Archives For missionaries

The Briefing

TX church holds first Sunday service since attack
After an emotional sermon held outdoors under a massive white tent, congregants and the public were invited to return to the church for the first time since the tragedy. A chilling memorial set up inside First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs included 26 white chairs bearing each victim’s name painted in gold. Pastor Frank Pomeroy shared his personal heartache and a message that the community bound together by faith can move past the evil that attacked the church seven days earlier. The service was held in a massive white tent erected in a baseball field.

Missionaries assist Muslims amid humanitarian crisis
Renewed clashes between Rohingya militants and security forces in Myanmar have created a massive new humanitarian crisis, resulting in more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee into Bangladesh since Aug. 25. The government of Myanmar faces accusations of ethnic cleansing and international condemnation. Myanmar and its Muslim neighbor Bangladesh have largely been closed off to Christian missionaries, but Christian aid groups are now in Bangladesh to help the Rohingya.

Supreme Court to weigh anti-abortion speech restrictions
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Nov. 13 to take up a fight over a California law that requires pregnancy counseling centers, including those run by churches, to tell their patients that subsidized abortions are available elsewhere. Signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015, the law says the centers must post or distribute a notice that says in part “California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access” to such services as contraception and abortion. It was immediately challenged by religiously affiliated clinics that argue the law is worse than censorship, compelling them to communicate a message offensive to their beliefs.

Teacher removed after calling transgender student a ‘girl’
A Christian math teacher in the United Kingdom has been removed from the classroom for referring to a biologically female transgender student as a girl. Joshua Sutcliffe, a 27-year-old who teaches 11 to 18-year-olds at a school in Oxfordshire, has been removed from his teaching capacity and is facing a disciplinary hearing after a parental complaint that he discriminated against a female-born transgender student by stating “well done, girls” when addressing the student’s small group during class. The student in question self-identifies as male and Sutcliffe reportedly had not been instructed formally that she was to be referred to as a boy.

Museum of the Bible officially opens this week
The new Museum of the Bible – a project seven years in the making – officially opens its doors this week. In the heart of Washington, D.C., it’s the first museum solely dedicated to God’s holy word. With a $500 million investment and global cultural and scholastic partnerships, the Museum of the Bible hopes that its mission translates into more people reading and appreciating the best-selling book of all time.

Sources: Religion News Service, World Magazine, NBC News, The Christian Post, CBN News

The Mission Illinois Offering and Week of Prayer is September 10-17, but there are plenty of opportunities for prayer ahead of that week. In fact, all of September is a good time to focus on God’s work through Baptists in Illinois.

Devote time to prayer every Sunday or Wednesday in September. Share mission facts and videos on the mission stories. Our main focus is evangelism and church planting in Illinois. Review the statistics about lostness in Illinois. These are not just numbers, they are people.

Pray for salvation. Check Wikipedia for the population of your county or town. According to the experts, more than two-thirds (say 65%) of those people do not know Jesus Christ. Do the math. Pray for their salvation. While you’re at it, make a list of people you know who need Jesus.

Pray for the missionaries by name. Use the daily devotions as brief prayer prompts in worship services and in personal prayer. They are in the MIO Prayer Guide/bulletin insert, online, and printed in the special Illinois Baptist wrapper on the outside of the Aug. 14 issue.

Schedule a special prayer meeting for state missions. Some churches use the Wednesday during the Week of Prayer, others use Sunday morning or Sunday night. Or pick another time, day or night.

Spread the responsibility. Ask Sunday school teachers and small group leaders to focus prayer on state missions during September. Ask the missions team or WMU or men’s group to pray for state missions in their September meeting.

Focus on Romans 10:14.
“How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher?” (CSB)

Pray each section of the verse:
• For the Holy Spirit to open hearts to believe;
• for the gospel to be shared; for the church planters;
• for gospel witnesses to respond to the call to
missions and evangelism, especially in Illinois.

