanding the gospel, our lives should be spurred on to love others, to love those from different tribes and tongues, because God himself loved all people. Missions is proclaiming the good news of freedom in Christ to all people. May our hearts break for the unreached around the world. If we love God, love people, and want to unite the two, then we will love missions
#2 AWARENESS OF NEEDS
For some of us it is not that we do not understand the gospel, or that we do not care about others, it is simply that we are not aware of the universal need. This concept is reiterated in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” We have done a decent job of proclaiming the gospel in Jerusalem (our hometown), Judea and Samaria, (the surrounding areas), but the ends of the earth still needs quite a bit of work. For example here are some some statistics:
− 95% of all Christian workers work in Christian or nominally Christian areas
− Only 1 in 20,000 Christians tell the good news to those who have never heard before Acts 4:12
− 1/3 of the world has virtually no opportunity to hear the gospel
− less than .09% of Christians income goes to missions
− Of the 6900 languages 5% have a complete bible, English has over 100 translations2
As one can see, our outreach efforts have at times been rather lopsided. Statistics like these should break our hearts, and spur us towards action. One of the keys to cultivating a heart for missions is knowledge. If we are not aware of what Christ calls us to, if we do not know the great need, then how can we be passionate about missions?
#3 REALIZATION THAT ALL CAN BE INVOLVED
Maybe for you, you realize the need for missions, but taking part in it is big, daunting, and it requires too much. Or for you maybe you do not feel that there is a place for your involvement. The key is that God has created us all with different abilities, skill sets, and possibilities. One of the false assumptions of missions is that it is for “those people”, or that all involved in missions need to be doing the same
thing. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, Paul brings up the fact that as the church we are one body with many different roles. And all the roles are just as vital and just as important to the mission of the church. So it is with Missions as well. What about you? What is your niche? What skills has God given you? Maybe for you, you are called to go -possibly for life or possibly for short-term opportunities. Maybe you are a great intercessor, and you can be the one opening up the doors and pushing back the darkness through prayer. Possibly God has blessed you financially and you can be the one who creates the resources for people to go. Or maybe you even have more creative ways to reach out.
But one thing is certain and that is that God’s heart is for all of his people to be one, and for us to do it together. I know as my wife and I have visited and spoke with various people from our sending organization and denomination (C&MA), we have a sense that we are not going to Thailand alone, but that all of us our in it together, as one unit pushing back the darkness throughout the world together.
God loves all people, and has a passion to be re-united with them. For some reason he partners with broken vessels such as us to bring the good news to the world. May we realize the great privilege and responsibility we have. Lost people around the world matter to God. Do they matter to You?
Keith Neigenfind is currently the Associate Pastor at Redeemer Alliance Church in Fullerton, CA. In July he, his wife and son will be moving to Thailand to plant churches as missionaries with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. If you have questions or would like to get updates and prayer information from the Keith and his family. Please email him at NeigenfindsInThailand@gmail.com. Also they will be having a blog at www.neigenfindsinthailand.blogspot.com