By Y Bonesteele
Through a pandemic, hindered travel has caused churches to wonder how to connect with the global church. But with COVID-19 or not, the answers remain the same.
Create deep, not wide, partnerships.
Most missions programs in churches understand the role of partnerships with people and organizations around the world. In partnering with others, we acknowledge that we, ourselves, are not the savior. We acknowledge that working together with those native to the country we’re trying to help makes us co-laborers for the kingdom.
We acknowledge that we don’t know more than those from other countries. We’re able to serve in a spirit of humility, humbling ourselves not only to God, but also to the people we want to serve and share the gospel with.
But sometimes we enjoy breadth—not depth—in our partnerships. So, we try to partner with many organizations without being able to be deeply involved in all of them. We must know and understand our own church resources, where we’re able to not just dip into many plates but rather be involved partners, knowing the triumphs and struggles of the people we minister to and alongside.
It’s OK to not have a wide assortment of people or organizations to partner with; it’s not a competition of what church has the most partners. If we’re able to get deep, where our members know how the partnership works and how they can get involved, we’re able to encourage and empower these partners better with material support, laborers, and prayers.When we work in a partnering relationship in this way, we understand better what partnership is and can invest well in what God’s doing in the global church. — Y Bonesteele Click To Tweet
When we work in a partnering relationship in this way, we understand better what partnership is and can invest well in what God’s doing in the global church. Of course, there’s no magic number. Know your church, know your resources, and dig deeper—instead of wider—for the sake of healthy partnerships.
Reach out to people groups in your own area.
Missions and evangelism are not two separate categories. The more every believer in every part of the world prioritizes the Great Commission, the more the kingdom of God grows. Paul’s mission started with Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria, then to the ends of the earth. Going to the ends of the world is important, but for some of us, the ends of the earth has now come to us through our neighbors, co-workers, baristas, Uber drivers, doctors, professors, and more.The more every believer in every part of the world prioritizes the Great Commission, the more the kingdom of God grows. — Y Bonesteele Click To Tweet
With job and migration movements, the world is closer than we think. Living in the United States, we have the privilege of experiencing one of the most diverse countries in the world. Recognizing this fact is important in bringing the gospel to the world. Churches and individuals should have their hearts and resources focused on people in other parts of the world. But in addition, we can start connecting with the global church by reaching out to diverse people groups in our own city or state. Again, through partnerships with minority churches or nonprofits in the U.S. focused on minority groups, churches can start reaching the world for Christ here.
Also, encouraging our congregants to interact with and discover other cultures is a step in the right direction. A recent Lifeway Research study reveals that only 46% of Americans say we have made worthwhile progress in race relations, and only 57% of Americans say religious leaders play a positive role.If we say we have a heart for sharing the gospel to other people around the world, but do not have a heart for other people groups in our own town, we haven’t understood the heart of God. — Y Bonesteele Click To Tweet
If we say we have a heart for sharing the gospel to other people around the world, but do not have a heart for other people groups in our own town, we haven’t understood the heart of God.
Use diverse, global sermon illustrations and quotes.
Pastors and leaders in the church have a responsibility to teach Scripture but also to teach a framework of how to think about the world to their congregants. When leaders share relevant global news stories in teaching illustrations, it’s a reminder of God at work in the world in our present moment. Being aware of what is happening in the world helps us see how we can pray for or help the global church, the global body of believers.
Also, when pastors cite quotes from trustworthy sources from diverse backgrounds, members can see how God works in the lives of those around the world or those different from them. Though there are plenty of inspirational quotes from Christian Americans and Europeans, there are also amazing quotes from African, Asian, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern pastors. We all can learn from each other.Connecting to the global church helps your church members see the image of God in all people and helps them discover God at work in the diverse world we live in. Click To Tweet
Connecting to the global church is more than just having partnerships, missions conferences, and guest speakers. It’s about helping church members see the image of God in all people and helping them discover God at work in the diverse world we live in.
Pray and read Scripture with a global cultural lens.
Sometimes we forget that Scripture was written through a Middle Eastern lens. Anthropology, sociology, and missiology have given us much research on differences in Western and Eastern cultures; for example, they have affected the way we view family, time, authority, shame, and the past, among various other topics.
As leaders, pointing these issues out in our teaching not only makes us better expositors of the Word, but it also prepares church members for interacting with those who are different from them. It better equips them to share the gospel in a way that is acceptable and attractive to those who have a different cultural lens.
And these cultural lenses overlap at times, depending on any individual’s background and upbringing, where a Westerner can have Eastern cultural values or an Easterner can have Western cultural values. Understanding these concepts helps pastors and leaders better shepherd their sheep and evangelize to those in their community. And whether the global church is in your midst or whether you’re heading overseas to serve, you and your church will be prepared with the knowledge and wisdom necessary to be more effective ministers.
Equip and send your sheep.
The pandemic has definitely slowed down travel but hasn’t completely stopped it. And soon, travel will open again. Connecting with the global church still involves going. But today, going involves more than just short-term or long-term mission trips. It involves equipping and training congregants to learn how to live on mission whether they go on a ministry trip, a business trip, or a vacation trip.Connecting with the global church today involves equipping and training congregants to learn how to live on mission whether they are traveling for ministry, business, or vacation. Click To Tweet
International business or extended vacations have been booming over the years. Whether it’s six months, five years or more, many Americans have taken the opportunity to travel to a different country solo or with their families for a business or pleasure adventure.
The Wall Street Journal says, “the Department of State estimates that some 9 million U.S. citizens live outside of the country.” Once travel opens up again, this surge will continue. Our churches can use these opportunities to send “missionaries” in a less formal, but possibly more effective manner, through additional support, guided training, and prayers.
As church leaders, the need to disciple our members to make disciples, to know how to share the gospel, to know how to point to and teach Scripture, is essential as they continue to be mobile throughout the world. Missions isn’t just for anointed workers; it’s for all believers.Missions isn’t just for anointed workers; it’s for all believers. — Y Bonesteele Click To Tweet
Let’s remind our church of their essential role as everyday missionaries so they can see their part in God’s kingdom mission. When we do so, our connection with and impact on the global church will surely grow.
Y is an editorial coordinator at Lifeway Christian Resources. She has her M.Div. from Talbot School of Theology with an emphasis in Evangelism and Discipleship.