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Articles Tagged with: Issue 7

Freedom Becomes Real: Experience the Power of the Cross

“How can I experience a deeper work of Christ in my life?” As we know, the message of the Cross is the transforming power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes. Though we were spiritually dead because of our sins, God brought us life and forgave all of our transgression. We became new creations in Christ, born of the Spirit of God, and delivered from the guilt of sin.

This new life also involves the process of being saved. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). What does that mean?

SIN IS NO LONGER THE MASTER

God’s will for you and me is to be continually transformed into Christ’s image by the work of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18). This continual change was made possible only by what Jesus accomplished on the cross when He broke the enslaving bondage of Sin. From God’s perspective, when Jesus took away the sin of the world, you and I, as sinful persons, also were crucified along with Him (Gal. 2:20). Therefore, whether or not we understand it, the day we were born again we also were separated from Sin as a master who had enslaved us (Rom. 6:6, 9-10). As an evangelist from Uganda remarked, “I am blessed to understand that I am free from Sin as an enslaving master.”

HOW DOES THIS FREEDOM BECOME REAL IN OUR DAILY LIVES?

We can choose to see ourselves in the true light of the cross. In spite of feelings, we can count on and embrace the fact that we already have been separated from Sin as the enslaving master.

We also are released from the demands of the law and its condemnation. For too long many of us have been trying in our own effort to be righteous and acceptable before God (Rom. 7:4-6). When finally embracing this truth, one pastor in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) said, “I have been struggling to live a holy life by keeping the law. Studying Romans, I discovered that the law cannot take me to heaven nor make me righteous. I have to walk by faith in Christ and trust what He has done on the Cross. I have a new life, not under the law but under grace.”

SERVING IN LOVE BY THE HOLY SPIRIT

This freedom becomes increasingly evidenced in our lives as we serve others in love by obeying from the heart the promptings of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 7:6). We are to be men and women who through faith are continually filled with the Spirit and moment-by-moment controlled by His gentle and loving way (Eph. 5:18). We are to “work out” our salvation with the reverential fear of God and a healthy concern to please Him. How can we do that? By God’s power working in us to motivate, enable, and create in us both to will with determination and to effectively do what pleases Him (Phil. 2:12-13). A leader from Nigeria testified, “Finally, by God’s grace I have totally surrendered everything to Him – it has reactivated my total dependence on the Holy Spirit to live a life of victory over sin.”

How can we continue to experience the power of the risen Christ in our lives today? Not by trying to serve and please God in our own strength and goodness. But rather, by relying only on what the Lord Jesus did for us on the Cross. As Paul wrote in Galatians, “I am crucified with Christ by it is not I who live but Christ lives in me” (2:20).

This article is from the Fall 2018 Issue of CoMission Magazine.

Thoughts on the Need of Western Missionaries from Mission Experts

A “ONE SIDED” CHURCH

The argument by many is that it’s cheaper and more effective to send local missionaries because they have “home field advantage.” Despite this logic, the church has proven to be most effective as a multicultural body harmoniously working together. I learned talking to international leaders and partners that some of the best-trained missionaries come from the West, while other nations offer various strengths of their own.

There are all kinds of historic and cultural animosities (i.e., Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs of India; the Sunni and Shiite Muslims of the Middle East; the Hutus and Tutsis of Rwanda, among others) that foreign missionaries have been able to transcend that local missionaries have not. Finally, there remain unreached peoples who don’t have local Christians to reach them. The key is multicultural partnership.

Dr. Jim Raymo – Doctorate in Global & Contextual Leadership from Bethel Seminary and over 20 years of experience working with global missional leaders.

AN OUT-NUMBERED WORLD

There shouldn’t be any debate over Western missionaries going overseas. Sometimes Christians argue that there are enough missionaries abroad and that the US needs to be evangelized. There is no denying that the US needs to be reached. However, the US contains about 300 million people compared to over 7 billion people globally. How can we justify just keeping all our own people at home when the need is so great overseas?

There are Western missionaries all over the world, including friends that we are supporting in Brazil, that are making a significant impact on the field. Why stop sending Western missionaries when God is clearly still working in and through them?

Dr. Ed Dudek – Doctorate of Ministry and Intercultural Studies from Bethany International University (Singapore) and 18 years of field experience in cross-cultural missions in Brazil.

A COLD HEART

The Bible says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.” I would say further that your heart follows where your children go. If the West does not send their people they will lack understanding and lose a personal connection to God’s heart for the world and how He is working in missions. When we see our friends and family go on the mission field, it quickens our burden, passion, and urgency to be engaged in missions. I’ve heard it said, “We focus on the good and give up the best.” If we only give our money we will lose sight of the best – the people that are being impacted and changed.

