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Practical Gratitude: Five Reasons to Go Big on Gratefulness

Five Reasons to Go Big on Gratefulness

By Shane Bennett

In our current culture wars, I would like to think I choose my battles carefully. The evidence might indicate otherwise. Certainly, I’m prone to be judgmental toward people who engage with great tenacity on different issues than I do. For example, I could hardly care less if someone says happy holidays or merry Christmas. And I recently went on record saying it was cool that two particular Democrats were elected to Congress (because they were Muslim women, not because they were Democrats).

That said, without getting all whiny about Christmas chattel in Walmart already, I want to plant a flag, wave a flag, or do something with a flag that says, “Thanksgiving is cool” in big, bold, pumpkin-spice-scented letters!

Thanksgiving is essentially what a holiday should be: family, friends, food, and conversation all infused with this warm and grateful internal realization, “Ah, I’m not dead. You’re not dead either. Woohoo! This is good.”

If you hold to the basic tenets of Christianity, we of all people should be given over to gratitude. An uncreated Creator, omnipotent and omniscient, likes us. He went to great lengths to bring us back to himself. And he offers complete forgiveness and purpose-filled life forever starting now! That’s worth a hearty thank you very much. (Tweet this.)

Here’s the trouble: As mobilizers, we spend a good chunk of our time pointing out what isn’t done yet, the difference between what we see now and a completed Great Commission. We talk about needs and suffering. We’ve learned that response often correlates to how bleakly we paint the picture, and funding follows fear.

My purpose here isn’t to encourage you to stop that, but rather, given that reality, to inspire in us a fresh focus on thankfulness. You may or may not need a reminder. I do. About once a week.

Why go big on gratefulness?

1. The Bible says so.

Since you can probably quote Paul’s admonitions to gratitude better than I can, let me back up to Jesus for some biblical basis: In Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus says,

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

I wouldn’t split a denomination over this, but I think part of what makes our “light shine before men” is gratitude. When we’re thankful, the light of Jesus shines and people glorify God. I love it when that happens!

2. Gratitude reflects reality.

If we rightly understand the fundamental aspects of reality—that we exist, that we know it, that we exist and know it because of a good God, these naturally engender gratitude. You and I have life. And because of God we have hope.

3. Gratitude reshapes our psyche, outlook, and future.

According to Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast, “It is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” For a three-and-a-half-minute elaboration on this, check out Brene Brown. For ten change-your-life minutes, watch Ann VosKamp unpack the science and practicality of gratitude.

4. Thankfulness lifts others around us.

I am blessed when I hear people honestly express a sense of gratitude. When they’re grateful for me, of course, but really, regardless of what they’re thankful for. I love to read expressions of gratitude on Facebook and the list of “praises” that often go next to “prayer requests” on ministry newsletters. Oh sure, a little jealousy might sneak in when someone says, “I’m just so thankful that we’re at 118% of our support goal after these arduous five weeks of effort,” but you know, usually I’m blessed!

5. There are so many things for which to be grateful.

For mission mobilizers, the list is long. Although much work remains to be done, God has done so much already. And we live in a time when the growth of his kingdom is staggering. Skim Robby Butler’s article to feel the joy and hope being birthed in some 650 current movements to Jesus around the world.

Two final thoughts to make this as down-in-the-dirt practical as possible:

Who should we thank?
  • Thank God! More and more and more. He has been so good to you and me.
  • If you raise funds, thank your donors. (This is for me. Of course, you thank your donors!)
  • Thank your parents. Most of us could do this more than we do.
  • Thank people before they die. A nice obituary is honorable. Tell them before they die and it really rocks.
How should we practice gratitude?

You’re a grown up and probably already have eight ways you’re doing this and four more you’re considering. Even so, I’d like to invite you into a little experiment: I’ve set up a Google doc for Missions Catalyst readers to daily write down what they’re thankful for between now and US Thanksgiving Day on November 22. Simply scroll down to the correct date and write a couple or three things you’re thankful for.

