What does the Book of Ezra have to do with world missions?

“What does the Book of Ezra have to do with world missions?” I found myself thinking as a young, Romanian woman – and a new believer to boot – began reading from Ezra at a missions meeting. Boy! was I in for a surprise!

The book of Ezra recounts the return of the Jewish exiles from Babylon in the sixth century BC.  Chapter one begins when the Persian King Cyrus, having just conquered the Babylonians, issues a decree for the exiles to return and rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. Cyrus also decreed that those who were willing and able to return should be supported by the community “with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, together with a free will offering for the house of God” (Ezra 1:4 NASB). The fact that Cyrus would issue this decree was foretold by Isaiah centuries prior (Isaiah 44:28-45:13), an indication that what was unfolding was a part of God’s plan, determined long ago.

Next we see that the leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, as well as the priests and Levites, prepare to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. A beautiful parenthetical comment, “everyone whose heart God had moved“  (Ezra 1:5 NV), indicates that God was also at work in the lives of those who volunteered to go.

Finally, we see that those who were not able to return to Jerusalem were also involved as “all those about them encouraged them with articles of silver, with gold, with goods, with cattle and with valuables, aside from all that was given as a freewill offering” (Ezra 1:6 NASB). Though they themselves were not able to go, they financially supported and encouraged those who could, recognizing that returning to Jerusalem and rebuilding the Temple were God’s will.

Our young discussion leader proceeded to draw this contemporary application.

There are two groups of people involved in mission work: there are those who are able to go, and there are those who financially support and encourage those who do go.

She followed up these observations with two reflection questions:

To which group do you belong?
What will you do to fulfill your part in God’s plan?

The rest of the evening we engaged in profitable conversation as each person responded to both questions. And I have continued to ponder them ever since.

“So what does the Book of Ezra have to do with world missions?”

Plenty. It provides us with a biblical example of how those who go and those who send must work together to accomplish God’s will.  Romans 10:14-15 explicitly teaches the same point.

For Your Consideration

To which group do you belong? Are you a goer or a sender? What will you do to fulfill your part in God’s plan?

Touch The World Through Prayer

As I have been in regular contact with Christian workers from around the world during the past few years, I have noticed how frequently the subject of prayer comes up, usually in the context that it is so essential to the work of God’s kingdom and that realizing this, we need to be much more devoted to prayer.

This observation reminded me of book written by Wesley Duewel, Touch the World through Prayer. When I first read the book, some 20 years ago, I was struck by the boundless reach of prayer. I don’t think that I could better state the case that Duewel makes in the first chapter:

God has a wonderful plan by which you can have world-wide influence….

Through prayer you can accompany any missionary to remote regions of the earth…. Though prayer you can contribute to the ministry of any pastor or evangelist in a church or gospel hall anywhere in the world…. Though prayer you can touch a fevered brow in any hospital, mediating the healing love of Jesus….

God has given you a way to make your presence count, a way to be a true partner in His kingdom’s work if you really want to be…. He has planned for ordinary Christians like you and me to become mighty in prayer for the blessing and salvation of people and the reaping of Christ’s harvest among the nations today….

There is no reason why you cannot become so steadfast in your personal prayer life that Christ will count on you to help build his church and advance His kingdom in many parts of the world. Beginning with your family, your church, and your community, you can play a significant part through normal daily prayer that will make a difference, even in distant lands.  (Excerpts from Touch the World through Prayer, pages 11-12)

Since Duewel wrote in 1986, there are so many more ways to be informed of prayer needs. Today we have Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and the World Wide Web. These can be used to keep “fresh” needs for prayer before us. For example, I regularly receive “knee mail” from our church, sharing prayer requests for people in our community and updates from friends serving Christ around the world.  I receive prayer needs from workers among the Basque people group, found in Spain and France, where there is not one Basque-speaking evangelical church and but one in ten thousand might be a true believer. I have discovered websites like www.prayeurope.com and www.ipcprayer.org offer relevant prayer needs for nations, persecuted believers and world crises – news that you will never find in the mainstream media.  As I scan the national and world news headlines, I am often prompted to pray for issues of the day. And I have a copy of Operation World, The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation on my desk for daily consultation and intercession. The technology and information available today makes it much easier to “touch the world through prayer” – if we choose to do so.

What is one way you will touch the world through prayer today?

26 Ways – and Counting – to Promote World Missions in Your Local Church

Our church missions committee is pondering how to promote world missions.  To gather ideas, I decided to try a brainstorming experiment using Facebook. I posted:

I’m interested in trying a brainstorming experiment with social media. I’d like to brainstorm ways to promote world missions in a local church. Feel free to submit ANY ideas you have. (That is what brainstorming is all about) Evaluation of ideas will come later.

Five people submitted the following 26 ideas. I think it is a pretty good list.

  1. “Invite people living in your community (Christian or not) but are from other countries to come and speak about where they are from, what they love about their country of origin and what kinds of challenges exist.”
  2. “Go on a trip!!!”
  3. “The Perspectives class seems to be successful at educating Christians about need for missions.”
  4. “Have supported missionaries share their experiences in services and Sunday School.”
  5. Have a mission table visible manned by people who have been on mission short-term trips or to promote future trips, that is assuming the church is already sending teams to do missions.
  6. Make teams visible to the congregations by commissioning them in church services.
  7. Show mission work on video feeds before and after services, church dinners, and other events.
  8. Have mission emphasis weeks and Sundays
  9. Have projects at the church such as packing food or seeds to send overseas.
  10. Have a sewers group that make quilts, blankets, dresses, sweaters, etc to send overseas.
  11. Adopt a foreign mission to support and send teams, develop a partnership with them.
  12. Have a minister or person whose job is to plan, train and promote mission teams and projects.
  13. Start a Kairos course followed by an outreach.
  14. Use bulletin boards and framed artwork to communicate the message
  15. Have slides before & after services,
  16. Have mission projects,
  17. Weave mission in to nearly every teaching opp,
  18. Adopt-a-country or people group.
  19. Pray thru headlines.
  20. Host International meals.
  21. Develop connections between people who are different.
  22. Consider how gratitude can be a motivator.
  23. Biographies.
  24. Maps.
  25. Prayer stations.
  26. Real live missionaries at VBS, events, in Sunday School, in groups, at meals…

I’d like to continue the brainstorming experiment here.

So feel free to contribute all your ideas to promote world missions in a local church.