First, I have an exciting piece of news: I will be unveiling a new cover for Sani – The German Medic LIVE on Facebook this Friday, April 1st, at 9:00 PM Eastern. Be sure to tune in, because I will be giving away a copy of Sani (with the new cover!) and sharing a few hints about Gott Mit Uns – Book 2 as well! You can find my Facebook author page here, and don’t forget to hit “Follow” or “Like” if you want to stay updated!
Lately, whenever I sit down and talk to my friends, it’s hard to keep from talking about the things I learned through a course called Perspectives in the World Christian Movement. Sharing little bits and pieces as they come to mind is easy enough, but as I sit down to write this, with the idea of summarizing a great deal in one space, I am awed by how much I took in and wonder where I should even begin. I also want to be respectful of copyrights. Nevertheless, I feel so strongly about this course that I want every believer I know to be aware of it, just in case there is one person out there who would benefit from it. In honesty, we all would, but there are some for whom the timing might be more appropriate than others. That is exactly how the Lord brought this opportunity to my attention: two different women shared about it, and it just happened to be the answer to my prayer for a “next step.” My hope is that it may be the same for someone out there. Without trying to rehash 15 weeks of material, I want to share a few of my favorite takeaways from this course.
Perspectives has taught me that being involved in missions is more than just going, and while that may sound like the most exciting part, it can also be the most daunting. For some people, it is truly an impossibility. While it is equally as important to support missionaries through prayer and financial support, there are still other tasks that are desperately needed that I had been completely unaware of until I took this course. Missionaries need those who will genuinely befriend them – write to them, seek them out when they come home for a visit, offer to take them out for coffee or a meal and be a sounding board for them. Their struggles are unimaginable and often they don’t have an outlet to just sit and talk.
A word I had never heard before is “mobilization.” That is, working hard to recruit, train and equip others for work in the mission field. Getting involved with a missions organization as a mobilizer is an opportunity to provide people in local churches with information and equipping that they may not otherwise receive. It is also an opportunity to exhort local congregations by asking: is it possible that God is calling more of us to go than we realize? A lot of people just assume that because they are not called to full-time ministry, they are not called to missions, but does it really require a special gifting or calling that is relegated to a select few? Or is it possible that the only true requirement is availability – or the willingness to become available?
For those who are hearing the call to “go,” the course described four different kinds of mission work. One that I find especially appealing is “tentmaking,” because I am married to an engineer. When we think of missions, often we think of leaving our God-given career to go into full-time ministry. But the truth is, full-time ministry often takes us out of the world, whereas we may be more effective if we remain in our field of business. Even if we can’t directly share in the workplace, we are able to build foundational relationships with people who would never set foot in a church.
So, the Perspectives course is for anybody who longs to make a deeper commitment to the serve the Lord, specifically where the fulfillment of the Great Commission is concerned. Many people just don’t know where to start. This course can help with that!
One of the things that impressed me instantly with this course is that it focuses on people groups. For so long, I believed that our heritage didn’t matter. Since our citizenship is in heaven, what does it matter if I’m part German, part Scottish, or if I were Chinese or Ethiopian? Therefore, it struck me that Perspectives almost immediately puts forth the idea that God created the peoples of the earth, allowed them to develop through the descendants of Noah’s sons, and through the division of tongues at Babel. Since then, every people group has unique things written into their DNA that can be used for good, and things that are sadly used for evil. It’s not God’s desire to wipe all our differences away, although sometimes we interpret scripture in such a way. Rather, He desires to purify every people, bringing out, as one of the lecturers said, the “sanctified best” in them, making these qualities fit for His use and His glory. Just like God has gifted every individual with something that they can give back to Him, He has gifted every people group with beautiful things, unique to their culture, that they can offer to Him in worship.
It is so important that every people group be allowed to maintain the characteristics of their own culture that do not oppose God’s Word. Too often in history, to Christianize has been to Westernize, yet there is a beauty in each people group’s own style of worship and dress, in their forms and traditions. I was touched to read about how many believers around the world take their shoes off when they enter a church, and I remembered doing it myself in my younger years. It was something I desired to do out of reverence and love.
