Trevor Ardill stood in the shade of a Mango tree, a young missionary in a rural Nigerian village. As he was explaining the Gospel, the chief made his way to the front of the crowd and grabbed Ardill's shirt with both hands. "You said that God has a Son?" he challenged. "And that Son became a man and died on a cross to save me from sin?" "Yes," Ardill replied, "That is true."
The chief tightened his grip. "When?" he demanded, his manner indicating that he expected Ardill to say, "Last month," or "Last year." Instead Ardill had to tell him: "Nearly two thousand years ago."
"Shekara dubu biyu!" the chief exclaimed. "Two thousand years? And you're only coming now? What about my father? What about his father? What about all my people? Nobody came to tell them!" Trevor Ardill had no answer. The chief turned and walked away. Ashamed, Ardill left, too.
As a young adult, with tears in my eyes after having read this story, I wondered how I could make a difference, how I could help prevent something like this from ever happening again. My struggle was that I could see the needs "to the ends of the earth," but I was a local church minister. How could I have a global impact? As I prayed and learned, I developed eight steps that I have been able to implement in my life. There are at least eight ways to be "PREPARED" to impact the world for Jesus Christ.
Robertson McQuilken in his book The Great Omission says, "With the need so incredibly great, why is the church so impotent?...Above all, we are powerless because our prayer is peripheral, a tepid formality, while God is calling us to mighty intercessory warfare." Prayer is the key to fulfilling the Great Commission. It's not as simple as mobilizing resources (missionaries and funds) from one place to another. If only it were that simple! Our battle is spiritual. Prayer engages us in this spiritual battle and removes any obstacles in the way. It is also our means of making a strategic impact because it allows us to join numerous missionary endeavors around the world simultaneously (e.g. I'm on missionary teams in Belgium, Romania, Moldova, and Southeast Asia even though I live in Curitiba, Brazil). The book Operation World by Patrick Johnstone is an exellent resource to help you pray effectively. If you are on the Internet, there are two more outstanding resources available to you. One is called the Global Prayer Digest, a daily e-mail consisting of about two paragraphs describing a particular unreached people group and listing relevant prayer needs. You can join by sending an e-mail to email@example.com and writing "subscribe brigada-pubs-globalprayerdigest" (without quotation marks) in the message area. The other is a monthly newsletter called Advance, which includes such categories as the gospel for every people, the persecuted church, spiritual forces of darkness, and "rejoice!" You can receive this superb resource by sending an e-mail to the same address with the message "subscribe Advance-newsletter" (also without parenthesis).
Becoming a world Christian (someone who has taken personal responsibility for helping fulfill the task of world evangelization) means becoming an expert on certain aspects of missions, such as the biblical basis for missions, the history of missions, contemporary issues in missions, missionary "heros," various mission fields or various cultures. The goal is to know a little about a lot and lot about a little (have a broad foundation AND a specialization). This can significantly motivate you to go to the mission field or make a dynamic impact right where you are, and it makes you an excellent resource to teens. It was through reading that my heart was initially broken for the unreached. An excellent starting point is Run With the Vision by Bob Sjogren and Bill and Amy Stearns, or A Mind for Missions by Paul Borthwick. Catch the Wave by Kevin Johnson is a great resource for teenagers. Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper is a must-read. In addition, anything by Don Richardson is guaranteed to get you fired up!
When I was in college I bought gas at the same place as often as possible in order to build a relationship with Maen. Maen was Lebanese and had been associated with the Palestinian Liberation Organization. He told me he was determined to return to his home and again be involved with the PLO. I began to wonder what would happen if Maen became a Christian. Perhaps he'd return to his PLO friends and tell them that Jesus is the way to true liberation. Perhaps his PLO boss would become a Christian. Then his boss' boss. And then...hey, wait! Yassar Arafat might become a Christian! Unrealistic? Perhaps. Possible? Absolutely! We serve a big God! It's okay to dream and it's important to think strategically. Internationals are strategic. As we are able to lead them to Christ, we are then able to send highly equipped "missionaries" to cultures where we ourselves may never be able to go, realizing that many of today's international students are tomorrow's leaders of their countries. (In fact, 40% of the world's 220 heads of state once studied in the U.S.)
Seek out internationals. Most high schools and universities host internationals. If you live in an urban area, you'll find internationals anywhere you look. Being uprooted from their comfort zones and often very lonely, internationals are prime candidates to receive God's love. Yet International Students Incorporated estimates that, sadly, as many as 70% of international students never enter an American home. How can you be salt and spice up these lives that God so loves, and consequently have a world-wide impact for Christ?
John Wesley lived a lifestyle worthy of emulating. One of his life's governing principles was, "As your income increases, let your standard of giving increase, not your standard of living." He lived this way by making a series of wise choices.
The choices you make now in the areas of stewardship, education, vocation and marriage will have a significant effect on your ability to impact the world for Jesus Christ. What are you modeling and teaching them in these areas?
As far as college and vocational choices are concerned, are you discovering your calling, aptitudes, spiritual gifts and passions, and temperament, then seeking to develop these accordingly? There are numerous tests available in each area that you can utilize.
Where dating and marriage are concerned, are you seeking partners who are also world Christians? One of the greatest disqualifiers for many potential world-changers is that their zeal for the global cause of Christ is dampened by their spouse's lack of concern.
We increasingly live in a global village. With the advent of CNN and the Internet we can learn about virtually any significant event anywhere in the world in a matter of minutes. Yet in the past few years, numerous polls have shown the relative ignorance of Americans when compared to most other industrialized nations. How can we make any kind of impact on the world when we don't have a clue what in the world is going on?! (Thankfully, the most recent polls seem to show that results are improving.) Keeping up with current events in our ever-shrinking global village helps us to know how to pray and how to act for the Kingdom. As J. Christy Wilson has said, "The Bible tells us what God wants to do in the world; the newspaper tells us where He needs to do it and where we need to be involved..." How are you staying on top of world affairs in order to pray, give and go for the sake of the Kingdom?