Join me in doing this for each of the next nine days and we will have begun to form a habit. I’m pretty sure I’ll be better for it. Will you join me? I’ll be grateful if you do!

» Express your gratitude.

Subversive Gratitude

Some of the most potent expressions of gratitude come when your life has spun out of control and darkness has descended like a heavy blanket. I’m writing this in the aftermath of having lost the most important earthly relationship of my life. Much is in question. The way forward is unclear. The pain intense. Even so, I want to practice gratitude.

I’m thankful that Miss Bowers taught me to type in high school. I’m grateful that the current Colorado snowpack is 170% of average and may mean we won’t be plagued by drought next summer. And I’m thankful to be a part of a tribe with you all. Children of God. Loved. Chosen. Anointed. Empowered. And sent.

I don’t know how dark your days are right now. Maybe the worst you’ve seen. Know this: I’m thankful for you and I’m thankful with you.

Snapshots from the Global Church | World News Briefs

In this edition:

  1. CENTRAL ASIA: A Documentary
  2. MIDDLE EAST: Equipping Arabs to Reach the Least-Reached
  3. NIGERIA: Christian Youths Protect Muslims in Violence
  4. CAMBODIA: 21 Graduate from Bible Program
  5. PAKISTAN: Asia Bibi Acquitted, Now Released

CENTRAL ASIA: A Documentary

Source: Release International, September 6, 2018

Less than 30 years since the collapse of the USSR, Christians in Central Asia are being driven underground once more. In this 14-minute documentary film, host Tom Bradley visits Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine to interview local leaders and learn more.

» For more about the underground church, read The Secret and Surprising Ways Christians Worship in North Korea (Open Doors).

MIDDLE EAST: Equipping Arabs to Reach the Least-Reached

Source: Operation Mobilization, October 18, 2018

Over the last few years, members of the OM [field leaders saw] a growing need to involve more Arab believers on international teams as local churches began growing and expanding both their vision and their capacity to send missionaries.

Three Syrian Muslim-background believers completed the first training cycle, while seven Egyptian Christian-background believers entered the second round.

The speed at which the local interns can start making an impact is “quite startling,” [OM field leader] Jeremy said. “The guys in the internship school, within a month, had opened the Bible 21 times [on house visits]. As a foreigner, I was just happy to be able to buy fruit after a month [of studying Arabic].”

Hamad and Nidal were two of the first three Arabs to complete the three-month training module. Hamad had been looking for an opportunity to serve God using the gift of evangelism. Nidal wanted to begin ministry in a place where nothing was happening.

The training, they said, was personal and practical. They spent time learning how to facilitate Discover Bible Studies (DBS) on visits. They also practiced it themselves. “We did DBS in the morning together, so first we applied the Bible to our own lives and developed ourselves before we expected other people to accept it,” Hamad explained.

Answered prayers on visits were a stand-out hallmark of Nidal’s time in the training. [In] one family he got to know, no one [was employed] the first time he visited. He prayed for them. The second visit, everyone had jobs. Another time, the family lost their UN paperwork, which allowed them to live in the country as refugees. Nidal prayed again. Four days later, the family phoned him and announced the papers had been found.

» Read more.

» You might also want to check out a recent podcast episode on Church Planting in Iraq (The Missions Podcast, ABWE International). Well worth the listen.

NIGERIA: Christian Youths Protect Muslims in Violence

Source: Global Christian News, October 22, 2018

Christian youths have stood to protect Muslims traders from being lynched by some Christian groups as violence has spread in Kaduna state, central Nigeria as a result of the death of about 84 people in Kasuwan Magani.

An eyewitness, Choko Nkut, said some of the youths “stopped (others) from lynching the Muslim traders who sell fruits at the junction. They did not just stop there, they stood to protect the properties of the Muslims until security agents arrived and the traders were handed over to the (security agents) for safety.” Nkut said, “I wish we all become our brother’s keepers.”

» Read full story.

