Rachel, BJU Alumnus
NOTE: Rachel and her husband are long-time Frontline team members in East Asia. The three of us are also Tolkien fans, so receiving an article in which she draws on a scene from The Hobbit was not surprising to me. But what gripped me as I read it was the depth of its wisdom and the breadth of its application. Rachel wrote this with young adults in mind, but radical obedience is for all of us who take up our cross and follow the One who said, “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
So whether you desire to take Good News to Gospel-destitute places or you are counseling someone who is considering going, whether you are parenting or grand-parenting with a passion for Christ and the nations, or if you are taking a prayerful look at “Gospel leveraging” of your time, energy, and resources, there’s something here to challenge you, as it has me.
Tim Keesee, Frontline Missions International (www.frontlinemissions.info)
[This article was divided into two parts and published in the Fall 2019 and Christmas 2019 Frontline Missions International newsletter. Used with permission.]
After a tumultuous disruption of his quiet evening by a bunch of unruly dwarves, Bilbo Baggins is called upon to join them on a journey of great importance—to rescue their people and their home. However, he also discovers that there is a risk, deadly risk—a fire-breathing dragon, to be specific. Furthermore, this grand quest would require upsetting his pleasant, predictable, and respectable life. After considering the magnitude of the offer, he briefly loses consciousness, following which he is seen sitting in his large, overstuffed chair and discussing the situation with Gandalf:
Gandalf: You’ve been sitting quietly for far too long. When did doilies and your mother’s dishes become so important to you? . . . The world is not in your books and maps . . . it’s out there!
Bilbo: I can’t just go running off into the blue . . . I’m a Baggins of Bag-End.
Gandalf: And you’re also a Took . . . You’ll have a tale or two of your own to tell when you come back.
Bilbo: Can you promise that I will come back?
Gandalf: No, but if you do you’ll not be the same.
Bilbo: That’s what I thought.
This scene haunts me. The grand but highly life-disrupting commands of Jesus inspire us in our 20s, but somehow by our 30s and 40s the cost of those commands makes us want to sink into a comfortable armchair and conjure up other less-costly paths of obedience. How does a 22-year-old so passionate about reaching the nations morph into a 48-year-old who cannot imagine living abroad for the King? With so many well-attended conferences, frequently-read blogs, and well-written books, why isn’t a higher percentage of the young Christian population actually going? And for those of us who end up overseas, why do we so rapidly become disenchanted with the work and begin to long for greener pastures?
At age 20, the world seems open and exciting. We’re eager to launch out and try anything, and we long to bring words of Good News where it has never been heard. There’s fresh zeal and joy, a willingness to be inconvenienced, and little care of the potential losses because of the joy of the potential gain for eternity.
In our mid-20s, our good desires meet their first roadblocks, and we begin to feel the weight of all that is working against us. We get our first real job, our first real bills, and start to feel the weight of survival in a world of broken health, car accidents, soaring insurance costs, and the uncertainties of raising children. Along with the new stressors come new joys—having a nicer car, a modest little house that we’ve painted and decorated, a few pieces of new furniture. Before long, we develop some hobbies, get a comfortable circle of friends, and fall into a predictable routine.
By the time we hit our 30s, we have quit dreaming and are just hanging on as we change diapers, put food on the table, and peel the mac-n-cheese off the floorboards. Our biggest life dream is simply to get one night of uninterrupted sleep. To make matters worse, we realize that we aren’t the super Christians we thought we were in college; so we get discouraged. And we see that we can stay busy in effective ministry right where we are (which may be true); so why inconvenience ourselves when we can serve Jesus right here at home? Maybe we even start to rationalize about all the problems of imperialistic mission work in the past and conclude that missionary work is better left entirely to locals. And so, Jesus’ command to go is suffocated by our logic.
The path out of the Shire is steep and treacherous.
As one who spent several years waiting to go and now has lived full-time overseas for a number of years, I’ve spent lots of time with folks preparing to go. This letter is a plea from my heart to those with desire to work overseas but who have a few more months or years ahead before that can become a reality. Below you will find some practical tips that I hope might guard you on this journey.
To be continued... (Click here for pt. 2/2)
Jordan Baun, Coordinator of Outreach & Evangelism
Moments ago, I received a text on my phone that read, “You figured out your long-term plan yet?” When I “dedicated my life to missions” at 12 years old at a small camp in Michigan, this is not where I imagined I would be right now. Ever since then, I had visions of taking the gospel deep into remote African villages where no man has ever heard of Jesus. Today, I answered emails, met with students, ate lunch with our church youth staff, and observed a new outreach opportunity in tandem with my job. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed today, but it’s far from the picture I had in high school, and it wasn’t what I thought I would be doing long-term.
During my first mission trip to Southeast Asia in 2017, a huge burden was lifted off my shoulders. I was trying to discern if the Lord wanted me on the mission field or to be faithful in the opportunities he provided for me in the States. I saw ordinary missionaries making extraordinary sacrifices to obey the ordinary command of making disciples and teaching them to observe the commands of Christ. During our debrief, I began to realize that my long-term plan was set! It was incredibly freeing to know that what I am called to do is evangelism and discipleship. The only question that remained was “where?”
I have tried hard to figure out the “where” over the past couple of years. Today, I have no idea where God is leading me long-term. I have an immense burden for the 10/40 Window. I think that is incredibly healthy. We should be concerned about the disproportional statistics of unreached/unengaged people to the number of missionaries and mission money that is sent to that gospel deprived region of the world. However, statistics alone can’t drive us there. If that was true, every one of us should be packing our bags (and many probably should).