We could plant so many more new churches and reach so many more lost people in Illinois if there were more future leaders in the pipeline.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering at MissionIllinois.org.

watch pocketIn the church I grew up in, “missionary” was a sacred and scary title, bestowed only upon the spiritual elite, the Navy Seals of the Christian world. We considered them heroes, sat in awe through their slideshows, and gladly donated our money to their ministries.

It was years later that I first realized that every Christian was a missionary, that all Christians were called to leverage their lives and talents for the kingdom. God’s calling into mission is not a separate call we receive years after our salvation; it is inherent in the very call to salvation. Every believer is given a spiritual gift and a role to play in the spread of the Great Commission. “Follow me,” Jesus said, “And I will make you fishers of men.” That’s for everyone, not just those who feel a special tingly feeling they interpret as the call of God, or those who see some message from heaven spelled out in the clouds. Too many Christians sit around waiting on a “voice” to tell them what God has already spelled out in a verse.

Another way to put it: The question is no longer if we are called to leverage our lives for the Great Commission; it’s only where and how.

When “normal” Christians embrace this idea of calling, the gospel spreads like a prairie grassfire. Luke, the writer of Acts, goes out of his way to show us that the gospel travels faster around the world in the mouths of regular Christians than it does through full-time, vocational Christian workers. Luke notes, for example, that the first time the gospel left Jerusalem, it was not in the mouths of the apostles. Regular people “went everywhere preaching the word,” while the apostles stayed in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1–4). The first time the gospel actually went out into the world, not a single apostle was involved.

  • The first “international mission trip” was taken later in that same chapter by Philip, another layman. The Spirit carried him to a desert road where he met an Ethiopian government official, and Philip led him to Christ.
  • The church at Antioch, which served as the hub for missionary activity for the last half of the book of Acts, was not planted by an apostle, but simply “some brothers,” whose names Luke did not even bother to record—presumably because no one would have known whom he was talking about.
  • Apollos, a layman, first carried the gospel into Ephesus, and unnamed brothers first established the church at Rome. These Christians didn’t travel to Rome on a formal mission trip, but were carried there through the normal relocations that come with business and life. As they went, they made disciples in every place (Acts 8:5–8; 18:24–19:1; 28:15).
  • As the historian Steven Neill notes, “Nothing is more notable than the anonymity of these early missionaries.…Luke does not turn aside to mention the name of a single one of those pioneers who laid the foundation. Few, if any, of the great Churches were really founded by apostles. Peter and Paul may have organized the Church in Rome. They certainly did not found it.”

The next wave of missions will be carried forward, I believe, in much the same way—on the wings of business. Consider this: If you overlay a map of world poverty with a map of world evangelization, you will find that the areas most in need of business development are also the most unevangelized. Many of the most unreached places in the world, most closed to Christian missionaries, have arms wide open to any kind of businessmen.

Missiologists frequently refer to a “10/40 window” in which the most unreached peoples live (lying between the 10 and 40 degree latitude lines). For business leaders, the 10/40 window isn’t a window at all; it’s a wide open door.

God may not call you to leave the United States (though he might!). But if you’re a believer, he is calling you to follow him where he goes, as he seeks to make his name known. Whether you’re an investment banker or a full-time pastor, a stay-at-home mom or an overseas missionary, God has a mission for you. From Raleigh-Durham to Bahrain, the responsibility to think that way belongs to every believer. As we often say, “Whatever you are good at, do it well for the glory of God, and do it somewhere strategic for the mission of God.”

It’s time for the “ordinary believers” in our churches to recover the understanding that they are called to the mission and shaped by God for a specific role in that mission. The question is no longer if we are called to leverage our lives for the Great Commission; it’s only a matter of where and how.

J.D. Greear, Ph.D., is pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and author of “Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches that Send.”

‘Why we do what we do’

ib2newseditor —  December 8, 2016

Week of Prayer missionaries take gospel light to dark places

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Rodney and Helen Cregg’s work in a large city helps rescue women from prostitution.

