Who Will Go? Six Things You Can Do to Find Potential Missionaries in Your Midst
By Shane Bennett
Imagine this scenario: Your pastor stands on the stage Sunday morning and says, “Everyone point to the most missions-minded person in the building!” Do they look at you? Are fingers pointing your way? The odds may be pretty good if you are a Missions Catalyst reader.
Here’s why I want to paint that picture in your imagination: I suspect there are people in your fellowship whom God has in mind to serve his kingdom in a strategic, cross-cultural way. And I have a hunch that you may be an instrumental part of their activation.
If there were people at your church God was calling to long-term service overseas, how would you know? What might you do?
Since this is always God’s work before it’s our work, prayer leads the way. Try this: Set a daily alarm on your phone for 10:02am. When it goes off, take a moment to pray in line with the instructions Jesus gave in Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Ask God to raise up workers from your church. Then listen for any nudging he gives about particular people. Pray for your pastor, staff, and missions leaders. Pray for particular individuals in whom you see long-term potential.
2. Search among the servers.
This is a little dicey, I know, because most of us operate with a scarcity mentality. (It’s not just me, is it?) I’ll never forget my former pastor saying to me, as God began a fresh global move in our church, “You can take whoever you want, but don’t take Brenda!” Brenda was his personal assistant. And, you guessed it, she was the first to move to Central Asia with her family!
Fact is, few people step into overseas work from sitting the pew and nothing more. Faithful service leads to more faithful service. The future long-term workers at your church are presently engaged in vital ministry. As God calls them out, there will be loss—for them personally and for the programs they’re serving.
I see no way around this. So we must tread carefully, leading with humility and empathy, never implying that “real service” is missions.
3. Launch some intro events.
This is the church equivalent to a fisherman chumming the water. Sponsor a cool event, or start a helpful study and see who shows up. The Embark Study from Frontiers is a crazy simple intro to God’s work among Muslims. Crescent Project’s Bridges program either as a seminar (which I would love to do for you) or as a small-group study with DVDs can help normal people shed their fear of Muslims with a little bit of knowledge and some comfort-zone-expanding homework.
I’m sure you can find similar intros bringing biblical insight but focused on reaching out to other populations. The idea is to provide a baby step of information and activity.
4. Take people to visit a Perspectives class.
Still hands down the best missions mobilization education going, Perspectives has been a huge factor in many long-termers’ stories. This week I’m kicking around Catania, Sicily with a great team of people exploring longer-term investment. Perspectives is a common and significant thread in the lives of most of the group.
Once people have a taste of the course, they’re going to want to attend. Lobby your church to fund a handful of scholarships, then invite people you choose to use them. Even better, consider hosting a course at your church! Enlist those you have your eyes on to help you coordinate the class.
5. Take a little excursion.
A tour of a local Hindu temple or a day at a refugee apartment complex will help potential goers get their feet wet. It will also provide a small chance for you to consider if you have your eyes on the right people. Brief forays like this can lead to longer domestic and overseas trips, building cross-cultural capacity and smoothing rough edges.
6. Connect them to people who can place them.
One of the best gifts a mobilizer can give to a potential goer is connection and open doors to people who can help them. You have some idea what organizations excel in given areas. You have a sense of what pitfalls and biases to be aware of. A timely introduction to a team leader or agency staff might significantly accelerate the process for a would-be goer.
Fair warning: Put these things into practice and you’ll run the risk of people saying about you, “God loves you and [your name here] has a wonderful plan for your life!” I don’t much care for that statement when it’s applied to me, but I’m not going to simply sit on the couch to avoid it.
Most of us are designed by biology and guided by our faith to operate best in community. And that means in part that we do better with trusted friends who encourage us, who will say, “Yes, I believe this nudging you’re feeling is from God.” Or, more radically, “Have you ever considered kingdom work in an unreached culture? I see potential in you.”
You don’t know God’s will for a particular person, but you have a sense of what he’s up to in the world. If you think someone in your church could play a part, take a risk and let them know.
» I’d love to hear what you’ve done to help people in your church become goers. Would you take a moment right now and share your good ideas and practices? Posting a comment on this Google doc will make your thoughts available to us all.
7. Bonus Tip
Here’s a final way to find long-term cross-cultural candidates at your church: Make them from scratch! Build them from a young age. Bring your kids to work with me and some refugees next year in a US city.
Granted, there’s enough hurricane clean-up to keep most of our youth groups busy for the next 18 months. Should God give you grace for it, though, I’d love to talk to you about a week-long, well-led, local-church-partnered short term that blesses refugees and equips your kids to tell stories of Jesus to people from all over the world, even the world two streets over from their house.
Yikes, I guess I do have a wonderful plan for your life!
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