Sometimes, being expected to conform to a Western mindset can actually place walls between an individual and God. It was important for me to understand that much of the world doesn’t function on the individual level the way that we do here in the West, especially in America. Family bonds are much stronger in many places, and coming to Christ can truly be an entire movement of people, not just the individual. Now that’s an exciting prospect! We read in scripture about entire families being baptized, and apparently, in many places in the world, it is still happening!
Another thing that really stuck with me is that since the gospel has been preached on every continent and in every nation, people assume that the Great Commission has been fulfilled, or is close to it. However, the course emphasized just how important it is to distinguish between “nations” and the term used above, “people groups.” I’ve understood all of my adult life that national boundaries change all the time, without regard to the different people groups contained within those boundaries. It is an important distinction, because in Matthew 24:14, where the English translations use the word “nations,” the Greek actually uses the word “ethnos,” which is a people group. And there are still thousands of people groups out there who have not had any significant contact with someone who can share God’s love and truth with them.
Bringing it back to the home front, Perspectives has begun to help me truly “see” the people who are already around me, specifically those from vastly different ethnic backgrounds. The refugee situation we have been experiencing in the last few years is a wonderful opportunity to reach the ends of the earth by simply crossing the street. Many of these people are just looking for a friend, they want to know that someone in America cares about them and their experiences.
Perspectives has dovetailed nicely with the journey the Lord has already had me on in the last year. In a time when many are “deconstructing” their faith and turning away from the truth, I feel that this course gave me a safer opportunity to examine what I believe. Some of the things I have grown up believing are in fact human tradition and Western interpretations of the gospel, rather than God’s specific directive. Doing so has smashed some of the preconceived notions I’ve grown up with, things that have prevented me from truly drawing closer to the Lord. The Apostle Paul does exhort us to test ourselves to see if we are in the faith. I think the reason so many people fear persecution is that it is the religion of Christianity we are afraid of being persecuted for, rather than for Christ Himself. One contributor to the course said as much.
I would be remiss if I didn’t share about my final research project. I know there is at least one person reading this who just checked out! I admit, at first blush, it sounded intimidating to me as well, after being out of school for almost 20 years. As I prayed about what God would have me research, and began exploring topics, I got really excited! Since the course focuses primarily on unreached people groups from around the world, I naturally assumed I’d be setting aside my passion for Germany for a while. However, what I discovered is that, like Americans, Germans have an incredible opportunity to reach the ends of the earth without leaving their own borders. Of the 80 million people living in the country, between 3 and 7 million of them are Turkish, or of Turkish descent. And they are still considered unreached with the Gospel! There is a complexity of relationships between the Turks and Germans. While some may get along just fine, there are other ways in which animosity, distrust, and an old “elephant in the room” prevent the two groups from truly experiencing the best of what the other has to give.
Most exciting of all was the fact that I discovered that someone had written on this very same topic nine years ago! I was able to get in touch with them via Facebook, as well as reference their paper and springboard off of some of their ideas to further detail a plan to reach this people group. While the projects are hypothetical in nature, some Perspectives students have actually seen their proposed strategies come to fruition, launching missions projects around the globe.
There was so much more that I wanted to include as I flipped back through all of my course materials, but I could simply never condense 15 weeks of study into an email or blog post. I’ve no doubt that tidbits and takeaways will continue to work their way into future blog posts, and I hope that I might whet the appetite of a few people to pray further about this opportunity, especially if you are in a place where God is “shaking up” your life, and you’re wondering what His will might be. For me, this has been about giving myself a chance to discover what He is already doing and how I can be a part of that – whether here or abroad.
I tried to avoid directly quoting the material too much in this post, but there is one excerpt that I really feel God laid on my heart, from an article by Floyd McClung, entitled Apostolic Passion. I would like to share it with you in closing:
Present your gifts, vocations and talents to the Lord. Press into God. Stay there until you long to go out in His Name. Remain there and nurture the longing to see the earth bathed with His praise. Only then will you be able to trust your heart if you hear God say, “stay.” Only those who long to broadcast His glory to the nations have the right to stay.
Once again, the course website can be found here. There are in-person as well as online courses available, some of which are starting soon (April 4, May 2, June 6). If my story has encouraged even one person to prayerfully consider making this course their next step, praise God! I’d love to hear from you if you do!