Dr. Randy Dirks – Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies from Trinity International University and six years of field experience in cross-cultural missions.

 

This article is from the Fall 2018 Issue of coMission Magazine.

Are North America and Western Missionaries Still Needed?

If we don’t stay on mission we will not get the task of the unreached done. But, we need revival, spiritual awakening, and embracing the Father’s vision for all peoples.

Over the last three decades, the number of North American missionaries serving overseas has decreased by 40,000 workers. The total number of missionaries from all nations has also sadly dropped from 440,000 to 415,000 cross-cultural workers. The need for laborers, however, has not diminished, but instead, it has increased! Yet the Church in America has pulled back. This is disturbing and tragic!

AN END TIMES PERSPECTIVE

Jesus’ disciples asked Him one time, “What will be the sign of Your coming and the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3 ESV). Jesus gave them a number of different signs, conditions, and warnings. But one, in particular, stood out as the sign, “This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:14 ESV)

Jesus’ response regarding His coming was directly linked to accomplishing two significant things – bringing the Gospel to all places and all peoples.

A SPIRITUAL HEALTH PERSPECTIVE

The power and presence of the Holy Spirit are directly linked to being fully engaged in obeying His commands. The evidence of being a disciple of Jesus is obedience to Jesus. The birth of the church in the weeks following Jesus’ ascension was initiated by two major markers: 1) the Holy Spirit’s power; and 2) Being witnesses everywhere. The last words of Jesus before “a cloud took Him out of their sight” are found in Acts 1:8 “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the ends of the earth.”

This command for the early Church to be witnesses through the power of the Holy Spirit has not changed. The powerful presence of the Holy Spirit and being bold witnesses at home and around the world gave birth to the Church and are essential to her future vitality and health.

AN OBEDIENCE PERSPECTIVE

In 1972 the World council of Churches called for ‘moratorium on missions’ after years of what they perceived as overreaching colonization. While there certainly were valid concerns about the Church’s approach to missions, and corrections needed, the church also “grew increasingly timid about commending the faith to those of other faiths.” Many mainline denominations pulled back their missions work, especially evangelism and church planting, and increasingly focused on social programs without an emphasis on the gospel of the kingdom. Their decline accelerated with this decision.

Two years later, in 1974, the Lausanne Conference for World Evangelization was held in Lausanne, Switzerland. This was a conference of evangelical leaders, churches, and organizations that took a fresh look at the modern missions challenge. During this conference Dr. Ralph Winter introduced the concept of Unreached People Groups, thereby framing the Great Commission in terms of ethnic groups, rather than geo-political nations. This identification and definition brought a focus on reaching all nations/peoples. It caused a growth of missions among evangelical churches and mission organizations.

However, tragically, in the past 3 decades, much of the evangelical church in North America has pulled back from sending workers. No matter what reasons could be stated fundamentally, the implications are that the church in North America has shifted its responsibility for sending missionaries to the growing Church in the Global South and East. The growth of the majority world church is tremendous, but it does not relieve us of our responsibility to obey Jesus’ command to “go.” (Matt 28:18) We still have a role and a responsibility to be fully engaged. We must work alongside the global Church as partners and co-laborers in the Gospel.

To be ready and engaged with the Father’s agenda, to be spiritually renewed and vibrant, and to obey Jesus, all of must increase our efforts in strategic ways to make Him known “in all the world (geography) as a testimony to all nations (ethno-linguistic peoples).” (Matt 24:14) Obeying Jesus’ commands is fundamental to our spiritual future and health.

WHAT IS OUR ROLE IN MISSIONS?

There is a Biblical example beginning in Acts 4 that tracks the story of Barnabas and gives some valuable insights about our role today. Barnabas sold land and gave the money to meet the needs of the early church. He advocated for the young Saul (Paul) and brought him to the Apostles. Barnabas discipled the new believers in Antioch and then invited Saul of Tarsus (Paul) to join him. He took Saul on his first missionary journey – it started off as “Barnabas and Saul” and ended up as “Paul and Barnabas.” Barnabas was willing and ready to step out of the way to allow young and fresh leadership to emerge.

Barnabas was no slouch! He was considered an apostle and a capable teacher and leader. He never stopped fulfilling what God had given him to do. His model of servant leadership applies to 21st-century missions.

Barnabas was identified as “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.” (Acts 11:24) He was spiritually vibrant and healthy. And where he went, God worked as “a great many people were added to the Lord.”