I know one missionary who has a supporter that gives $300 dollars per month out of his excess, and this missionary is greatly blessed. But he will tell you that he is equally blessed by those who can only give $300 (or less) per year, yet give sacrificially.
Scripture reveals God's heart that his children be both generous and responsible. We can significantly impact the ends of the earth if we are responsible with our resources. C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity says, "I'm afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare." This is true of our time, talent and treasures. What ministries or missionaries has God laid on your heart to support financially? Has he called you to use your time to promote these causes? Could you adopt an unreached people group or some missionaries or a child overseas, to support with finances and prayer?
As many as 35% of all missionaries got their starts on short-term mission trips. Why not give it a try? This is not nearly as difficult as it may seem. There are numerous organizations which specialize in providing cross-cultural (note that I do not necessarily mean overseas) mission trips. (See Berry Publishing's Short-Term Mission Handbook or Great Commission Handbook.)
If you're in high school or college, perhaps you could become an international exchange student or studying overseas. Not only will you be able to have an impact at another end of the earth, you will have an extra edge in becoming a missionary, or in the job market, by virtue of knowing at least two languages and understanding at least two cultures.
If you're an adult, there are numerous short-term mission opportunities in which you can utilize your professional skills and your spiritual gifts and passions in order to change lives. Better yet, if you're in your prime (read "retired"), you very possibly have the disposable income and time available to do significant work in the name of your Father. I don't read about anyone retiring in the Bible. Rather than resting on your earthly laurels, what about earning some heavenly ones?
Want something a little closer to home? What about serving locally in a soup kitchen, shelter, inner-city Bible club, etc., especially if you'll have opportunity to reach internationals. How about this: try eating at a foreign restaurant (and I don't mean Olive Garden!). If you really want to be adventurous, ask the waiter to surprise you!
Be very intentional about instilling a heart for evangelism and missions in the lives of the people you know. It is not enough to merely model or merely teach. Directing others toward a lifestyle and lifetime of world-Christian involvement must be very deliberate and must incorporate both modeling and teaching. Organizations such as Caleb Project in Colorado Springs and Crossover Communications International in Columbia, SC, offer materials and speakers to help in this area. You could teach (and model!) the material in this article yourself. You could use world-Christian-oriented discipleship material. (Find the nearest "Perspectives on the World Christian Movement"course and get involved. Then teach others!) Always remember, the world-Christian mentality - being PREPARED to impact the world for Jesus Christ - is more caught than taught.
I was recently in the town of my youth and ran into my former basketball coach. I didn't remember him at first, but he remembered me because I had been responsible for "the most amazing finish I've ever seen!" As he began to recount the story it didn't take long for me to remember...
The score was tied at 50. There were 7 seconds left. There was tension in the air. The good guys (that's us!) were in-bounding from half-court. We could win the game. The pass was made...to the best player...ON THE OTHER TEAM! The good guys felt the grip of defeat around their necks as the bad guys' best shooter dribbled toward the basket and pulled up for an easy 10-foot jump-shot. It was a beautiful shot, arching right toward the hoop. The only chance the good guys had was...A MISS! The ball MISSED! It bounced off the rim and, amazingly, I snatched it from the air, away from a taller opponent.
As I turned to dribble up the court, everything went into slow-motion, just like in the movies. I don't know the physiological reasons for this, but it really happens! It was a good thing, too, because I needed the extra time to figure out what to do with the ball!!! I shot a glance at the clock - 4 seconds. I was oblivious to my teammates downcourt calling for the ball as I ran several steps toward the half-court line, saw that there were less than two seconds left, and shot the ball with all the might my 15 year old body could muster.
SWISH!!!!! At the buzzer! The crowd went wild! (All 12 of them.) We won, 52 to 50!
I was the hero that night. Nothing could dampen my parade. I was the one who saved the day. I was the one who had the presence of mind, the skill, the agility, the wherewithall, the poise, the panache...Okay. I guess I'm getting carried away here. But you get the point. For once in my life, I was the hero. I was the one everyone was cheering for and congratulating.
As I recently reflected on this I realized that my glory days are over. At least in the realm of sports. The knees, elbows, and ankles just aren't what they used to be. I was a bit saddened as I thought about this. But God broke through into my thinking. It was as if He said, "Joao, your glory days aren't over. They haven't even begun." "What do you mean Lord?" And then I could see a similar picture as before, but one profoundly different. I arrive at heaven's gate. The receptional angel (it's in the Bible somewhere, I'm sure. I don't have time to find it right now...) announces, "May I have your attention please. I am pleased to announce the arrival of Joao Mordomo." Crowds of people and angels burst into cheering and applause, and I'm absolutely stunned. "What's going on Lord?" "Take a look around. These are the people whose lives you touched because you were faithful to me. You were, in a very real sense, a hero to them." I see some faces of people I led to Christ. I see some missionaries I supported. I see some people who look like Indians. Indians? I never met them before. And then it hits me. They are Tharu, a formerly unreached people group in Nepal. I prayed for them for years - for missionaries to translate the Bible into their language and plant churches among their people - and God honored my prayers.
So perhaps my glory days are not finished after all. And neither are yours. You may never be a hero on the basketball court, or any court for that matter, but by God's grace you can be a hero in heaven. You can arrive to the glorious applause of the angels and those whose lives you touched. And you can hear God say, "Well done," in response to your life. IF you were PREPARED.
© Joao Mordomo, 1998. All rights reserved.Joao Mordomo is the Executive Director of a Brazilian cross-cultural missions agency. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org