The Indian bride wore blue silk, trimmed with gold. Rich fabrics in brilliant hues are traditional for wedding saris in this megacity.

But the guest list was anything but typical. Among those celebrating this day were 20 prostitutes—women who were like family to Shanti.* She knew them from the years she shared their heartbreaking lifestyle as a prostitute. That was before the ministry of a Christian activity center rescued Shanti from her former life. She is now a believer and has a good job to support herself. And on this day, she even married a Christian man.

International Mission Board missionaries Rodney and Helen Cregg* have partnered in establishing the activity center that offers prostitutes a place to learn basic skills in the middle of a notorious red-light district.

The Creggs are supported by the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, an annual offering facilitated by the International Mission Board and Woman’s Missionary Union in partnership with Baptist state conventions. Many churches will mark the Week of Prayer Dec. 4-11.

“This is why we do what we do, to see these ladies—and other people in [this city]—realize the hope in the gospel and then find victory in freedom,” Rodney says.

Another woman at the center agrees: “Being involved at the center, I am finding the love I didn’t get from my family from people who know the Lord. Through Jesus I am experiencing love. I am blessed.”

lmco-prayer-circle

Young men in Southeast Asia meet to study the Bible.

Finding home again
Missionary Layla Murphy* was shopping in a vegetable market in Southeast Asia when she heard phrases she understood. Two women were speaking the language of the Buddhist country from which she had just been expelled, after laboring for years to share the gospel.

Soon Layla learned that hundreds of thousands of migrant workers and refugees from her former country lived in this sprawling urban center. God’s providence had set her right in the middle of the gospel-hungry people that she’d felt called to serve. Then, a national pastor asked her to stay right there to teach, train, and disciple new believers from the country that she can’t live in but calls “home.”

On the first day of class, she planned for 15 students but 50 showed up. “God had put hunger for his Word deep in their hearts and this was the first time that they’d ever had the chance to learn [the Bible].” Though she would rather serve in the country she loves, “this deepened my trust in God.” Her students tease her that she is also a refugee—the American refugee, Layla says.

“That sort of binds our hearts together.”

For more Lottie Moon and Week of Prayer resources, go to IMB.org/lottie-moon-christmas-offering.

*Names changed.

– From IMB.org

Taking the risk

ib2newseditor —  November 17, 2016

Serving Christ has always been dangerous. He said it would be. Now, even telling the stories of missionaries puts them in danger.

London | We can’t tell you their names. We can’t tell you where they live. We can’t really even tell you where they work. They are missionaries.

Times have changed. We all know social and cultural values have recently experienced massive upheavals in western nations. Religion has played a major role in these changes. Missions work is no longer tolerated in places it once was. Working to fulfill the Great Commission can no longer be done so openly.

We can’t tell you their names. We can’t tell you where they live. We can’t really even tell you where they work. They are missionaries.

Coinciding with these cultural shifts are changes within the Southern Baptist Convention’s largest missions sending agency. The International Mission Board (IMB) is adapting the way it does missions. When IMB President David Platt stepped into the role in 2014 he soon discovered the agency was facing a budget overspend of more than $200 million. Personnel costs would have to be greatly reduced with action being taken quickly. With a major and largely voluntary staff reduction in 2015, going from nearly 5,000 missionaries and staff to 3,800, IMB expects have a balanced budget in 2017.

The changes included cutting most of the communications team serving in Richmond, and replacing them with a small team of young communication specialists stationed at points all around the world. With them comes new strategies for engaging Southern Baptists with missionaries that take into account the risky business of gospel witness.

Not your mother’s mission magazine
You may have noticed the stories about IMB missionaries have changed. Remember Commission magazine, with its glossy photos and National Geographic style? Today’s mission stories are not written in a long, detailed format anymore. We don’t often see photographs of missionaries’ faces. The name of the countries where they serve may not be reported. There is a good reason for this. A very good reason.

horse-and-rider

SHADOW AND LIGHT – This photo from IMB’s
Instagram account shows their new communication strategy: show the missions concept, but protect the identity of the missionary. Posted with the photo is a brief message from the missionary: “Pray for God to provide me with a teammate willing to work in rough, remote places so we can reach the mountain shepherd people.”

