“…and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Jesus’ last recorded words to His disciples in his resurrected body. I guess that pretty much covers “why” we go. (For more on that question see Roy Gonzalez’s post from his visit in July.)
In the next few weeks this blog will address more questions, more specific to our family of faith at St. Paul’s, such as:
and any other questions that you ask in the process. My prayer is that as the picture builds, so will all of your vision, enthusiasm and prayers for this particular aspect of our collective calling. I also pray that some – if not all – of your hearts are captured with a desire to personally participate in one of our mission opportunities.
Before I go on though, let me confess – I took my first trip because I had to. My daughter, Katie, had been asking to go on a mission trip since she was 7 years old. I always figured we’d go eventually, but at that time I had no enthuasiasm or burning desire. That came later. We hadn’t been at St. Paul’s for very long when they announced an upcoming mission trip to Panama. Katie was convinced that this was her time but, because she was barely 16, she needed a parent to go with her. Long story short, God agreed.
Funny how God works. I had studied French, not Spanish, and the church that Katie grew up in offered mission opportunities to India and Africa, so that’s where I thought I’d wind up. What I discovered was that no matter where you go or why you go, when you go God gets a hold of you in a way that just isn’t possible in familiar surroundings.
But I promised photos:
This is me and Katie with our Panamanian hosts, Jonas and Betty
In closing this first entry, I invite you all to prayerfully consider being part of the upcoming trip to Guatemala, January 3 – 10, 2015. For more details join us on Friday, September 26 at 7 p.m. – our address and phone number are in the church directory. And keep following this blog for the fascinating and unexpected answers to the questions listed above.
Shalom and Agape,
Join us this Sunday, August 3rd, for our Volunteer Fair and Potluck Dinner. After the service, talk with our volunteer leaders to find out how you can get involved during the week or on Sundays. Then stay and enjoy some good food and great company during our monthly Potluck Dinner.
To sign up to bring something to share or to find out what other people are bringing, use our easy online sign-up:
This past weekend, we were honored to have Roy Gonzalez, from GO Ministries, and Roberto Vega Alvarado, a powerful evangelist from Costa Rica, with us to share about the importance of global missions and to help us plan our trip to Guatemala in January.
Roy has been working with St. Paul’s for eight years and has overseen all our outreach in Panama, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. He wrote the following message to the people of St. Paul’s to encourage us in our continued commitment to global missions and to give us seven reasons missions are so important:
Let me begin by thanking you for your vote of confidence in bringing me and my friend Rigo here to share with you the deliciousness of your fellowship and also some experiences and thoughts about the business that has joined us for over than 8 years now.
It’s an honor for me to work with our mission brothers and sisters in Panama and other countries and the excellent staff serving here in St. Paul’s Church.
I am so impressed with your love for our missionaries, your efficiency, dedication, and commitment to the cause of Christ.
I believe you would agree that missions has been and is vitally important to the contemporary church. Why is that?
First of all, missions is important because of the cross of Christ. If we were to choose only one symbol to represent Christianity over the centuries, it would be the cross. The cross has always been at the very center of our faith. At the cross God demonstrated His love for all humanity and provided a way for all to experience the forgiveness of sin. The Apostle John reminds us that Christ “is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” Since Christ died for the sins of the whole world, it is logical that we should be deeply concerned about reaching every individual with the gospel, as you were in one point of your life.
Second, missions is important because of the command of Christ.
In all four Gospels and also in the Book of Acts, Jesus Christ gives us the Great Commission. It is never presented as an option to be considered, but always as a mandate to be obeyed. For nearly 2,000 years, the marching orders of the church have been, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” The phrase “all the world” means that when it comes to our proclamation of the gospel, everyone is to be included and no one is to be excluded.
We must be global Christians with a global vision because our God is a global God.
When God’s heart for the world becomes the heart of the church, then the church will surrender to do whatever needs to be done so that “every creature” has the opportunity to hear the gospel.
