In recent days I have encountered a few people personally and heard a few more stories about people who do not believe that international missions is something that local churches should be pursuing. Most often the case is made that there is plenty of need here in our community or in our state, and we should let people take care of themselves in other parts of the world.
So, I’ve set out to think about this a bit. I’ve come up with five quick reasons of why we should pursue missions internationally. By no means do I consider this an exhaustive list, but it’s what comes to my mind quickly. Here we go…
1. Jesus tells us to go.
In Luke 24:46-49 Christians are told to proclaim the Gospel to every nation. In Acts 1:6-11 Jesus commands Christians to make disciples from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. The concentric circles of Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth show us that missions is not to be exclusively about our own backyard. Followers of Jesus are given a picture of a circle that grows until it encompasses the entire globe.
I believe people lose sight of the fact that missions is first and foremost a Gospel ministry. The primary mission is not meeting physical needs. Meeting those needs is important, but they are secondary to sharing the Gospel. When people tend to think of missions as only a meeting of the physical need then it might make sense that we should spend all of our time helping poor people in our town. But missions is more than that. It is primarily about sharing the Gospel.
2. There are people that have not heard the Gospel.
According to the Joshua Project there are over 6,000 people groups on the planet today that have not yet heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is hard for people to believe that own numerous Bibles and can purchase a Bible in the check-out aisle of your local supermarket, but is true. There are millions of people that need to hear the Gospel not for the sixth or seventh time, but for the first.
3. People’s needs are the same all over the world.
Just this week I stood on the Mexican banks of the Rio Grande and talked with a missionary who was working with people in deep poverty. We discussed what was going on in their lives, their physical needs, and, most importantly, their spiritual needs. I was very moved by the fact that the core needs of the people there were the same as the people who live in my nice, clean neighborhood in Kentucky. Sin takes us on different paths, but it leads to the same longing in our hearts. The longing for redemption, healing and direction. Don’t be fooled by those who tell you that you can’t relate to someone who speaks a different language and lives in a different culture. You have much more in common with them than you think.
4. Followers of Jesus are encouraged by the work of other followers of Jesus.
As a pastor I am often lifted up by others working alongside me in ministry. Whether they come to lend a hand in the work God has given me to do or simply report on what God is doing through their work, their encouragement is always invaluable. It has been such a blessing to talk with pastors in Honduras and, now, Mexico to hear how the Holy Spirit faithfully works among God’s people and calls the lost to repentance. I believe that if I am encouraged by others I can be an encouragement to others. It is well worth the time and energy to offer this encouragement.
5. American Christians are some of the most financially blessed people in the world.
Many Christians around the world do not have the resources to leave their home countries to travel on short-term mission trips around the world. God has blessed many, if not most, American Christians with the financial ability to go to the uttermost parts of the earth and share the Good News. How are we stewarding our money? Is it being used for the sake of the Great Commission or the American Dream?
That’s my quick list. What do you think? Disagree? Can you add anything to it? I would love to hear from you.