Almost a dozen state Baptist convention newspaper editors met with members of the Board’s media network in London recently. The chief topic was security concerns.

“There’s spiritual warfare on the front lines,” a member of the media team shared. “A battle is going on against the spread of the gospel.”

For example, one missionary took all the necessary precautions. But when a photo that had been taken years earlier was found online it led to his undoing. Somehow a person in the country where the missionary was serving connected it with some other information online to learn the missionary’s true identity. It almost cost him his life.

He walked, unsuspecting, into a meeting and found the atmosphere was charged with anger. People once friendly were now menacing as they kept him there for hours shouting, “Is this you? Did you say this?” When he was finally allowed to leave, he gathered his family and they fled the country. His identity had been compromised and it was no longer safe for them to continue to spread the gospel message in that country.

The missionary life can require living in countries where it’s dangerous to be a Christian. But it can also be risky living in “safe” countries among those same people groups that are hostile to Christians. There are parts of Africa and Asia that have always been high risk and high security for missionaries. With the increased mobilization of people, now it’s not just there, it’s everywhere.

“There’s spiritual warfare on the front lines. A battle is going on against the spread of the gospel.”

In other cases, the country may feel it is already a Christian nation and therefore does not need to admit anyone into the country for the express purpose of doing mission work. In those places, missionaries enter as workers who are in the country to do charity work or other vocations.

Tell the old, old story—differently
If you visit the International Mission Board’s website, IMB.org, you can read its mission statement, “Our mission is evangelizing, discipling, and planting reproducing churches among all peoples in fulfillment of the Great Commission.”

In today’s world, technological advance has produced security issues, so can the missions stories be told to the people back home in the pews? It’s becoming more and more challenging. Things aren’t as simple as when Lottie Moon would write about her work in China and send the letter to Annie Armstrong to be copied (and recopied) by hand or typewriter, and distributed across the United States.

For years the National Woman’s Missionary Union’s prayer calendar in Missions Mosaic magazine has contained a birthday prayer calendar for missionaries. It listed their names and the countries where they served. In recent years, fewer real names or locations can be shared. Quite often a pseudonym will be used along with a region of the world, “South Asia,” for instance.

While the IMB remains committed to telling the story back home, they are having to become more and more creative in doing so. Lengthy articles are now less common and story vignettes are better vehicles not only due to safety concerns, but also for ever shrinking attention spans.

“The missionary life, missions sending, it’s always changing.”

This has caused the IMB to shift the way it creates the content of a story, looking more at the concept that describes the missions work. As a member of the media team said, “There are avenues of telling the story without focusing on people in specific locations. We’ve had to shift the way we’re doing content altogether.”

The use of social media including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter is proving to be a good way for Southern Baptists to stay informed about missions. It connects with younger generations who need also to learn the importance of giving to missions through the Cooperative Program.

The IMB website has undergone a complete retooling and now sports a fresh look that supports this challenging new media world.

Another change is in the reporting on the safety of missionaries after breaking news events. Southern Baptists often express interest in how an event affects missions efforts in those areas. According to their website, “Due to security considerations for IMB personnel and the national believers with whom they work, we usually don’t discuss their locations. However, with any breaking news event, we are in contact with anyone who might be affected, due to travel or other reasons, to confirm their safety and security.”

A media team member summed it up: “The missionary life, missions sending, it’s always changing. There are always new security challenges necessitating a new way of telling their stories. Most of our missionaries, we can’t print their names.”

Lisa Misner Sergent will focus on London, a world city with many people groups, in her next report.

Offering Day

ib2newseditor —  September 18, 2016

Mission Illinois Offering  Week of Prayer Day 8

MIO-box-smallToday many churches across the state will collect the Mission Illinois Offering. With a goal of $475,000, the ministries in this prayer guide depend on faithful giving in order to continue reaching people for Christ. The Mission Illinois Offering is the most direct channel through which Illinois Baptists can fund mission work close to home and really invest in the things important to us here.

