Serving as Senders: Six types of support every missionary needs

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 

And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”  Romans 10:14-15 NIV

Realistically not every believer is able to cross cultural or geographical boundaries to bring good news. But every true believer can be involved in the process of sending those who can go. In Romans 10 we find two complementary roles: those who go; and those who send. Both roles are necessary to advance God’s purpose to be known, worshiped and obeyed by all nations

soldiersWe can think of these two complimentary roles in terms of soldiers involved in war. There are those on the front line and those who support the soldiers at the front. During WWII, about 15 people supported just one soldier on the front line. Today 50 people support a front line soldier. So the role of the missionary sender is vital. Those who “send” do so by offering encouragement, faithfully praying and by providing financial support and other needed resources. Without these, those on the front line would not be able to serve

A few years ago I wrote a chapter for the Romanian edition of Neil Pirolo’s excellent book, Serving as Senders. Pirolo speaks of six different ways we can serve as senders. Here are six types of support every missionary needs.

1. Moral support. Those who cross cultural, and geographical barriers for the cause of Christ need encouragement, though too often they hear words of discouragement.  Gracious words, a card, a gift, a visit, a warm embrace all strengthen the heart. “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thes. 5:11).

2. Logistic support. Sometimes those who go need help on the home front. This might involve helping with financial matters storing personal items, , looking after family, or sending care package – especially those items that cannot be obtained overseas.

3. Financial support. By faith missionaries look to God to provide for their personal and ministry needs. One veteran OC missionary says, “I don’t raise support; God lowers it.” Indeed God does provide – through friends, mission-minded individuals, relatives and churches who care for us and who believe in what we are doing.

4. Prayer support. The greatest thing you can do for those who go is to faithfully pray for them. “God…gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:7). So fruitfulness depends on answered prayer (Jn. 15:16). In answer to prayer doors are opened (Col. 4:3), workers are sent (Mt. 9:38), the Gospel spreads rapidly (2 Thes. 3:1) “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).

5. Communication support. Keep in touch with your missionaries. Read their prayer letters and share your news with them too. “Like cold water to a weary soul, So is good news from a distant land” (Prov. 25:25).

6. Re-entry support. This involves much more than applause when the airplane lands. Home assignment is not a vacation.  There are people to see, churches to visit and support to raise. Missionaries on furlough have logistical needs: housing, transportation, etc. – but have a greater need to be listened to. They spent years abroad for the cause of Christ, but friends, family and churches show little interest in hearing of their successes — let alone their struggles. Each comes home with an “emotional back pack” full of disappointments, strained relationships, stresses, and possibly a wounded soul. Wise churches provide debriefing and pastoral care to restore and strengthen the soul.

Senders are fellow workers with the truth.

Beginning with the Apostle Paul’s words of the about the vital role of the sender, we conclude with the Apostle John’s perspective..

You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth. (3 John 6-8).

By sending missionaries on their way in a manner worthy of God, we become fellow workers. What can you do, what will you do to send out workers for the cause of Christ?

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God’s Heart for the Nations

Heart Red

In Psalm 96 we discover God’s purpose to be known, worshiped and obeyed by all nations.

God desires to be known by all peoples

v. 2         Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.
v. 3         Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.
v. 10       Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns.”

Here we find three commands to declare his glory among the nations, which clearly reflects God’s desire to be known by all peoples.

God desires to be worshiped by all peoples

v. 1         Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth.
v. 2         Sing to the LORD, bless His name.
v. 7         Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
v. 8         Ascribe to the LORD the glory of His name; bring an offering and come into His courts.
v. 9         Worship the LORD in holy attire; Tremble before Him, all the earth.

Psalm 96 is first of all a call to worship. Not only are God’s people called to worship, but all peoples are called to worship the Lord. God desires the worship of all peoples!

God desires to be obeyed by all peoples

In the fore mentioned verses there are 14 commands for “all peoples” and “the nations” to obey. These imply God’s desire to be obeyed by all peoples.  Other passages are more explicit. For example there is this Messianic prophecy: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” (Genesis 49:10)

God’s purpose to be known, worshiped and obeyed by all peoples everywhere is one of the major themes of the Bible, running from Genesis to Revelation. Should this not be our purpose too?

Our Mandate

We find three commands in Psalm 96 to share what we know about God with others.

Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. Psalm 96:2b
Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. Psalm 96:3
Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns; indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity.” Psalm 96:10

Even in the Old Testament we see a clear mandate for God’s people to take the Good News of salvation to those peoples who have yet not heard. Psalm 96 by itself provides us with a sufficient mandate to become involved in God’s global mission.

Our Motivation

It is our nature, especially when confronted with a vision that asks so much of us, to question. Why should the peoples worship God? And why should we make an effort to take God’s message to them?  The psalmist seems to anticipate these very questions, for he gives numerous reasons why the peoples should worship God, reasons which also speak to our motivation to join God in his mission.

For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; He is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and glory are in His sanctuary. Psalm 96:4-6 NIV

 Simply put, the peoples should worship the LORD for he is the one true God, who alone merits their praise. The supremacy and greatness of God also motivate us to declare his glory among the nations.

Our Message

 There is much to learn about God from Psalm 96. The psalmist speaks of God’s true identity and describes what he is like. He speaks of the Lord’s mighty deeds as Creator, Savior, Lord and coming Judge. He points out how the peoples should respond to God in worship and obedience.  This well-rounded message serves as a fine model even today.

Still for those of us who know the rest of God’s story, we have an even greater message for the nations. We can add, as the apostles did:

  • Jesus is the true God, “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” 1 John 5:20
  • Jesus is Savior, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”  Acts 4:12
  • Jesus is Lord, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9
  • Jesus is coming again as Judge. “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” Acts 17:30,31

Go into the all the World

All who truly know the LORD are called, yes, even commanded, to share the news of his wonderful salvation with those who do not yet know Him.  Most people will share this message locally, telling of his salvation day by day. And following God’s purpose to be worshiped by all peoples, they support and send those who can share the message cross-culturally, declaring his glory among the nations.  May God find us all faithful to the great mandate that he has given to us, so that all peoples may know, worship and obey our great God and Savior.

This is adapted from my book, Declare His Glory among the Nations, available on www.Amazon.com.

Giving Beyond Your Ability: Funding the Great Commission (3)

My last article on funding the Great Commission looked at a great example of giving by the churches in Macedonia. Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 8:3 mentions that these churches “gave according to their ability and beyond their ability”.  As I’ve thought about this “beyond their ability” phrase, numerous anecdotes come to mind of how I’ve seen people give “beyond their ability”, which I will share here. Also I will offer a few observations about “giving beyond our ability” to fund the Great Commission.

“Faith-Promise” Giving

Based on 2 Corinthians 8:3 and the broader context of chapters 8 and 9, some churches and Christian organizations promote the idea of “faith promise giving” as a way of funding the Great Commission.  The basic idea is that a person is encouraged to make a faith promise to give a certain amount to world missions over the next year.  Sometimes this phrase is used.

“In dependence on God, I will strive to give for the missionary work of the church _____ every month for the next year.”

It is also made clear that this contribution is made by faith and apart from the regular tithe – no robbing Peter to pay Paul here – trusting God to provide the means to give “beyond one’s ability”, based on God’s promises such as 2 Corinthians 9:8:  “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” Or Malachi 3:10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. “Faith promise” giving actually sets up a faith adventure for those who take up the challenge.

Examples of giving beyond what you are able

I’ll start with a personal example. Back in the 1993 my wife and I made a faith promise pledge to give $225 to Wycliffe Bible Translators over the next year. We did not know where these funds would come from, but we believed that God could and would provide.  Not a week later my father called and said he was coming by to bring me $200. He sold two rifles that we inherited from my grandfather, which I had forgotten all about, and $200 was my share. Boy, was I surprised! Our faith promise was largely met.  Then I sold some furniture what we were not able to use any more for $25. So in less than a month I was able to happily write a check for $225 and send it to Wycliffe, rejoicing in how God had provided means for us to give “beyond our ability.”

Since then I’ve seen and heard of other ways God has provided to give “beyond what you are able”

In 2005 I was asked by the Austrian representative of Wycliffe Bible Translators to write a chapter for the Romanian edition of Neil Pirolo’s book, Serving as Senders, for which I gathered a number of stories of how Romanian believers, who are no means materially rich, learned to “give beyond their ability” to world missions.

The Peniel Youth Conference in Romania regularly challenges young people to make a faith promise pledge to give to world missions. One year four hundred young people at this conference made a commitment to send a young man to Afghanistan as a missionary.  They pledged $850 per month and kept the commitment! Those who make such pledges have seen diverse way by which God provides. On one hand, God impresses some to sacrifice in order to save back money for missions by renouncing soft drinks or fasting a day a week.  Others discover ways to earn additional income for missions.  One young lady made a faith promise pledge at the Peniel Conference, having no idea where the money would come from.  A friend admired a bookmarker she had made and asked if she could buy one.  Others asked to buy bookmarkers too.  In a few moments she earned two Euros — her pledge for that month.  She realized that she could make and sell these bookmarkers to fulfill her pledge.