Third, missions is important because of the coming of Christ. In Acts 1, as Jesus ascended up into heaven, two angels asked the disciples, “Why stand you looking up into heaven?” It’s as if the angels were saying, “Don’t you have something you need to be doing? You aren’t supposed to be gazing up into heaven, but rather you are to be going into the world.” Then there was the angelic reminder that there is limited time to accomplish the Great Commission because “this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” If we truly believe in the imminent return of Jesus Christ, world evangelism will become an urgent priority in our churches.
Yes, missions is important to God, and therefore it must be important to every church in our age and the entire world.
Now supporting the idea of missions and individual missionaries is important because it is God’s plan in this world to establish new churches and bring new believers to Christ through the work of missions. When we think of missionaries and mission movements we often think of foreign works; however, missions is something that can be done in your own home town. Maybe the purpose of missions is needed in your own house to bring your family to Christ.
Here are 7 reasons why we should support missions.
1- Because the Early Church whom are Our Example
When Christ was ascending into Heaven after His resurrection from the grave, He told the crowd standing around that they should tarry in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came to live within them (Acts 1:8). After they had received the filling of the Holy Spirit (whom Jesus had promised would be a comforter to them in John 14), they were to spread out in the area and around the world carrying the Gospel to those who had not heard.
It was a direct command from Jesus for the early church to carry the good news to other places. New churches were established in the region and beyond by these early believers.
2- Due Paul often talked about the church praying for missionaries and Missions as much as Missionaries Are Dependent On Churches
We often think of the financial dependence a mission or missionary has on a church, but there is much more to it than that. Paul often talked about the church praying for missions and missionaries so that the missionary could accomplish his work and the mission could be done. In 2 Thessalonians 3 Paul says that the church should pray for the missionaries so that God’s Word would be effective (this is the mission by the way) and glorified in the lives of the believers. He also said that the missionaries needed protection from the world and from wicked men. Paul implied that without the prayers of the churches he, his missionary team and the mission could not do the work God called them to do.
3- Because Missionaries Work On Behalf Of Their Supporters and their mission represents the heart of them.
In the book of Philippians the great missionary Paul wrote to the church in that city to thank them for their support for his ministry (which was his mission). In chapter four of the book, Paul told the church that he knew that it was God who took care of him. Yet, God used the people in Philippi to be the agents of that provision (implying that they were the substance who empower the mission) . Paul thanked them for their part in the ministry. At the end of his letter he made sure the people understood he was not thanking them because he wanted them to give him more things or provide more resources for his mission. He already acknowledged that God would give him everything he needed, either with, or without the help of the church in Philippi. Because of the gifts of the Philippian believers, Paul said that God would put the fruit of his own ministry to the account of the church in Philippi.
4- Because People Need To Hear The Gospel
God is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). His plan is that those who already know the Gospel share it with those around them (this is the mission of every believer). God could have chosen any means to propagate the story of redemption; however, He choose current believers to be the ones who shared Christ’s love with others.
An individual can only do so much for spreading the Gospel in the world. Yet, through a church mission program we are privileged to pool our resources to help fund the spread of the Gospel throughout the world.
God wants the world to know about Christ. He has chosen us as individuals and as churches to share that Gospel with others.
5- Because Jesus Requested Prayer for the Laborers
When Jesus was talking with His disciples one day He looked up at the crowd of people. Jesus could see a great harvest of souls. He knew that there were many people who were ready to hear and receive the Gospel. In Matthew 9:38 Jesus said that we should pray for the laborers to carry the Gospel to the harvest field. The harvest is plentiful. The work to be done is tremendously large. What is necessary are the people to go out and do the work. Jesus said that we should pray that the laborers would step up to the task and accept the challenge of carrying the Gospel to the people.
6- Because We Are Commanded To Go
Some of the last words of Christ before He ascended to heaven was that we should go and carry His Word to the world. In Matthew 28:19 and 20 Jesus said to go into the whole world with the Gospel, teach the hearers and baptize believers.