As I returned from my second trip to Southeast Asia this summer, I had itching feet. I wanted to go but didn’t have a clear direction to go. I met with several missionaries and missions-minded pastors/teachers. I was certain they would launch me out and I was excited about the possibilities. In the end, the overwhelming advice was to be “all in until God moves you.” It wasn’t the advice I was expecting or even hoping for, but it was the advice I needed.
Not too long after, I was reading the gospel of Mark. In chapter 5 you meet the demon-possessed man. What a miraculous conversion! The story then takes a strange turn in my mind. The once demon-possessed man begs to go on mission with Jesus. What a great response to the gospel! Mark tells us that Jesus “suffered him not.” Unlike other parts of the gospel, Jesus does not turn this man away because of misplaced motives. Jesus commissions him to take the gospel to those at home.
This was the passage I needed this summer. Certainly, many of you reading this should go! However, it is ok to stay. It is ok to live on mission here. It is ok to “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you” (Mark 5:19). Jesus does not call missionaries to do something foreign he calls them to go somewhere foreign. We have all been commissioned to make disciples and to teach them to obey Christ’s commands. Find a place you can do that strategically for the glory of God!
Staying is not a permanent calling. Don’t be discouraged if you want to go but haven’t yet. Stay connected with what God is doing globally. Love your missionaries. Love their kids. Have a missionary mindset in the town or city God has you now. There are people that need the gospel where you are. Find ways to reach them where they are at, just like a missionary would in his unique culture. As you radically live on mission here, the church is likely to send you to live on mission in a strategic place.
Every single Christian should wrestle with the location God has called them to make disciples, but we should never wrestle alone. In the Church, God has given us so much more than most Christians realize. Your church should be the launching agent in your life. Do you have a burden for missions? Find ways to evangelize and disciple in your church context! We have the church to exercise our spiritual gifts for the mutual edification of each other. Part of that gift is to supply wisdom to young, zealous students as we try to discern where God is directing us.
As you try to discern your long-term plan, lean into your church. Don’t get so set on staying that you could never imagine leaving. On the other hand, don’t get so set on leaving that you can never imagine staying. Hold your plans loosely, allow others to speak into your life plans, and “be all in until God moves you.”
Garrett Martin, Seminary Student
I remember during my sophomore year of college God started to give me an explosive amount of clarity about how paramount he is and what he does in determining who I am and what I do. He is the ultimate driving force—not just for the general direction of my life or a few isolated priorities but for everything. I saw Christ as preeminent and his glory as my goal. The means to accomplish this goal is my joining in his mission of reconciling the world through the gospel.
I’m sure all genuine believers know this feeling of boiling inside with passion to serve an infinitely glorious God. But the frustration that sometimes follows is questioning what to do with all of that God-inspired, glory-invigorated passion.
What does God want me to do? Not just in vague terms (i.e. “share the gospel,” “disciple people,” “glorify God,” etc.). How does God want to use my gifting, my background, my opportunities? Which gifts should I be developing? What opportunities should I aim for? What does it look like for my everything to be used for his glory?
Essentially, I needed a vision. I knew God’s mission, and I knew my general purpose in life. But I didn’t know what it looked like.
One of the greatest helps in shaping my vision has been going on a city team, and I discovered that my situation was actually one of the primary reasons city teams exist.
What is a city team? City team is an initiative that began two years ago, which consists of student-led groups that connect with local churches in the USA for potential long-term ministry. City teams help students build relationship and practical bridges with local church ministries before they graduate. These teams are open to ministry-minded students from any major because the goal is to match their major with ministry significance in a specific context.
The details of the team are determined by the make up of students—their interests, gifts, etc. For example, I led a team to Denver with four other students who were studying engineering, church music, graphic design, and international studies. Because one student was wondering how she could use her passion and background of non-profit work for the glory of God, we were able to volunteer with different nonprofit ministries through the local churches in Denver. The aspiring graphic designer on our team had multiple meetings with church administrators and leaders to see the various needs of graphic design in their church. The church music major was able to meet with different music pastors in Denver. As a whole, the team was able to spend the two weeks surrounded by church members and meeting with dozens of pastors.
These are the questions that we repeatedly asked in almost every meeting as we served side-by-side with other Christians, drank coffee together, or sat across the kitchen table:
“How did God lead you here?”
“What is your vision for the gospel in Denver?”
“What are some of the most exciting and difficult things about serving here?”
“How should we be preparing while in college?
It was eye-opening to say the least. One of the joys is that these experiences not only provided a tangible vision of how to serve God with our lives, but it also simultaneously amplified our passion to serve Him.
Throughout the rest of my time in college, I found that I was often being pushed forward in my studies by looking back on these experiences. It became my aim; it was the tangible goal and need that I saw with my own eyes and heard across the table as pastors shared their burdens and vision. I’m gratefully surprised with how much those conversations have marked and motivated me. I’m further encouraged as I see students, through these teams, expressing an intensified desire to serve God and some even immediately moving after graduation to be a part of the local church that they first encountered through their city team. This typically doesn’t just happen unless there is an established relationship and a solid conviction that “God can use me there.”
Through these teams, God is spreading a vision for his mission in the church. My guess is that the large majority of students who will read this want more of that vision. So, of course, my suggestion for you is to join a city team. The teams are flexible, inexpensive, and life-altering.
I’ve shifted from a member of these teams to an advocate for them. So if you see the value and God is moving you to consider joining one, please let me know. I’d be happy to connect you with the various city teams that are being planned for this upcoming summer. We’ve had teams go to NYC; Lincoln, Nebraska; Boston; Detroit; Denver; Salt Lake City and Seattle. This year we are expecting seven more teams, some going to the previously mentioned cities and some going to new areas like Chicago, D.C., and Portland.
Please do not exercise aimlessly. God is real, and there are real people who need Him—and by extension, need you. Prepare yourself for them. Give your passion a vision.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.