A small village church in Hunedoara has been sending $80 per month to a missionary in Chad for some time.  These people are not rich by any means but contribute what they can.  A widow lady from this church declared, “I don’t have much, but I have some chickens.”  She sells extra eggs and vegetables that she cultivates to contribute to the missionary work in Chad.

A representative of the Romanian Evangelical Church tells about Gabriel, a seven-year old boy.  One evening, at the end of the church service, he came to give a member of the missions committee some money for missionary work in Zambia, money that he saved over some period of time from his state assistance and other pocket money he received from others.  The representative was amazed when he opened the envelope which Gabiel gave him and found 1,000,000 lei. ($35) The member of the missions committee was astounded!  “I don’t know how Gabriel, the beneficiary of state assistance, a member of a family with modest financial means, was able to save such a sum, and what is more amazing, to give it all for missionary work.”

When I asked our administrative assistant, Alina, to share devotion on 2 Corinthians 9 at a missions seminar our team was hosting, I did not expect to hear her story of how God provided for her to give “beyond her ability”. It was our custom to increase her salary each year to keep up with inflation (which at the time was averaging over 8%/yr.) and to also give her a years-of-service bonus. Since Alina was content with her salary, she joyfully gave the increase to the Lord’s work.

The last few years I lived in Romania, I was involved in a building a school building for Bucharest Christian Academy. We had seen God provide miraculously for this project over many years. By 2011 the school had enough money to purchase property and raise the shell of the building debt free.  As the building project advanced, it seemed beneficial to install windows and doors to make the shell of the building weather-tight and secure. So in the middle of October 2011 we launched a campaign called See BCA Through, with the goal of raising $58,000 to pay for the windows and doors, trusting God to provide “beyond our ability” for this good work.  Donations began to come in from many unexpected sources – and in several cases people gave beyond their ability.

  • A former student gave the first $100.
  • The senior class gave 90% of the money they raised for their senior trip – $3350!
  • A BCA family then matched the seniors’ gift.
  • A kindergartner sold jewelry he made and earned $55 for the school
  • The 1st and 2nd graders sold plants and flowers raising over $200!
  • Friends and relatives gave generously – many who had never seen our school.
  • Churches responded positively to a challenge to give 1% of the goal – or $580 – and often exceeded it.
  • And BCA received one anonymous gift for $18,000!

By February 2012 BCA exceeded its goal of $58,000 – donations coming in from over 60 sources. The entire BCA community felt that God had provided in a miraculous way. It was exciting to see the faith of the students grow during this campaign! In retrospect, if there had not been this need to exercise faith, the students would have been robbed of a rich opportunity to see God provide abundantly and to learn how to “give beyond their ability”.  Also this “little” fund raising project was the tipping point that made it financially feasible to complete the building by November 2012.   So at the dedication service I felt it fitting to share “Thus this building stands as a testimony to God’s faithfulness.”

By the way, our family saw God provide for us to “give beyond our ability” for the BCA building project. For example:

  • Any money we found lying on the streets – a surprising amount – went into a jar we affectionately called “God’s Money”
  • My wife and children made and sold tortillas and bagels.
  • My wife enjoys crafting and was able to sell some of the things she made.
  • Neighbors insisted that I take some money for fixing things in their homes. That too went into the “God’s Money” jar.

And thus we were able to “give beyond” our ability to BCA.

A Final Observation

In all of these anecdotes of “faith promise” giving, I see two common elements. First is God’s ability to provide for his work. That should not surprise us – for he has promised to do so – but the means God uses to provide for his work do indeed surprise us and build our faith.

The second element has to do with the heart of the giver. In each these situations, people could have chosen to “consume” their unexpected blessings on themselves– but instead they chose to give it to God’s work, valuing it more highly than their own needs – or greeds! Cultivating this “Kingdom-first mindset” will go a long way towards funding the Great Commission.

How have you seen God provide abundantly so that you can give beyond your ability?  You are welcome to share your story here.

