Hey people, you’ve gotta see a few highlights from my recent India trip. Follow the link to my Facebook album: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151304321633118.499879.773438117&type=1#!/media/set/?set=a.10151304321633118.499879.773438117&type=1
18 days have passed since I left home for India. A lot has happened. I’ve seen so many things, been confronted with endless needs, and am positioned to step into some amazing opportunities for Kingdom impact.
One of the reasons for my trip to India at this time is that it provides what is desperately needed for missions in a new era. Fading away are the days when an agency picks a field (or chooses it because someone wants to go there) and churches eagerly support it. The paradigm of primarily sending long-term full-time missionaries to a people group or region is a motif of days past. Because many churches want missions to be personal, hands-on, and often times self-led, completely new initiatives for missions must be considered. There is a startling amount of mission work still to do, we just need to approach it differently in today’s changing times.
Consider a few reasons that a mission agency like Converge Worldwide must still be relevant in our current shifting context:
The world is flat. 20 years ago, if a church wanted to engage in missions, they needed an agency. Not so today. A pastor simply needs to get on the internet and identify needs, opportunities and partners to do missions with–an he can do this in less than 10 minutes! I know of one church that did exactly this, found a church in Kenya with its same name, contacted the pastor through email, and for several years now has had wonderful ministry through this connection. If an agency hasn’t found their nitch or “add-value”, it will quickly disappear.
A little information can be dangerous. Many churches are giddy about what they’re doing in missions, but it’s too often creating more damage than good. While working in India, I was confronted numerous times by pastors telling me how detrimental one well-know mission agency is in Asia. Though respected in the United States because of its excellent marketing, it is creating havoc in countries where income is low. Very few of these chuches are evangelistic in nature, but instead draw 75% of their people from good Bible-teaching self-supporting indigenous churches. People are drawn away because they go where the money is–American money. And I hear of great churches and wonderful people all the time (many of them from Converge Worldwide) who are givingt to this organization and feel really good about it. This, of course, is only one example of how a little knowlege can be dangeous. Somehow, mission organizations need to inform and guide churches into strategic and wise mission engagement.
Many churches like to go solo. Yes, it’s easier, but it’s not better to go solo. Larger churches easily fall into this “trap.” With substantial resources, mavericks in leadership, and people resources to do great things, it’s common to overlook an important body-life principle — we’re better, stronger, and more effective working together. If churches passionate for a mission field or project could engage other churches effectively, everyone wins. More needs are met, checks and balances between churches and leaders are present, and the blessing of unity is unleashed in the church. Especially as a denominational entity, we can help form collaborative partnerships to see great ministry get done in new places. So far, in Converge, we’ve been calling this “church-driven missions.”
Nationals do it best. At least if you have godly and God-ordained leaders in the countries where ministry needs to get done. If we can identify the “champions” and construct wise methods of partnership and engagement, the probability of getting good, fast, and culturally effective ministry done with exemplary stewardship of resources is very good. We have an amazing scenario coming together like this in India which contains one seventh of the world’s population and still around 3000 under-reached people groups.
This, of course, is just a simplified synopsis of the changing face of missions today. There is so much more. However, my commitment as a leader of missions and missionaries is that we see all of these realities with fresh eyes–most importantly, with God’s eyes. If we don’t strive for effective ministry in our current reality, we will be quickly discarded on the waste-heap of unresponsiveness. That wouldn’t do anyone any good. Most of all, it would dishonor our God who has such a passion for our lost world.
That’s why 18 days in India. I hope it produces 18 years of relevance for the Kingdom.
My experiences in India have been unforgettable. I really want to post a few pictures because they tell such amazing stories, but the internet connections out here will not allow it. So, in the mean-time, let me share a few things that I’ve had happen.
- Chelsey, my neice, and I led a training conference for 300 village pastors and their wives near Vizag, India. There was such a hunger to learn, a receptivity to our teaching, and a warm spirit of acceptance. These people are on the front lines of reaching the unreached in India.
- We visited the slums of Kolkata. Our first stop was Mother Theresa’s House where ministry continues on every day. It was inspiring to walk the halls and courtyards, to see the pictures and quotes of Mother Theresa, and to see what continue to happen there. When we came to the children home, we needed to wait out front for 40 minutes or so. While there, homeless children, along with some parents, gathered and engaged us in conversation. In just a few minutes, we were all having the time of our lives. We learned a lot about people in poverty, enjoyed loving on these people, and laughed a lot with them. I have many priceless pictures to share when I get back home. There is something profound that happened in me after spending time with “the least of these.” The dignity of the most lost people in the world is so powerful. In the midst of the most destitute impoversihed people, I experienced Jesus. Truly….
- We were assaulted with the depths of sinfulness and human degradation. We saw people drugged and sleeping on streets and sidewalks, people’s whose clothes were so old and dirty that they were actually falling apart right on their bodies, beggars pleading with every bypasser, and prostitutes awating their next business transaction. In fact, Chelsey spent some time loving on the prostitutes letting them know that they are precious. I was reminded that the devil comes to kill, steal and destroy–and often times succeeds.
- We met with an amazing group of top-notch leaders in Kolkata who are determined to plant churches where churches are most needed.
- I’ve talked with leaders of remote tribes in the Northeast regions of India talking about church planting possibilities, considering ways to get the Bible printed in their languages, and talking about the value of arranging the Jesus film project as a church planting strategy.
These are a few highlights of the last three days. I’ve been overwhelmed with the work God is doing and what opportunities stand before us. I’m asking God to speak clearly so that we will engage with what we should all in God’s perfect timing and best way. One thing I know — God is doing a new thing in India. It’s amazing to see…and unforgettable.
For years as a pastor I preached, taught, and prayed that we Christians would appeal to our culture in a relevant way. I saw a new “version” of that in Thiruvalla, India tonight. At a large gathering of many Christian traditions–protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox, a Catholic music group played Hindu music put to Chistian lyrics in a gathering always attended by primarily protestants. This is very rare in India, but just another example that God is doing “a new thing” in this amazing land.
I had an interesting conversation with a Bishop over lunch today. He was telling me about his work accross India and the hunger for truth–and for God that He has seen. I asked, “Do you think India is a white harvest field?”
“Oh,yes!” he exclaimed, “something very significant happened 25 years ago. God called a whole new generation of leaders to impact India and they are now in the prime of their ministry influence.” He went on to tell me that everywhere he presents the gospel, people come to faith in Jesus. This is very different from only a few years ago. Another man said that for years he rarely saw someone respond to Jesus. Today, in a group of 20 people, 8 to 10 will give their lives to Jesus. God is doing a new thing in India!
India is not only a white harvest field, but a big field. With 1.2 billion people, it has a sixth of the world’s population in an area one half the size of the U.S. containing some 3000 unreached people groups. Though there are many Christian organizations focusing on India, it is still rated fifth in the world for needing pioneering missionaries.
Jesus said, “Look! The fields are white (ripe) for harvest. Pray to the Lord to send workers into the harvest.” Do you think India deserves our attention? At the very least, it demands our prayers as we seek God’s leading as to what we do with this big white field.