Interestingly, the command in those verses (according to Greek scholars) is not emphasized in the word “go,” rather it is on the word “teach.” The verse reads more like this in the Greek, “As you are going, teach…” It is implied that we will go into the world. Jesus knew the persecution that would soon come to the church in Jerusalem. He knew the believers were about to be scattered in the world. He knew they would “go.” He emphasized the fact that since they are going, they should teach what they knew about Christ.
Isn’t that even truer about us today? Just a couple of generations ago people were born, lived, worked and died in the same town or close to the same area. Today the world is such a mobile place. We don’t need to be told to go. We are going. What we need to do now is teach what we know about the Lord.
Who Will Go? Who Will Send?
Paul wrote in Romans 10 that preachers were needed to carry the Gospel. Who will go to preach? Obviously those who are called to the ministry should be the ones preaching. Then Paul follows up the question of “who will preach” by asking “who will send them?” The church and current believers have the responsibility to support those who are going into the world with the precious Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let me ask you and challenge you very respectfully: What will your part in missions be? We should all be sharing the Gospel with those around us. But, does God wants you to be more involved by committing to full-time ministry? Even if you are not called to be a missionary physically on the field, you can help the cause of missions by supporting missions through your local church. This support can come by way of prayer, finances, or time and labor for the work of the ministry.
Maybe after listening my words today some of you are feeling (I REALLY HOPE SO) that you must really have a part in this movie but maybe because you’ve never participate in a mission trip before you can’t see your character there, well, let me read you the textual transcription of a post that was written by my very beloved friend and brother Bob Jeram during our trip to Mexico in 2012 and I’ll explain you later what happened that specific day of this story. You can find this blog in the website of St. Paul’s Church:
“A Post from Bob Jeram.
Tuxpan, Day 5.
It’s 11:30 Tuesday evening and I have had a day like no other that I have experienced.
We broke into two teams today; one that worked at Camp Kikomar preparing the wood that will be used in building a third cabin at the camp. A Canadian team will arrive in February to construct the cabin. A second team spent the morning shopping in preparation for training a team of young people in the use of puppets for evangelistic outreach.
As we prepared for the evening, Vince left with a team of people to deliver a message at one of the Methodist churches in town while Pam prepared to deliver a message at the Pentecostal church. I went along with Pam to lend her prayer support. Her message was right on point, delivered clearly and passionately; but at the end of the message she surprised me. She did not call people forward for prayer as I was certain that she would do.
As she was sitting down, a gentleman who had come in in the middle of the message was being led forward. He knelt at the altar where he met Christ for the first time.
The service ended and I went over to introduce myself to the gentleman. Through our interpreter, he told me that he was an evil man whose heart was as hard as stone. He told me that he had no job, no friends and a family that was dysfunctional.
He said that he had a lot to say and that sometime he would like to sit down and talk about it. I said, “How about right now?” And so we talked. The next 30 -45 minutes were spent with me and him in full embrace and him crying like a baby, with our interpreter leading this man through a prayer for salvation and a renouncement of the control that Satan had over his life.
The end result is that one more soul was delivered from the camp of the enemy and that you and I have a new brother in Christ. There is more to the story and I would be happy to share it with you at another time. Until then, pray for this brother, his name is Pablo. While you’re at it give God all the praise”
Bob said that he went that day “to lend Pam prayer support”, he didn’t have any specific role or participation that evening, however God’s plan was different. He also quoted that the service ended and he went over to introduce himself to the gentleman. I am sure that Bob only wanted be polite and to present him some words of encouragement. So far in the story everything that happened there could be done by even an eleven year old or older person. Everything Bob had to do was to be there to be led by the Spirit to step ahead and say a simple Hi…the rest was under God’s script.
Now, in less than a week The Riddells, Rigo and I are going to Guatemala to settle some logistics for a mission trip we are planning for next January 2015 and we want to bring this time 10 people with us to assist this church located in a very poor area.