Funding the Great Commission (2): An Example of Great Giving

The first article in this series on funding the Great Commission documented how believers in Christ around the world give to “disciple all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Considering the small amount that Christians give from their personal incomes to all Christian causes (1.8%) and the trifling sum given to world missions ($33 billion) which is exceeded by embezzlement ($37 billion), there are likely more bad than positive examples of giving. This same information also indicates how believers use their financial resources to keep the second greatest commandment, “to love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39, cf. 1 John 3:16). Here we will focus on a great example of first century believers who gave generously to help the poor and to fund the Great Commission; then we will consider how to follow this example in the twenty first century.

A Great Example of Giving

As Paul sought to motivate the followers of Jesus Christ in Corinth to participate in the collection to help the poor in Judea and Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8-9), a “love your neighbor” cause, he began by pointing to the outstanding example of the Macedonian churches.

Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. (2 Cor. 8:1-5)

From Acts, we know that Paul started churches in the Macedonian cities of Philippi (Acts 16:12-40), Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9) and Berea (Acts 17:10-14). The generosity of these churches surprised even Paul, responding “not as we had expected.” Paul mentions their “great ordeal of affliction” and “their deep poverty.” Even today we would not expect great giving from poor and persecuted churches. But the Macedonian churches gave according to their ability, even “beyond their ability.”

Motivation for Giving

As Paul “unpacks” the Macedonians’ motivation for giving, he gives us a glimpse of what was happening in their hearts. He mentions that “they first gave themselves to the Lord…” Previously Paul wrote “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” (2 Cor. 5:14,15). It seems this truth had captured the hearts of the Macedonians.  Realizing that they “no longer live for themselves,” they “gave of themselves to the Lord.” In this light we could also say that the Macedonians were keeping the Greatest Commandment, to love God with all of their being. Great giving, then, is motivated by whole hearted devotion to the Lord.

Paul also points out that the Macedonians gave themselves “to us according to the will of God.” People support those they care about and trust. This matter is particularly pertinent to the situation in Corinth. Factions in Corinth had their favorite preachers. Some favored Apollos, others Peter, some Paul – and this led to quarrels, even accusations (1 Cor. 1:11,12; 3:3-6). Also “false apostles” entered the church seeking to undermine Paul’s influence (2 Cor. 11:2-3).  Thus some of the people in Corinth did not fully trust Paul and his co-workers. In part Paul writes his second letter to the Corinthians to address these kind of issues that were undermining his influence. For example:

Our mouth has spoken freely to you, O Corinthians, our heart is opened wide. You are not restrained by us, but you are restrained in your own affections. Now in a like exchange–I speak as to children–open wide to us also. … Make room for us in your hearts; we wronged no one, we corrupted no one, we took advantage of no one. (2 Cor. 6:11-13, 7:2)

 This was not the case in Macedonia – they trusted and cared for Paul and his co-workers. Maybe Paul mentioned his good relationship with the Macedonians to challenge the Corinthians.

The key motivations for giving we discover from the Macedonians’ example are:

  • Great giving is motivated by great devotion to the Lord.
  • People support those whom they care about and trust.

Funding the Great Commission – The Story Continues

The Book of Acts gives another account of how the churches in Macedonia – likely the Philippians – supported Paul’s missionary work in Corinth.

After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them, and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tent-makers. And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. (Acts 18:1-5)

Reading between the lines, it is likely that Paul was able to devote himself completely to the word because Silas and Timothy brought a monetary contribution for Paul’s work. So it was no longer necessary for Paul to pay his own way by making tents. This inference is strengthened by a statement Paul makes in his second letter to the Corinthians where he states:

I robbed other churches by taking wages from them to serve you; and when I was present with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone; for when the brethren came from Macedonia they fully supplied my need, and in everything I kept myself from being a burden to you, and will continue to do so. (2 Corinthians 11:8-9)

Paul enjoyed a special relationship with one church in Macedonia, namely the one in Philippi. He speaks about this relationship in his letter to the Philippians.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. (Philippians 1:3-5 NIV)

In the conclusion of the Philippian letter, he returns to this special relationship and speaks specifically about the church’s generosity.

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.

You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:10-19)

From this passage we learn that the “partnership in the gospel” mentioned in chapter one included financial support of Paul’s ministry. In fact, Paul states that the church in Philippi was the only church which provided for his needs and that more than once believers at Philippi financially supported Paul’s work.

