This past Sunday the Columbia Church of Christ had Francis-Xavier Sosu from Accra, Ghana with us. Francis is a bi-vocational minister who also works as an attorney in Ghana as he is involved in ministry among the poor. He preached for us during our worship and then after a fellowship meal, he shared with us the vision for the Treasure of Life Foundation (I’ll share more about this in a later post). It was great to have him with us reminding us that God’s mission is bigger than our own little space on planet earth.
Does your church ever have someone from another culture come and preach? Is your church involved in global missions of some form?
Churches need to hear from, share in, and participate with other Christians and God’s mission beyond our own context. As a church does, not only does the it participate with God in his global mission but it also encounters the missional heart of God in new and perhaps unexpected ways. This participation changes the church as much as the mission bears redemptive influence in the mission field and that surely will change the way the members of the church live within their own neighborhoods.
Thirteen years ago I went to Belo Horizonte, Brazil for the first time. There I was walking among the people, listening to their stories and encouraging them in the way of Jesus but God was teaching me way more than anything I was teaching them. That includes even those I was engaging in evangelistic Bible-studies with. The following year I returned with my wife and we stayed with a Brazilian family. We didn’t speak Portuguese very well (and still don’t) and they didn’t speak English well but that did not keep us from communicating with them and vise versa. Instead, we experienced great love and hospitality. And once again, even as we spent time ministering with the different small groups of the Alípio de Melo Ingreja de Cristo (Church of Christ), God was teaching us more than we ever taught them.
After our son’s death we asked of those who wanted to make donations do so either to Arkansas Children’s Hospital or to Brazilian Church Planting Ministries, a non-profit ministry supported by the Churches of Christ. I believe that both choices were influenced by our time in Brazil because there are world-view was expanded and shaped more towards God’s world-view. There we saw in new ways the passionate love God has for people because we were out of our familiar and comfortable context. That’s also one reason why I encourage Christians in America to participate in short-term mission trips as God opens such opportunities up.
I say that to say that whether we are having a Christian from another culture speak to us or participating in some cross-cultural mission, God is also changing us for his missional purposes. Ideally, both should take place.
Every church, no matter how big or small, should participate in God’s mission and that participation should reach beyond their own cultural context (without ignoring their own community. In doing so churches, as my church was reminded of last Sunday, give themselves first to the Lord like the Macedonian church did (cf. 2 Cor 8:5) Churches should participate in global missions because God does… because God’s concern is for the entire world rather than any one particular church and culture.
However, I also believe such churches reap great blessings in many ways as they join God in his global mission. One of these blessings is the reminder that God has not gone in hiding but that he is still powerfully at work in this world. Here in America where there is increased uncertainty among society and many churches find themselves struggling, churches need to be reminded of how much God is at work. As a church begins seeing God at work from a global missions perspective it will see just how the Lord is good to all (cf. Ps 145:9). Then the church will confess in fresh ways the words of Psalmist who says, “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and your dominion endures through all generations” (Ps 145:13).