So far we know we’ll assist in light skills construction, evangelism AND MORE but the “MORE” is what I want to stop at to encourage you to begin praying and searching for God’s revelation and to discern if this is the trip you NEED TO GO IN.
Think about this: Jesus called simple fisher men to do an extraordinary labor they haven’t done before and even when they maybe did afraid to do it, they did it with excellence because they had the right heart to do it. They probably believed they didn’t have the right skills or preparation but they were moved and used by The Spirit once they DECIDED TO GO.
I want to close asking you respectfully: Would you consider, as an ordinary person, to go to Guatemala for an extraordinary labor?
If you are interested in joining Roy, Rigo, and St. Paul’s for our trip to Guatemala in January, please e-mail Emily (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
And thank you again to Roy and Rigo for such a wonderful visit!
This week, Chuck Redfern shares his experiences with the Holy Spirit as we continue reading Clive Calver’s Alive in the Spirit together:
Riding On The Wind
The Holy Spirit snuck up on me from behind, kidnapped me, and buckled me and my family into a roller coaster seat in the early 1990’s. I’ve sometimes whined about the thrill-ride, which often jolted me past the theme park’s hawkers, freak shows, and diabolical clowns offering onion-flavored cotton candy. God has sometimes unsnapped the buckle and allowed me to wander in “normal” Christianity again. It is astonishingly dull. I rushed to the roller coaster and breathed a sigh of relief: My empty seat awaited.
Confusion often swirls when we talk of life in the Spirit. Some stress underlying, covert reality while others emphasize their personal experience and God’s overt acts. We talk past one another. Fingers wag. Frustration mounts. We take back our toys and run home. Fact is, the Spirit pervades our existence whether we feel Him or not, so my journey began long before my felt experience. God “breathed” the “breath of life” into our nostrils (Genesis 2:7). The Hebrew word for “breath,” nismat, is translated as “spirit” in Proverbs 20:27, which means the passage could speak of how God breathed “the spirit of life” into our forebears. Our intimacy with the Holy Spirit was severely marred at the Fall in Genesis 3 but never completely destroyed. Theologians call God’s activity among unbelievers “common grace:” He halted our slide before we slipped into absolute demonism and gave us the ability to choose. Jesus began to restore fuller intimacy when he breathed on his disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).
Underscore and emphasize: Jesus’s disciples were the forerunners of the “new creation” of which Paul wrote (2 Corinthians 2:17; Galatians 6:15). They were “made new in the attitude of (their) minds” as they donned the “new self,” bearing God’s “true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:23-24). We’re harbingers of an alternative creation. We’re “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20), present-day tokens of His future kingdom (see the Parable of the Weeds in Matthew 13:24-29) for which creation groans “as in the pains of childbirth” (Romans 8:22). We bear His fruits (Galatians 5:22-23) and swap society’s culture for God’s.
Such is the underlying reality. God always acts through His Spirit. The Spirit, although a person and not a mere force, can be like the still air, which always sustains us whether we’re know it or not.
And sometimes He stirs overtly. No mistake. This is God.
I felt God’s overt act at the peak of an adolescent crisis in 1973 when I was almost 17. I gave my life and He flooded me with a new sense of purpose. God acted even more dynamically in the summer of 1984. I awoke from a strange dream that illuminated how I’d been worshipping my journalism career. I confessed my sin and felt an energy surge flow into my head and through my torso. God rinsed me. I felt born-again again – and my days in newspapers were over. I unpacked my bags at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary six months later.
Then came the roller coaster. I served an inner-city church and I prayed with a group of pastors. I innocently asked a colleague: “Have you ever read anything by John Wimber?” The late John Wimber spear-headed the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Anaheim, California, from which about 700 churches had been planted. Many told of honest-to-goodness New Testament-style signs and wonders: Cripples walked out of wheel chairs; legs lengthened; the blind were seeing and the deaf were hearing. What’s more, there was none of the dubious theology or eccentric methods found in other sectors.
My friend loaned me Wimber’s Power Evangelism.