» Violence in neighboring Cameroon is rooted in tensions between the country’s French and English speakers. A week ago a US missionary and father of eight was killed shortly after arriving in country. This week more than 70 students in a church-based boarding school were kidnapped and have just been released.

CAMBODIA: 21 Graduate from Bible Program

Source: Far East Broadcasting Company, October 22, 2018

Cambodia’s Voice of Love team shared that 21 students successfully graduated from their Bible class. Students in the program studied for three months via speaker boxes and lessons on the Old and New Testaments and Galatians.

In addition to celebrating their graduates, the Voice of Love team also took time to visit [more than] 190 listeners who shared with them about what they have learned through FEBC’s radio programs. Many mentioned the “Comfort at Night” program, which discusses being a peacemaker in your family and encourages people to live according to Christ’s Word.

Please continue to pray that God would work out his wonderful plan to use these people for his glory, spreading the gospel to other villages.

» Read more.

» Also from Cambodia, Worth the Wait describes a theological education initiative based on oral learning methods, obedience-based assessments, and practical ministerial and Bible study skills (Global Partners).

PAKISTAN: Asia Bibi Acquitted, Now Released

Sources: Various

It’s been a week since Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi was cleared of blasphemy charges after eight years in prison.

Today news sources report she has been released from jail and transported to Islamabad. Widespread threats and protests may keep her from leaving the country, though we are seeing contradictory reports. Her lawyer has been evacuated to the Netherlands and her husband has appealed to the UK and US for asylum for the family.

Let’s keep praying not only for this woman and her family but for the people of Pakistan, where tensions are high.

» See also, from neighboring India, Outbreak of Violence against Christians in Assam Sparks Concern (Christian Headlines).

USA: Missions Versus Halloween Pet Costumes

Source: Justin Long, October 18, 2018

Editor’s note: Have you heard it said that Americans spend less money on missions than they do on Halloween costumes for their pets? Justin Long gives us the data.

It’s that time of year again—time for a review of what we spend on Halloween vs. foreign missions. We spend a lot on dog food, and it’s sometimes compared to what we spend on missions (rightly or wrongly). Globally, [Christians] spend about US$48 billion per year on missions (CSGC figure). I suspect that the US, being the largest sender of missionaries, spends the greatest percentage of that amount.

Variously, we estimate about 1% of that amount is spent on the unreached (or about US$480 million, or better phrased as half a billion dollars). Some portion of that is obviously donated by Americans, but we don’t know precisely how much. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering alone was US$142 million (2017-18).

Americans will, on the other hand, spend about US$480 million on Halloween costumes for their pets (new 2018 figure). So it does seem that we could legitimately say Americans spend more on Halloween costumes for their pets than they give to foreign missions, for whatever saying that is worth.

» Read original post.

WORLD: I’m a Hindu, and This Is What I Believed

Source: International Mission Board, October 19, 2018

Editor’s Note: Author Sai Anand is a neuroscientist from India. He studies how the brain works and uses innovative approaches to share the gospel and speak intelligently about God’s design of the human body and brain.

During college I heard about true liberation offered from the true God: Jesus Christ. He has changed my life and beliefs about everything. This, though, is what I used to believe as a Hindu.

God(s):

It’s difficult to fix a number to how many gods there are in the Hindu faith—the highest estimate is 333 million. The gods have different characteristics and abilities, so Hindus will pray to different gods for different requests. The concepts of omniscience or omnipresence aren’t attributed to Hindu gods, so Hindus don’t know whether the gods or the particular god they’re appealing to, recognize or acknowledge their sacrifices.

Worship:

Worship, most of the time, means sacrifices to appease the anger of the gods, who are known for lashing out against sin. They will punish you if you do something wrong. The inevitability that you’ll do something that angers a god is overwhelming.

Hindus visit local temples to make sacrifices, give offerings, pray, light incense, and meditate. Worship can also be performed at shrines in the home or along the road. For Hindus, the morning rituals usually include self-purification and prayers to the sun. Many Hindus will also visit the temple in the morning. But they can’t go to the gods whenever they want; the temple isn’t open at all hours of the day.