WHERE GOD IS WORKING

The Holy Spirit works at the edges of the kingdom – at the front edge of spiritual advance. We the Church (no matter where in the world) must be active in personally proclaiming and demonstrating the Gospel of the Kingdom everywhere and among all peoples – in and beyond our own “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Here are some key ways we can serve and work together:

  • Sending new generations of workers (American and all nationalities). Barnabas discipled new believers, advocated for Saul (who became the Apostle Paul), and then looked for new, young leaders in whom he could invest. We too can identify, advocate, develop and invite others to join with us. Barnabas said, “Come with me.” This is about seeing thousands of new North American and global workers being prepared and working together – building a global mission force.
  • Vision and strategy to reach the hardest places and peoples. together with our brothers and sisters in the global church, we need to share in vision and in developing strategies for effectively engaging unreached peoples and places.

Significant advances in initial access to unreached peoples, in seeing first believers and new churches established, and then seeing these become multiplying movements of new believers and churches. It is not just about seeing a few people come to Christ, but working together to see millions of new churches established in our lifetime. Leaving our egos at the door and working together, we labor towards a common goal and God’s glory.

  • Sharing competencies and skills learned from experience. Current day breakthroughs are occurring in many people groups. Leaders and workers from North America and the global church are sharing what they are learning and ways that God is moving powerfully. Lessons western mission workers have learned from successes and from mistakes, especially in working cross-culturally, if shared in humility, can be passed on. After 2-3 centuries of modern mission movements, the western missionaries continue to have the opportunity to share as they stay actively engaged and offer freely of themselves. We find great openness from national missionaries and leaders in the Church in the global south and east to learn from our mistakes and successes.
  • Opening the door and facilitating access to strategic resources for maximum impact. We can help to give access to scriptures (written and audio), evangelism and discipleship materials, language acquisition tools, leadership development, church multiplication, and at times financial support.

The advances that are being made among unreached peoples require that we align our energies and resources for sustained and multiplied impact. This is one way in which we are all in!

To continually have a voice at the table with missionaries and national partners from many other nations, we must fully and increasingly engage unreached peoples. We must freely and strategically bring the experience and resources that God has entrusted to us. We must obey Jesus’ final commission until He says to us “Well done!”

 

This article is from the Fall 2018 Issue of coMission Magazine.

A Disciple Making Disciples in Mexico

Despite the influence of the Spanish during Mexico’s colonial era, the geographical isolation of Oaxaca’s individual villages and people groups, over long periods of time, have allowed them to maintain their unique languages and customs, beliefs and rituals – their ancestral traditions and to an extent their autonomy. For this reason, Oaxaca is the most ethnically complex state of Mexico’s 32 states and it is considered by many ethnologists and anthropologists to be the most ethnically complex region in the entire world.

This complexity has left Oaxaca’s villages largely unreached by missionaries for the past two thousand years.

 

The largest of Oaxaca’s indigenous peoples are the Mixtees. In their own language, they are known as the “people of rain.” Among the Mixtees, there are more than 50 individual people groups, each with its own unique language and traditions.

The religion of the Mixtees is animist, that is, they believe that all things, even animals and plants, natural phenomena, geographic features, and everyday objects, have souls or spirits. Many communities have their own sacred places, like holy mountains or caves where they offer animal sacrifices to appease or ask for blessings from a particular god. They may have a god of the sun, corn, rain, fire, hunting, or even a god of death.

In one village, for instance, the farmer must sacrifice the blood of a chicken to the god of the land before they can plant seeds. So how can Christians reach out to these isolated people groups who have resisted Western influence for centuries? First, it takes someone called by God, who has the courage and the faith to share the good news of Jesus Christ where it has been unwelcome for hundreds of years… a person like Alejandro Rodriguez.

 

In 1996, God called Alejandro and Shayra Rodriguez to work in an unreached Mixtee village in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. They had been there about 9 months, when a group of villages grabbed Alejandro and started beating him. They put him in their local jail with the intention of hanging him via their indigenous customary law of “usos y costumbres” (customs and habits).

Friends in the community alerted the state police of the situation, and they came to his rescue. The police informed them that they should leave that community and that they would take no further responsibility. Alejandro and Shayra prayed and felt the Lord calling them to stay. They lived there for seven more years, and they were able to plant a church that today is still alive and thriving.

Alejandro is a graduate of Bethany School of Missions in Mexico. He caught a vision to reach the unreached of Mexico while serving on internship in Oaxaca. Upon graduating, he founded SIN FRONTERAS (without borders) Missionary Training Institute and sending agency, molded after what he experienced at Bethany.

Alejandro is a member of the GlobServe network and currently has numerous Mexican and ethnic believers ministering among 20 people groups. Through the ENGAGE500 initiative, he has officially adopted 15 additional unreached groups in Mexico.

 

This article is from the Fall 2018 Issue of coMission Magazine.

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