Mission Illinois encourages the work of local congregations, is built on solid Baptist doctrine, and helps share Christ in every setting where IBSA missionaries serve. Missions giving through this offering helps equip and mobilize people to reach our specific mission field—the lost and unreached people in Illinois.

Pray for IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams and all the missionaries and staff of IBSA. Pray for generous giving during your own church’s offering for state missions.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering

Watch Nate Adams’ video, “Turn on the light.”

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I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t always understood why being on mission both personally and as a church is so vital. I used to skip the “missions” chapel services in seminary because I wrongly believed that missions and being a pastor were two separate callings. I just wanted to be a pastor. Sadly, the first church I pastored wasn’t very mission-minded because I wasn’t.

However, I am now convinced that one of the vital roles of pastors and church leaders is to lead the church to fully embrace God’s call to be involved in their local community and beyond. My heart now understands that the church should be a strong community of mobilized missionaries. It is now my desire to lead the church through preaching, mission trips, and other creative ways so that missions becomes part of our church’s DNA.

I believe that one of the first ways to lead your church to be on mission is to be a leader who is on mission. I am convinced that when the leader of a church is passionate about the mission of God and living a missional life, that focus and zeal will naturally overflow into the hearts of those in the pew.

When a leader is passionate about the mission of God, that zeal will overflow to people in the pews.

All throughout Scripture we clearly hear God’s call to missional living. We see a clear gospel focus when Christ sends out the 12 disciples in Luke 9 and again when he sends out the 70 in Luke 10. We hear God’s heart when we read the Great Commission and Acts 1:8. In our head, we can know that God wants us to live this life with passion for the gospel, but it is so hard to keep the main thing the main thing.

When being on mission becomes part of the leader’s DNA, the church hears about it through his preaching, sees it through his life, and feels it through his tears for people who are lost without Christ.

Though my mind is now thoroughly convinced of the importance of leading my church to be on mission, I must continually remind my heart about God’s mission. Here are some of the practices that help my heart to be missions-minded:

Personally participating in at least one mission trip a year. These times are good for my walk with God. I need to see God move in ways I cannot explain. Often these trips become spiritual revivals for my heart. I try to alternate between going overseas and going somewhere in the U.S. each year.

Reading missions books and biographies of missionaries. Some of the books that make me cry are “10 Who Changed the World” by Daniel Akin, “The Insanity of God” by Nik Ripken, “The Hole in our Gospel” by Richard Stearns, and “Seven Men” by Eric Metaxas.

Attending missions training sponsored by IBSA, and conferences sponsored by the North American Mission Board. Some of the conferences that have recently helped my missions heart are NAMB’s Send Conference, the Midwest Leadership Summit hosted by IBSA, an IMB Missionary Commissioning service, and the IBSA and SBC Annual Meetings.

I’m not always looking for new programs or new ideas at these conferences, though I often come home with an idea for how we can do missions differently or better at Immanuel.

Talking with missionaries. I love hearing their heart, their struggles, and their successes. You can connect with church planting missionaries on a vision tour hosted by NAMB or IBSA, and the International Mission Board is always happy to send a missionary on furlough to preach at your church.

Most missionaries also send out regular e-mail prayer newsletters. While these messages remind me to pray for the missionary, they also encourage me as I read about some creative things others are doing all across the world for King Jesus.

Spending time with other believers who are on fire for Jesus and who are getting it done sharing the gospel. Often, these lunches and the time I spend with these kinds of believers greatly challenges me.

What a joy it can be when a church understands that God has commissioned them to be the light in a dark world. What a joy it can be when church members leave to plant churches, surrender to ministry, lead their co-worker to Christ, and go to the nations.

The steps you take to fuel your missions heart are steps toward God’s heart, enabling your entire church to be on mission! Keep chasing him, my friends.

– Sammy Simmons is pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Benton.