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    Oct 12, 2014

    Class 10: Taking the Gospel around the World from Here at Home

    Series: Missions

    Category: Core Seminars, Discipling / Mentoring, Fellowship & Hospitality, Knowing God's Will, Serving, Evangelism, International Missions


    We laid the theological groundwork for missions, and we’re now thinking about the practical outworking of it. What does missions look like? We’ve looked at different roles that people play in the work of missions.
    Today, we want to think about here… Washington, DC. Are there ways that we can take part in the work of carrying the Gospel to all nations here in DC? We’ve already talked about the role of prayer, financial support, welcoming missionaries, etc. The missionaries that we know and support are carrying the Gospel through cross-cultural evangelism. Is there a way that we personally can be involved in cross-cultural evangelism?
    Why get involved?
    We should first ask the question, "Why should we get involved?"
    Matthew 28:18-20. This should be familiar by now in this class. The Great Commission:
    "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'"
    There we see a general instruction by Jesus to go and make disciples of all nations. We are called to go out and engage all nations with the Gospel. We are to tell them about Jesus and make disciples of Jesus.
    Acts 1:8. We also read the following in Acts 1:8
    But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
    It is worthwhile here to note the order of progression. Jesus says that the witness to his name will start in Jerusalem, then move out to the nearby areas of Judea and Samaria, and then will eventually spread to the far ends of the earth.
    Now, in citing this passage I want to be very clear about what I am saying and clear about what I am not saying. Some have taken this passage to be strangely controlling and say that we should directly apply this to our church or our individual lives. Meaning, that we should spend a lot of time thinking and praying for help to identify our Jerusalem, our Judea/Samaria, and then our ends of the earth. So they would counsel us to form a strategy that spends a lot of time finding those categories for us. I don’t think that’s the point. But I think the point was that Jesus intended for the Gospel to go out and spread from the place where the believers were, to the places where they were not. Whatever it might mean for individual believers, the work of the church in aggregate seemed to be starting right where they were and moving out.
    So, while we may not think that this verse is laying down a fool-proof three-step plan for global evangelism, I think it is pointing our an obvious and helpful principal. Namely, that if we care about reaching the world with the Gospel we should start with reaching the part of the world where we live, while having an eye to reach out to the places where the Gospel is less known…all at the same time.
    Luke 10:25-37. In the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus explains what it means to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." Jesus is asked, "And who is my neighbor?" After telling the story, Jesus asks, "Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" It was the Samaritan, who gave sacrificial of his time and resources to help someone completely different from himself. Jesus tells the man, "You go, and do likewise."
    The priest and the Levite were too busy with their daily responsibilities to help the man who had been robbed. Wherever we are - here in DC, elsewhere in the US, or overseas - we should be aware of those around us that are in need. We should particularly be aware of the people around us with spiritual needs - they are separated from God by their sin and face God's wrath. We are surrounded each day with people that have various needs. Our neighbors where we live, where we shop, where we commute, and where we work... have needs and most significantly they have the spiritual need of salvation.
    We should ask ourselves if we find ourselves so busy with everything that we fail to see the spiritual and physical needs of those around us. What about the countless internationals among us? We will talk next week about restricted access countries. There are countless citizens from those very countries here in DC. They have the spiritual need for Jesus to save them from their sins. They have the practical needs related to being transplanted in a foreign context. Are we too busy to engage them with the Gospel? Are we too afraid to cross cultural boundaries and befriend them and tell them about Jesus?
    We have so many opportunities here to be involved in evangelism and related cross-cultural ministry. We'll talk about the details more today. But we should ask ourselves: If we have this opportunity before us here and do not take advantage of it, should we expect ourselves to be fruitful in doing cross-cultural ministry in some remote land?
    The Possibilities...
    Of the many internationals that are here in DC, some will stay here in the US indefinitely, and some may go back to their home countries.
    Immigrant Workers: Some may be here for the long haul. They may want to be, anyway. They may be here to earn some good money and then send or take it back home to care for families. You might find these people more in service industry jobs.
    International Students: Many will go back to their home countries. Often times, a degree with a US university will help them to advance in their home country. They may be doing a year abroad. Last year, a member of our church the joy of getting to know and share Christ with a Japanese exchange student who was at American University for a year. He has aspirations of serving in the Japanese government.
    Foreign Representatives: Embassy workers or employees of foreign companies. They may be here for a time, and are often positioned to have some role in a foreign government.
    Let's think a bit about the possibilities of getting to know some of these people. Let's think about what it would look like for us to show the love of Christ to them by opening up our lives and homes to them. Let's think about what might happen if the Lord chose to use us to bring the Gospel to them, and He brought them to repentance and faith in Christ.
    Did you know that most internationals that come to the US never see an American home? When people come and visit the US, their families back at home will often assume that they'll be able to get into one. Upon returning, their friends might ask, "What's life like in your American friends' home?" Sadly, most of them don't know what it's like. All too often, they cluster around others of the same or similar ethnicity simply because that's what's comfortable and easy.
    Now, consider what most internationals perceive of Christianity. Consider your Muslim friend from Afghanistan, and what he thinks about Jesus Christ. He's likely been taught that most westerners are Christians and that they are immoral just like what you see on Hollywood. They also have likely been taught that Christians are blasphemers because they believe in three gods.
    So, these internationals with misconceived notions of Christianity come. Most of them don't get into an American home, let alone a Christian home. So, they don't see Christians live their lives out, and they don't hear the Gospel accurately explained to them. If we just sit back and let that happen, then O friends, we have missed a tremendous opportunity to be witnesses to Jesus. We have passed up an opportunity to directly take part in the Great Commission!
    If we get to share with them and they come to Christ, praise God! That's wonderful in and of itself. But then think of the possibilities of that person going back to their home country and sharing the Gospel with those around them. Persecution and hardship might be involved for your friend. But think of the possibilities. Suppose you're interacting with an international that eventually has a governmental role overseas 10-20 years from now. Do you think it's possible that your Christian words and actions would possibly make that government friendlier to the Gospel? Who knows!
    Who’s here? What opportunities do we have?

    So, we've talked about why we should be involved in reaching the world with the Gospel even while here in Washington, DC. Let's think a bit, now, about the different opportunities that the Lord has given us to reach the nations from here.
    Thank you all for doing your homework assignment, and listing the international countries and languages that you encountered this past week. Let's talk about the assignment a bit.
    First, we can ask the question, "who's here?" Who do we have the opportunity to share the Gospel with? We have a great list to start with here from your efforts.
    > Name the distinct nations and languages. Point out some that are restricted access countries

    > Where did you meet these people?
    Take notes on whiteboard of where people met them
    Where else might we encounter internationals?
    • 150 Embassies in DC, each with a few to hundreds of nationals
    • Universities - international students
    • International organizations (e.g. World Bank, International Monetary Fund)
    • Where we shop, where we get our hair cuts, where we get our cars fixed
    • Our neighborhoods. Large concentrations of internationals, particularly in the suburbs (Northern Virginia, Maryland).

    How do you get started?
    OK, so we have a lot of opportunities to engage internationals here. How do we start building relationships with them? How do we penetrate cultural barriers and bring the Gospel to these people for God's glory?
    Well, let's start from the basics. You've already had some very basic conversations, presumably, from our homework assignment. You asked people where they're from and what languages they speak. Let's talk about that.
    > How did the conversation go with them? Was easier or harder than you thought?
    > What was their response to your question about where they are from? Did they seem offended?
    > Did they seem proud about their national heritage and willing to talk about it?

    So, hopefully we see from this that initiating a conversation with internationals is not nearly as hard as we might initially think. Hopefully we also see that there are some great opportunities for us to be able to ask them questions to learn about their home country and heritage. At the very least, I think we can begin to see some ways to get them talking.
    Last year, I determined to take part in this work. I wanted to get to know people from other nations in my home town. Here's a small sampling of people that I've come across since then:
    Woman from Ethiopia who works with VOA – at bus stop
    Hair stylist at Capitol Barber from Vietnam
    Guys at Afghan restaurant
    Iranian, Afghan, Korean people at Hair Cuttery
    Philipino lady at Staples
    Janitor with ServiceMaster, from Honduras. Knew Adam Grusy
    Group of Afghan ladies at Haircuttery in Springfield
    I was, and continue to be daunted to know how to develop those relationships, how to get to the Gospel, and how to have enough time to carry out my other responsibilities! It's not easy. Here are some thoughts that others have taught me to help me out:
    1. Consider places that you would be happy (or at least willing) to go to on a regular basis, as part of your regular routine. Examples:
    Going to the same person or place for hair cuts
    Going to the same checkout line (person) at the same grocer
    Going to the same restaurant for discipleship meetings
    By making something part of your regular schedule, it will be more manageable and sustainable.
    2. Also, get others from the church involved over time. More on that later.
    3. Leave room in your schedule to meet and get to know internationals! At the same time, don't spread yourself too thin.
    4. Don’t expect every initiated relationship to turn into a deep evangelistic opportunity. Don’t view people as a project. Love them as men and women created in God’s image. They will know if you view them as a project. Rather, build a relationship with them and establish trust.
    5. In your conversations, be open about your faults – your sins. Show what it means to realize that you’re a sinner that has been forgiven by the work of Jesus! Talk about your struggles, but then point them to see that in Christ you have hope. Talk to them about how your local church is helping you to shoulder these burdens.
    6. If they are willing, show them your family, your church, your friends. Know that there might be hidden barriers such as “I won’t come to eat at your home because the meat won’t be halal” and have others help you navigate those waters.
    7. Show that you are willing to learn about them, their beliefs, their family, their history, etc. Be open about sharing about your own as well. Pray that they would ask reciprocal questions.
    8. Don't be afraid to talk about Jesus. Talk about what you're learning at church on Sundays. Talk about your small group. Talk about what the Lord is teaching you in your daily devotionals. Not all, but many internationals are more open to talking about spiritual things. They're in a new context and willing to learn about a new culture and new beliefs. They come already wanting to broaden their horizon and world view. If your friend is a Muslim, he or she would probably expect religion to be a normal part of conversation anyway.
    9. Beware of long, heated debates. At the end of the day, all you have to offer is the Gospel. Debates often get nowhere. Points are fired back and forth, and there's increased motivation for more ammunition each time. So, be careful about debates, and always think of ways to steer people back to the cross of Christ. I'm not saying "ignore your friend's questions." But, help people to understand why they're asking questions. Get at the root of their questions or else they will never end.
    In college, I was debating with a roommate about Christianity. I was getting frustrated and starting to not have the right answers. My other Christian friend (who is much smarter than I am) sat down with us, gave a brief and not-so-satisfying answer to my friend's question, and asked "We can keep answering these questions, but really, you've heard the Gospel. Why don't you want to believe?" My non-Christian roommate paused, thought, and answered: "I don't want to have to change the way I live." So, he was just coming up with question after question that he didn't really care about, so as to avoid having to make any sort of decision.

    10. Pray for opportunities to share the Gospel. Pray for their salvation!

    Reach out as a church!
    Praise God, we are not called to go about this work of cross-cultural evangelism on our own. God has given us this local church where we can learn to serve our Lord together.
    1. Get to know members of CHBC from different cultural backgrounds. Did you know that in our congregation alone, we have members from these countries, just to name some?
    Congo, Benin, El Salvador, Trinidad and Tobago, Spain, Germany, India, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, Philippines, Azerbaijan, Iran, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia
    This will help you to relate to others from different cultures. It will help you wade through those waters of what Christianity is vs. what American culture is. You'll start to learn to "contextualize" while still maintaining a strong faithfulness to the Gospel. These friends are also great people to involve in ministering to internationals. It's good for your international friends to see that Christianity is not just for Americans or for you... the Gospel has power to save all who believe - from every nation and tongue!
    2. Allow yourself to be disciple by others who are comfortable reaching out to internationals. You don’t need to look for a “template” or “formula” for international ministry – in fact, you shouldn’t! Each individual is different, but at least you can observe what types of questions people ask to break the ice and get to know others.
    Story of GregP coming with me to local Afghan restaurant. I just sat there waiting for the menu. Greg went up and talked to people… granted, in Dari. But I eventually got up and Greg introduced me.
    3. Get members of the opposite gender involved. Especially if you start to get to know internationals of the opposite gender, get others in the church involved. Particularly in international cultures, it is often inappropriate for men and women to form close relationships. So, I was recently in a little gathering of Afghan ladies chatting away while I was getting my haircut. Instead of opening my mouth to start talking about my experiences in Afghanistan, I decided I should be praying for women from CHBC that lived in the area to be willing to go there and get to know those women.
    4. If you are limited in time, get others involved. Patty Lyle is a great example of this. She and her family were getting to know an international student (woman) and were able to open up their home regularly to have her over. She brought in two other single women from CHBC to help minister to her on a more frequent basis. They were also closer in age, and perhaps could relate better. Jenn Fedor was able to user her time to build the relationship perhaps in a way that Patty could not. At the same time, Patty and her family were able to show this girl the love of Christ in an American home in a way that perhaps Jenn could not. So, you have multiple members of the church working together in different seasons of life.
    5. Get others to pray for you and involve them in social events with internationals. Also, invite your friend to come to church. Explain that you don't have to be a Christian to come. See if you can schedule a lunch afterwards, possibly with a couple others from church. Offer to answer any questions they have about the service. That's a great way for them to understand the Gospel better. It's also a good way for them to see the love that Christians genuinely have for each other.

    Be prepared
    How can we prepare ourselves for ministry to internationals? How can we prepare ourselves for conversations with them? Often, they will be coming from very different religious beliefs than us. You might come across Muslims, Buddhist, post-moderns, nominal Catholics, Animists, Hindus, Secularists... you name it. How do we equip ourselves to talk to them?
    Know the Gospel. That’s the most important thing. What does Paul say about the Gospel?
    “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16)
    Resources: Two Ways to Live, Basic Christianity, Christianity Explained. CORE seminar classes on Evangelism, Jump Start, Explaining Christianity, etc.
    Build a vision for “all nations” in your mind. Read Revelation 7:9. Do you desire to see that? Do you desire to see all nations worship God as He deserves? Realize that’s something God will certainly accomplish. Pray for the people that you meet, that they might be included in that throng of worshippers in heaven! When cultural barriers seem high and Christianity might seem impossible for them to embrace, remind yourself that people from your friend's nation will certainly be represented in that worship scene in heaven.
    Read the International section of the newspaper. Realize that there’s a lot more happening in the world. Realize that an earthquake or political revolution happening in country X is very possibly affecting your friend’s relatives in that country. Pray for those countries and the people there in response to the news, and talk to your friend about how and why you’re praying.
    Learn about your friend’s country. Spend time researching on the Internet. Learn about Gospel reach in those places at . Be willing to ask questions of your friend and show that you want to learn. Even if you don’t have friends, start to build up your international awareness. Pray in your family or with others about one country per week (Operation World, etc).
    Talk to others at church and research about your friend’s culture and religion. This is a great way to learn from missionaries that stay at CHBC. It will also encourage them to see that you’re taking steps to engage people around you with the Gospel by crossing cultural barriers. Start to learn what some stumbling blocks might be to Christianity for them. Muslim friends? Read [book recommendation] or listen to Thabiti’s talk on Islam. Now, sometimes questions might come up that you don't immediately have answers to. Don't be afraid to tell your friend that you'll get back to him. Talk to others in the church to help you think through those things.

    Specific Opportunities
    So, hopefully we're starting to be equipped to reach out to internationals in our midst. Before we close, I want to list some specific ways that you can get involved with international ministry:
    • Church ministries
    o ESOL (Kyle Mayes)
    o International Students, Inc.
    o Friendship Partners
    o College Ministry
    o Friday Night Evangelism at Howard University
    o Periodic hosting opportunities for visiting internationals (Kazakhs, International Link)
    o Go on short term missions trips to open your eyes to the opportunities that exist here!
    • Other opportunities
    o Help new families in neighborhood and schools
    o Talk to the people that serve you in stores and restaurants. By the way, leave generous tips!
    o Talk to co-workers
    o Learn a language – find a language tutor or conversation partner

    So, we have many opportunities to take part in the Great Commission here in DC. It's not easy, and it'll take members of this church working together for the sake of the Gospel. Let's pray for God to be glorified in this work. Remember that ultimately, we desire to see God glorified as people from all nations bow before His throne.