Salvation:

Hindus believe in the unceasing cycle of life, death, and reincarnation. Your karma—the result of your actions, good or bad—determines how you will be reincarnated in your next life.

There isn’t a way to know if you’ll be reincarnated to a better life or whether what you’ve done is deserving of hell. There is a general belief in a “hell” where you are punished, though there are believed to be many different hells.

» Full article has great pictures and includes advice about what to keep in mind when sharing the gospel with a Hindu.

» The Hindu festival of Diwali is coming up November 6-10, and, as we’ve mentioned before, many Christians will be participating in 15 days of prayer for the Hindu world October 28 to November 11.

ALGERIA: Church Growth Despite Adversity

Source: Sat-7, October 3, 2018

Like many Christian leaders in Algeria, Samia and Salah have witnessed amazing church growth in recent years. “Every three months, the church holds baptisms, sometimes for more than 100 people. In June, 67 people were baptized,” says Salah. But as political tensions have increased, churches have been subject to greater interference from governmental and local authorities.

“They refuse to grant permission for churches to operate, and then they close them down because they don’t have official permission,” Salah explains.

Eleven churches have been closed, including Salah and Samia’s in Aïn Turk, near Oran. It was shut down for seven months before thankfully reopening in June. Undeterred, Salah simply says, “The more problems the Church faces, the stronger it grows.”

» Read full story.

» Also read another story from Algeria, this one about a Christian husband on trial for evangelizing his wife (Morning Star News).

INDONESIA: Peace Under Fire

Source: Partners International, October 18, 2018

I was panicking, and my heart beat fast when the village chief and his aides came to our house. I didn’t even dare to meet them. My husband opened the door and invited them in. Without saying a greeting, the village chief hurriedly asked my husband, “What have you done to make Yaha change his religion?”

Apparently, the villagers learned that Yaha had come to believe in Jesus and they could not accept that fact. The villagers were angry at Yaha’s decision, so they agreed to expel him from the village. Yaha’s extended family also rejected him because of his new belief, including the village chief who has kinship relationship with him.

My husband replied, “That was Yaha’s own decision sir; I did nothing to force him.”

Hearing my husband’s explanation, the village chief warned us as a family not to do anything to influence the villagers to change their beliefs.

The incident that afternoon made me afraid. Worry crept into my heart. I began to fear that later the villagers will reject and threaten us because we are Christians. In my moment of fear, God strengthened my heart through his Word. The Word of God says in Colossians 3:15, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful!” When I received the Word my heart and mind began to calm down. I was so grateful that God helped me.

My heart was strengthened again and that night I was able to sleep well. God the Holy Spirit gave me great peace and tranquility so that in the midst of the problem, I could remain strong in him. God really cares and is always ready to help and reaffirm his calling for me to reach out to those who do not know the Lord Jesus yet. Blessed be the Lord.

» Read original story.

» Readers might be interested in a report from another Indonesian Christian, a Christian commercial pilot who felt God led him to speed his departure from Palu, thus saving 140 passengers as the earthquake and tsunami devastated the area. Remarkable.

NORTH KOREA: A Radical, Dangerous Life

Source: Open Doors, October 17, 2018

In 1997, in the midst of a great famine in North Korea, Hea-Woo’s daughter in her mid-twenties starved to death in her own home. Hae-Woo’s husband escaped to China. He found God… but sadly he was caught by the secret police and six months later died in a North Korean prison camp. Hea-Woo said, “I was shocked to hear that my husband had become a Christian but instinctively I knew he had found the truth.”

It wasn’t too long after this that Hea-Woo herself escaped to China and became a Christian through a series of events similar to those that had influenced her husband’s journey to faith. She was then caught by the secret police, repatriated to North Korea, and placed in a prison camp.

In one of the darkest places on earth, Hea-Woo chose to do something so radical, and so dangerous, but so Christ-like. In this prison, God gave her a heart to tell her fellow prisoners about Jesus. And so, right there in the middle of a North Korean labor camp, a secret fellowship church began.

In her words: “The Bible verses that I’d recall from memory gave the others hope. They also say the Spirit at work in me. I stood out among the other prisoners because I helped them. Sometimes I shared my rice with the sick. Occasionally I washed their clothes, too.

“God used me to lead five people to faith. I tried to teach them the little I knew about Jesus. I didn’t have access to a Bible in the camp. But on Sundays and at Christmas, we met together out of the view of the guards. Usually, that was in the toilet. There we held a short service. I taught them the Bible verses and songs that I knew. We sang almost inaudibly so that no one would hear us.”

It’s believers like Hea-Woo who suffer persecution for their faith that brings much-need on real discipleship. On what it means to obediently, selflessly and courageously follow Jesus.

» Read more.

» See also another story from East Asia, Imprisoned Pastors in Myanmar Released on Condition They Stop Praying in Church.

BOOK: Ministry in Muslim Contexts

Source: William Carey Library

Margins of Islam: Ministry in Diverse Muslim Contexts, ed. Gene Daniels and Warrick Farrah. William Carey Library, 2018. 240 pages.

If you’ve ever thought, “I know more about ‘Islam’ than this Muslim in front of me does,” you may have discovered for yourself the diversity of belief and practice in the Muslim world… which may not line up with what you had read, heard, or assumed.

In Margins of Islam, 16 thoughtful cross-cultural workers take us on a tour through a wide variety of Muslim communities.

These including contexts shaped by Sufism, animism, urbanization, colonialism, secularism, and nationalism and among North African Berbers, nominally Muslim Bosnians, Chinese Muslim youth, and Russified Central Asians as well as the Muslim communities in the UK, France, Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey, and elsewhere. Each author describes the historical and cultural factors shaping Muslims in that specific context and draws conclusions for ministry that may also apply in communities affected by the same dynamics.

Since the book is both academic and practical, you can use it for your own teaching, writing, or research and come away with things to think about, ask about, or explore in your relationships with Muslims, as well as finding clues on where to learn more.

» Purchase the Kindle edition from Amazon for US$9.99; $15.99 for the paperback. Visit the publisher’s site to see the table of contents and a endorsements.

BOOK: Short-Term Missions Workbook

Source: InterVarsity Press

Short-Term Missions Workbook: From Mission Tourists to Global Citizens (revised and expanded), by Tim Dearborn. IVP Books: October 2018. 144 pages.

Looking for a tool to train a team for a mission trip? This helpful classic may be just what you need. It includes Bible studies, cross-cultural training helps, discussion questions, cultural simulation activities, and a leader’s guide.The content of this new edition closely follows that of the 2003 edition but has been updated throughout. New chapters focus on on facing risks, fear, and suffering and making the most of the trip after returning home. I recommend it highly.

Two things you should know, though:

  • Readers are assumed to be Americans traveling to other countries, but the workbook can also be used with teams serving cross-culturally in the US. I don’t think it would work very well for self-study apart from a team.
  • Participants are also encouraged to read Beyond Duty: a Passion for Christ, a Heart for Missions (from the same author and publisher and revised in 2013). References are made to it throughout. But the two books can also be used separately.
  • The author suggests teams meet weekly for nine sessions, as well as twice following the trip (using video conferencing if necessary).

» Get the paperback for US$12.38 from Amazon (or elsewhere). Get a discount on bulk purchases if you get them from IVP. It’s also available as an ebook.

» Need something simpler or more flexible? Try the bestselling Before You Pack Your Bag, Prepare Your Heart, by Cindy Judge.

PODCAST: Three Trends in Global Missions

Source: Global Missions Podcast

The Global Missions Podcast, out of Canada, has recently launched a new season. In the October 2 episode, Marv Newell of Missio Nexus unpacks three big trends impacting missions today, with practical ways that churches and mission agencies can respond to these realities. Nothing we haven’t heard before, but I’m not sure we’ve adjusted our approaches enough in light of these factors.

» Listen to the podcast. There’s also a brand-new episode about how the upcoming Urbana Conference.

» The Taking Route Podcast, a fun one for women living cross-culturally, has also launched a new season you or someone you know might enjoy.

ARTICLE: Are We Serving Orphans?

Source: Catalyst Services

Often orphanage ministry is one of a church’s most-popular global missions efforts because there is such an emotional attachment to needy children. Yet disturbing facts about the orphanage model, especially the impact of Western short-term ministries in majority world orphanages, are causing many churches to rethink their strategy for orphan ministry abroad.

» Full article includes case studies, best practices, and more. You can read it online or download as an eight-page PDF.

EVENTS: Coming up in October and November

Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar

See the online calendar for links.

October 18, Stewarding the Purpose Inside Your People (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.

October 11-12, Support Raising Bootcamp (Rogers, AR, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions.

October 18-20, B4T Expo (Kansas City, MO, USA). Business for transformation. Sponsored by OPEN USA (formerly NexusB4T).

October 19-20, Missions Fest Seattle (Bellevue, WA, USA). Free annual community missions event.

October 19-20, MissionFest Toronto (Milton, ON, Canada). Free annual community missions event.

October 19-20, Check-IT-Out Fall Conference (Charlotte, NC, USA). For IT and software professionals and students on technology in missions/translation.

October 21-26, ABIDE (Joplin, MO, USA). Debriefing and reentry help for returning missionaries.

October 22 to November 17, COMPASS Prefield Training (Palmer Lake, CO, USA). Provided by Missionary Training International multiple times a year.

October 27, Heart for Muslims conference (New York, NY, USA).

October 28 to November 11, 15 Days of Prayer for the Hindu World (global).

October 30 to November 27, Using Mobile Phones in Missions (online). Mentored course to leverage ministry outreach using phones. Provided by Mission Media U.

November 1, The New Normal for Mission in China (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.

November 1-2, Finishing the Task through Children (Carlsbad, CA, USA). Gathering sponsored by Missio Nexus and Kids Around the World.

November 1-3, Christian Community Development Association (Chicago, IL, USA). An annual event.

November 1-3, Crescent Project National Conference (Columbus, OH, USA).

November 1-4, GO Equipped Tentmaking Course (Velbert, Germany).

November 4-30, Mobilizer Equipping School (Chiang Mai, Thailand). Provided by SVM2.

November 5 to March 17, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (online).

November 7, The Missionary Pipeline (online). Free webinar from Sixteen:Fifteen.

November 7-11, GO Equipped Tentmaking Course (Ceski Tesin, Czech Republic).

November 8, The Place of Orality in Church Planting (online).

November 8-10, Global Missions Health Conference (Louisville, KY, USA). Annual event focused on medical missions.

November 14-15, Standards Introductory Workshop (Cincinnati, OH, USA). Presented by Standards of Excellence in Short-term Missions.

November 15, Insights from Respected Women in God’s Mission (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.

November 15-17, GO Equipped Tentmaking Course (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). Hosted by Tent Brazil.

November 15-18, Mental Health and Missions Conference (Angola, IN, USA).

November 15-18, The International Conference on Missions (Cincinnati, OH, USA).

November 27-28, Support Raising Bootcamp (Colorado Springs, CO, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions.

» View the complete calendar. Please let us know about mistakes or omissions. For more details, contact the event organizers.

| World News Briefs

In this issue:

  1. NIGERIA: Churches Claim Jesus as Path to Prosperity
  2. WORLD: Addressing Secularization
  3. WORLD: Do You Know the Basics of Animism?
  4. PAKISTAN: World Awaits Asia Bibi Verdict
  5. NORTH KOREA: Five Surprising Facts

Greetings,

This week’s stories explore worldviews and worldview clashes. Need a refresher on worldviews and religions? Check out a series of short videos from Pioneers made for young folks but great for adults, too. (You might want to buy the accompanying curricula.)

blessings,
Pat

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