  1. This gift which was carried by Ephaphrodius when Paul was in Prison – the occasion in view here
  2. Several gifts were sent to Thessalonica for Paul’s needs.
  3. At least on one occasion a gift was sent to Paul after he left Macedonia. (v. 15)

Considering all the evidence, it is reasonably certain that the churches in Macedonia financially supported Paul’s work in Corinth, and this was Great Commission giving.

In all, we see that the Churches in Macedonia kept the second greatest commandment, to love your neighbor as yourself, by generously giving to help the poor in Jerusalem and Judea, and they also were partners in the Great Commission, but funding Paul’s missionary work.

Good Discipleship Leads to Good Giving

I concluded my first article about funding the Great Commission with this observation: “Funding the Great Commission really comes back to basic Christian discipleship….At its root, we don’t have a financial crisis; we have a discipleship crisis.” The example of the Macedonian churches confirms this observation. They gave themselves first to God. They trusted and cared about those who discipled them (Paul and his co-workers).  They willingly and joyously gave to Great Commission and Great Commandment causes by contributing generously to the collection for the poor in Jerusalem and Judea. We can see why Paul thought so highly of the Macedonians.

Following the Macedonian Example

The example of the Macedonian churches is a good one to follow, not only for the first century Corinthians, but also for those of us in the twenty first century, where ever we may be. We learn that those who want to see great giving for Kingdom causes need to first focus on discipleship issues: primarily, wholehearted devotion to God. People are more likely to give generously to Kingdom Causes when they are wholly committed to God.  Second, there is the strong relationship between the giver and the Christian worker. People give to those people whom they trust and care about, or we may say, money follows ministry. So how might these principles be put into practice in your context?

Next: Giving Beyond Your Ability

Funding the Great Commission

The good Lord has blessed the Body of Christ with more than adequate resources to complete the Great Commission. The problem is that these resources are not properly administrated.  Let’s put some facts behind these assertions.

How Christians Spend Money

Each January the International Bulletin of Missionary Research published statistics about Christianity in its global context. http://www.internationalbulletin.org This January the IBMR reported that the personal income of Christians in 2013 is estimated to be over 33 trillion dollars. 594 Billion dollars (a paltry 1.8% of personal income) were given to all Christian causes.  Ecclesiastical Crime (embezzlement and misappropriation of funds for personal gain) cost 37 billion dollars while 33 billion dollars were allocated for World Mission. More money is embezzled from Christian causes than is spent on World Mission. A bit more than a half of a penny out of every dollar of Christian giving goes to world missions (0.575 cents to be exact).

In light of these facts, could it be that Christians have lost sight of the basic principles of Christian stewardship? Here are the chief ideas that frame my thinking about Christian stewardship.

  1. God owns it all. (1 Chronicles 29:11-17)
  2. God gives us the ability to produce wealth (Deuteronomy 8:14-18)
  3. God’s promises to provide for our needs (not necessarily our “greeds”) and bless us with an abundance for ministry. (2 Corinthians 9:8-11)
  4. We are stewards of all that God has given us: our time, our talents, and our material treasures. (Ephesians 5: 15,16; Peter 4:10-12; Matthew 6:16ff)

As I talk with missionaries, pastors and leaders of Christian organizations, I’ve heard numerous times that the global economic downturn of 2008 has hurt donations to Christian work. But maybe our problem with funding the Great Commission is not a financial crisis, but a discipleship crisis. Recognizing that globally Christians spend 98.2% of their income on themselves should first shock us to consider whether our own spending priorities are in line with Jesus’s words in the Sermon on the Mount.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 NASB)

“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 NASB)

Funding the Great Commission really comes back to basic Christian discipleship. Teaching people how to live their lives under the Lordship of Jesus would result in re-aligning priorities and re-allocating resources to finish the task. And this would result not only release the necessary funds, but – more importantly – would mobilize prayer, raise up workers (Luke 10:2) and bring the spiritual power (Acts 1:8) needed to complete the task.

At its root, we don’t have a financial crisis, we have a discipleship crisis. And that’s why the Great Commission remains unfulfilled. But by focusing on making disciples, all the other necessities for fulfilling the Great Commission will be provided as well.

Fascinating Reading about Religion

Here are several-recent research-based articles and books about religion that make fascinating reading.

 Brazil’s Changing Religious Landscape

The Pew Forum published a report on Brazil’s Changing Religious Landscape (July 2013), which documents the rise of Protestant Churches in the world’s largest Roman Catholic Country. However the percentage of Roman Catholics in Brazil is declining. The fastest growing Protestant Groups in Brazil are Pentecostal, growing through conversion. This report is based on the Pew Forum’s analysis of Brazilian Census Data and provides a transferable model of how to analyze Census data from other countries. http://www.pewforum.org/2013/07/18/brazils-changing-religious-landscape/

Christianity in its Global Context (June 2013)

Christianity in its Global Context, published by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon Conwell Seminary (June 2013), provides an overview of global Christian growth trends for the period 1970-2020. This has been a period where the majority of Christians has shifted from North America and Europe to South America, Africa and Asia. The report provides a region by region analysis of the world and data to better understand the growth of Christianity in each region. This report can be viewed at www.globalchristianity.org/globalcontext.

Canada’s Changing Religious Landscape

The Pew Forum’s report on the Canada’s Changing Religious Landscape (June 2013) documents the decline of those in Canada who consider themselves  Protestants or Catholics and the rise of the “unaffiliated”. The report also draws attention to the rise of minority religions during the also 40 years largely due to immigration. Helpful comparisons are made to the United States. http://www.pewforum.org/2013/06/27/canadas-changing-religious-landscape/

The Global Catholic Population

The Pew Forum provides an analysis of the Global Catholic Population from 1910 to 2010. The report points out that the percentage of Catholics in the World has remained about the same in the last 100 years, however there has been a sharp decline in the percentage of the world’s Catholics in Europe between 1910 and 2010 (65% to 24%). This decline was offset by increases in North America, Latin America, Asia and Africa. A section looks at trends among Catholics in the United States. http://www.pewforum.org/2013/02/13/the-global-catholic-population/

The Global Religious Landscape

The Pew Forum offers an executive summary as well as a complete report of the Global Religious Landscape based upon the analysis of 2,500 censuses, surveys and population records (December 2012). The maps and charts effectively communicate the distribution of the world’s religious populations. http://www.pewforum.org/2012/12/18/global-religious-landscape-exec/

God is Alive and Well: The Future of Religion in America by Frank Newport (Gallup)

Frank Newport, Editor-in-Chief with the Gallup organization, provides an analysis of Religion in America based upon more than one million Gallup Interviews. Newport provides a new evidence-based perspective on Americans’ religious beliefs and practices and offers thought provoking predictions about religion’s future in the U.S. Hardcover book published by Gallup Books, December 2012. http://www.gallup.com/press/159017/god-alive.aspx

The World’s Muslims: Unity and Diversity

The Pew Forum published the results of 38,000 face to face interviews with Muslims from 39 countries (August 2012). This report provides insight into the faith and practice of Muslims around the world. The report indicates a high level of unity regarding the essentials of Islamic beliefs, but diversity regarding secondary matters of belief and practice. The report also details the differing levels of commitment of Muslims by county. An interesting finding is how Sunni and Shia Muslims view each other.  This finding provides insight into the tensions and conflicts within the Muslim world.  This report is valuable reading for anyone who works with Muslims or desires to understand how Islamic beliefs influence current events. http://www.pewforum.org/2012/08/09/the-worlds-muslims-unity-and-diversity-executive-summary/

Patrick Johnstone, The Future of the Global Church: History, Trends and Possibilities (2011)

This book represents Johnstone’s tour de force base on his 50+ years of research on global religious trends. This colorful book is filled with tables, maps, and graphs that assist understanding of the trends that are shaping the future of the Global Church. In addition to the book, there is a digital collection that includes the information from the book and 60+ PowerPoint presentations. http://www.thefutureoftheglobalchurch.org/

Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation. (2010)

Operation World’s 7th edition provides a region by region, country by country look at the world, focusing primarily upon the state of Christianity and how believers can pray for the global Church. This book should be daily reading along with one’s Bible. The several digital options are available, which provide the Operation World data base, maps, charts and presentations.  Individual country profiles and ordering information are available at http://www.operationworld.org/

The Atlas of Global Christianity (2010)

This atlas documents the changing status of Global Christianity in the 100 year period following the monumental Edinburgh 1910 World Missionary Conference. The authors claim that this is the first scholarly atlas to depict the twentieth-century shift of Christianity to the Global South and the first to map Christian affiliation at the provincial level. The Book also comes with a companion CD that is useful for preparing presentations.  Considering that this book/CD package is being sold for $250+, this might be an item to obtain though inter-library loan.  http://www.atlasofglobalchristianity.org/

Have you come across a report or book that is fascinating reading? Feel free to share your “fascinating find” in the comments section.