I was enthralled. Wimber and other church leaders read of God’s power throughout the Bible and reasoned it should be today’s norm. They began praying for healing and saw no results for about a year. Some even got more sick. Wimber and his elders actually cried out to God: “It’s not fair!” But they persisted in sheer obedience. A healing finally came one morning, soon followed by others. There were visions and words of knowledge. The Holy Spirit even swept through an evening church service in which almost all the young people fell down. The felt the same type of energy I felt on my bed in 1984.
This was key: Vineyard prayer teams never shouted over anyone, nor did they blame those who were not healed (and not all are healed). They often asked people how they were feeling during the prayer sessions, which made sense.
I decided to try the Vineyard method, fully confident I would flop like a rag mat. I prayed for a woman with neck pain and asked her how she felt. “Much better!,” she said. My cool pastoral reply: “WHAT?” Another had a terrible cold; she felt power from my hands. I visited a third person whose dentist had drilled the wrong tooth earlier that day. I gingerly laid my hand on her jaw and, while praying, felt it tingle. She gasped. The pain evaporated. And then there was the woman with back pain in her kitchen. I prayed for her and nothing seemed to happen. She complimented me on my “nice” prayer and we kept chatting, then she cried out: “Oh my God! My back is getting hot!” The pain vanished and the air was thick with God’s presence. She wobbled like a drunk while walking to the refrigerator for a glass of water, shedding new light on Acts 2:15: “These people are not drunk, as you suppose …”
It was a rush. We held prayer meetings in which everyone felt “hot.” I drove to Toronto and witnessed a Pentecost-style renewal. Other churches experienced the same type of renewal in the 1990’s and I traveled to many of them.
But then the roller coaster plummeted: Many in the church were worried that I was trying to make the church “charismatic;” others levelled a variety of accusations and everyone seemed to be yelling at each other. I was constantly tense and biting my nails over the next phone call. I even had to face a panel of church members, one of whom read from a written statement in which she said I was worried that I had joined a cult. I successfully established the Biblical basis of the signs and wonders – and no, I was not making people speak in tongues; and no, I would not impose a guilt trip on those who remained unhealed; and no … and no … and no …
The panel was pleased, but there were more fights and battles and struggles and clashes. Finally, a huge brawl rendered me exhausted. I felt like I had lost all credibility. I resigned and we moved to New Hampshire, where a Pentecostal church was experiencing a Toronto-like renewal. The Spirit moved mightily, but the roller coaster twisted and turned when I took the helm of a dying church. We restored its solvency and trebled its size, but old issues bit back and it crumbled. What’s more, there were odd teachings about how we must fawn before self-designated prophets and apostles. It was so strange, so twisted: God’s renewal had morphed into a freak show with diabolical clowns offering that terrible cotton candy.
I finally resigned and, after a break, took on an interim pastorate in New Hampshire in which I had a lot of fun. The Spirit was active like the still air: There were few healings, but He always nurtured me. We moved to Connecticut and I took the helm of another church, which proved to be a mismatch. I then helped two conflict-riddled churches re-establish themselves and I’ve found that deeply satisfying. Miracles and healings did not abound (although I prayed for two people on their deathbeds and they got up the next day), but I re-learned the lesson of savoring the unspectacular. The Spirit is always there and the roller coaster is always moving – perhaps a little slowly this time. I also now see the sense of Mark 1:41-45. Jesus healed a man with skin disease, but then warned him not to tell anyone about it. I love the signs and wonders, but they can be misinterpreted and they can stir a hornet’s nest – especially among veteran believers. Witness the reaction of the teachers and the Pharisees to our Lord: They criticized him for healing on the Sabbath.
Still, I ache for a setting in which the Holy Spirit is allowed to roam free, where both inner and outer healing is welcomed, and where we can continually savor the living water of Christ. Perhaps even some of those hawkers and clowns will quiet down.
This week, Jason Riddell shares his reflections on the Holy Spirit and Clive Calver’s Alive in the Spirit: