Missions Catalyst

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USA: 2019 Trends in Bible Engagement

Source: Barna Group, April 19, 2019

Each year, Barna examines behaviors and beliefs related to the Bible among American adults, a study conducted in partnership with American Bible Society. In the 2019 “State of the Bible” report, we find encouraging boosts in Bible engagement and that, despite continued skepticism, scripture still impacts the daily lives and beliefs of many Americans.

» Read more of the report here.

» For the seventh consecutive year, Australia is calling the nations of the world to join with them in three days of prayer and fasting for the United States of America, April 30 to May 2. May 2 is America’s National Day of Prayer. Consider joining Australian brothers and sisters in prayer for their upcoming elections May 18. Watch Australian Election Prayer & Fasting.

SRI LANKA: Three Misconceptions about the Easter Bombings

Source: INcontext Ministries, April 30, 2019

The fact that many of the casualties of the Easter Sunday bombings were Christians obviously drew the attention of the Christian world and especially the Christian media, looking at the incident through different ‘lenses’ than those of the secular media. Here are three misconceptions circulated by Christians in the wake of the attacks, and clarifications about the truth.

Misconception #1 The world didn’t report the Sri Lanka attacks with the same intensity as the mosque attacks in New Zealand.

Misconception #2: Political leaders intentionally neglected to mention “Christians” and only referred to “Easter worshippers.”

Misconception #3: The suicide bombers were “animals” and uneducated people, gullible to radicalization.

» Read what INcontext has to say and see other articles in their Perspectives series. INcontext Ministries exists to serve churches and the wider Christian community and even encourages readers to contact them with research requests.

INDIA: Police File Charges against Pastors for Refuting False Account

Source: Christian Headlines, March 22, 2019

Three pastors in western India have been criminally charged in retaliation for refuting a false account of a Hindu extremist attack on six Christians that left a teenage girl unconscious, sources said.

Three of the six Christians beaten in Maharashtra state this month were also charged in retaliation for reporting the assault that left them with injuries requiring hospital treatment, said pastor Pandharinath Bhagya Gowri, one of the accused church leaders.

Police who took exception to Pastor Gowri and two other pastors trying to correct a false report about the beating later charged them with the same accusations filed against the assailants, such as house trespass with intent to assault, even though the church leaders were not even present during the attack, he said.

Hard-line Hindus in Bandhan village, Palghar District in February had cut the Christians’ water supply and warned them that worse would happen if they did not renounce their faith, Pastor Gowri told Morning Star News. On March 1 a mob of Hindu extremists burst into the homes [of three Christian families] and started beating and kicking them, he said.

» Read full story.

» Another article suggests a different way to reach Hindu immigrants: Gathering, Giving and Guruing (MARGE Network).

SUDAN: On the Cusp of Change

Source: Mission Network News, April 12, 2019

Everyone appears to be seizing Sudan’s moment of change and celebrating the ouster of longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir.

[Miles Windsor of Middle East Concern] observes the role of the international community as one that supports that process and ensures that there is not simply a new form of military regime in Sudan. He goes on to say that despite Bashir’s ouster, Sudan’s streets remain full of protestors.

For those serving as gospel workers or church leaders, the events of the last couple of days are momentous. What’s ahead is unknown, but full of possibilities.

“They’re asking for prayer that calm will be restored soon in Sudan, that the Lord would protect his Church there, and that our brothers and sisters in Sudan would remain a clear testimony in the midst of a crisis.”

» Read full story.

BRUNEI: Converting from Islam to Carry Death Penalty

Source: Open Doors, April 3, 2019

[On April 3], the full extent of Shari law [went] into effect in Brunei. The newest and third phase of the law is difficult news for Christian converts who are expected to have to go into deeper hiding in the small Sultan-ruled country on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo where conversion from Islam is illegal and punishable by death.

Since first introducing Sharia law in 2014, the Sultan, 72-year-old Hassanal Bolkiah, has been encouraging Islamization of the country where Muslims make up about two-thirds of the country’s population of 434,000. He has called for “stronger” Islamic teachings in Brunei.

The new laws—what some have called “cruel and inhuman”—carry the death penalty for a variety of offenses, including apostasy (converting from Islam), adultery, robbery, rape, sodomy and insulting the Prophet Muhammad (blasphemy).

The first phase, which covered crimes punishable by prison sentence and fines, was implemented in 2014. The new phase covers crimes, such as theft, punishable by amputation and stoning.

The law mostly applies to Muslims, including children who have reached puberty, though some aspects will apply to non-Muslims. For example, those who “persuade, tell or encourage” Muslim children under the age of 18 “to accept the teachings of religions other than Islam” are liable for a fine or jail. Individuals who have not reached puberty but are convicted of certain offenses may be instead subjected to whipping.

» Read full story.

» Also read Committee Formed to Advance Nationalist Hindu Movement in Nepal (Missions Network News).

WORLD: Redefining the Unreached

Source: Marti Wade

Some 45 years since the concept of unreached people groups began to be popularized, many still have little access to the gospel and some missiologists are advocating for new categories and definitions. These days we hear as much about least-reached groups, unengaged unreached groups, and frontier people groups.

Clarifying or confusing? I’m not sure. Each way of slicing up world populations has its strengths as well as its limits. Some of the new categories may obscure the complexity of reaching large but under-engaged groups like the Turks, Thai, or Japanese. But definitions matter, key groups have been overlooked, and the newer thinking may be just what we need to mobilize or redirect strategy and prayer.

» To understand the ins and outs of all this, read Why Missions Experts Are Redefining “Unreached People Groups” (Christianity Today) and Clarifying the Frontier Mission Task, by Rebecca Lewis (International Journal of Frontier Missiology).

» See also Year of the Frontier (Global Prayer Resource Network), which describes a new, daily prayer effort focused on about 400 of the largest frontier people groups. And it looks like the year has already begun: It’s May 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020. Visit the website for related resources.

VIDEO: Reaching the Unreached

Source: LifeNet Media Resources/Global Net

Have you seen this new, three-minute video designed to inspire a commitment to prayer and unity to reach the unreached? There’s also a longer version (nine minutes).

Could you show one of these to your church or group, then pray?

» See other short videos about the unreached—most of which we’ve featured here—as well as videos on related topics. Handy to have them in one place. Thanks, Joshua Project!

VIDEO SERIES: Love Muslims

Source: Prayercast

On May 5, as Ramadan is about to start, Prayercast will begin releasing 130 new, short videos designed to stimulate focused, strategic, passionate prayer for the Muslim world.

Each video is four to five minutes long and led by a former Muslim who now follows Jesus, many sharing stories of healing and transformation. Prayercast will send you an email reminder each day of Ramadan with a brand new video to inspire you to praise and prayer.

Know someone you can invite to watch and pray with you?

» Learn more and sign up or look at other resources from Prayercast.

» See also 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World.

BOOK: Serving Well

Source: Resource Publications (Wipf and Stock)

Serving Well: Help for the Wannabe, Newbie, or Weary Cross-cultural Christian Worker, by Elizabeth and Jonathan Trotter (Resource Publications, 2019). 378 pages.

Serving cross-culturally or planning to? You’ve got to read this book!

With more than 100 chapters, it covers everything from how prepare well to how to return well, with reflections and insight on moving overseas; taking care of your heart, marriage, and children; relationships, communication, pitfalls, and what to do when things don’t go as planned.

An emphasis on cultivating self-knowledge and emotional awareness comes through strong.

The book is comprehensive, funny, deep, and well written. I think it would be a good one to read or even read aloud with a spouse, friend, or teammate. You could use chapters to stimulate team discussion. Pastors and member-care types might want to read it, too, and use it as a resource to share with others.

The Trotters serve in Cambodia. Both write for the great collaborative missions blog A Life Overseas. Elizabeth is the editor-in-chief. Jonathan spends his days as a pastoral counselor.

» Learn more or purchase this book from Amazon. The Kindle edition is going for US$9.99. Want the paperback? Wipf and Stock is selling it for US$20, a 20% discount on the cover price.

» Another new missions book is making a strong debut. The title suggests a quite different tone. See A Company of Heroes: Portraits from the Gospel’s Global Advance, by Tim Keesee.

PODCASTS: A Roundup

Sources: various

God Network News, now up to 100 episodes, shares news and stories of what God is doing around the world. They are running a series of testimonies and stories from the Middle East.

Global Missions Podcast features interviews to help Christians participate more effectively in local and global ministry, also reached 100 episodes not long ago. The producers shared a list of their favorite episodes.

Engaging Missions recently put out two episodes on loving Muslims and several more about depending on God.

Missions Pulse is an interesting new missions podcast from prolific author and mobilizer David Joannes.

Moving a bit out of the “missions” world, you might check out Bob Goff’s Dream Big podcast, or Five Minutes in Church History.

» What have you been listening to? Let us know through comments on our website, Facebook, or Twitter (or of course by responding to this email).

EVENTS: Coming up in May

Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar

Note: USA-based mission mobilizers may also be interested in Mobilization Ideation events planned across the country during the month of May. I’ll be joining the one next week in Atlanta. Any of you planning to be there?

May 2, National Day of Prayer (USA).

May 2, Mapping Church Missions: A Compass for Ministry Strategy (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.

May 2-5, Christian Medical and Dental Association (Ridgecrest, NC, USA). National Convention; an annual event.

May 2-30, Foundations of New Media Strategy (online). Mentored course on using social media for deeper conversations and disciple-making. Offered by Mission Media U.

May 3-5, BAM Conference Europe (Bucharest, Romania). Business as Mission.

May 6-7, Support Raising Bootcamp (Winter Park, FL, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions.

May 6 to June 4, 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World (global). An annual prayer campaign.

May 6 to September 8, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (online).

May 7 to June 4, Using Mobile Phones in Missions (online). Mentored course to leverage ministry outreach using mobile phones. Offered by Mission Media U.

May 9-12, GO Equipped Tentmaking Course (Atlanta, GA, USA).

May 19 to June 14, Equipping for Cross-Cultural Life and Ministry (Union Mills, NC, USA). Provided by the Center for Intercultural Training.

May 20 to August 18, Encountering the World of Islam (online).

May 24-25, Engaging Islam Weekend (Dearborn, MI, USA). Provided by Horizons International.

May 27-31, Engaging Islam Institute (Dearborn, MI, USA). Provided by Horizons International.

May 31 to June 2, Everywhere to Everywhere (Sioux Falls, SD, USA). Missional training and outreach event.

May 31 to June 2, Invitation Prayer Retreat (Choctaw, OK, USA). Introduction to contemplative prayer from Beautiful Feet Boot Camp.

» View the complete calendar. Contact us to suggest additions. Want to know more about a specific event? Contact the event organizers.

SYRIA: “Every Day, We Live the Resurrection”

Source: Open Doors, April 15, 2019

Three years ago, the church in Syria was all but dead. The vicious civil war and invasion by Islamic State militants threatened the very existence of Christianity. But our partners on the ground say the story is changing and continues to transform. God is resurrecting the church in Syria.

Still, becoming a Christian and expressing your faith in the Muslim nation (814,000 Christians out of 18 million people) is a risky choice. If or when their conversion is discovered, new believers could lose their family, friends, their job, even their life.

Recently, we were privileged to be there when a group of young adults from the Alliance Church in the city of Aleppo gathered to worship. Listen and sing along with them as they proclaim, “Christ the Lord is risen today.”

» Read full story and watch the video. You might also be interested in Open Doors’ booklet Rise Up: 40 Days of Prayer for the Middle East (free, but you have to sign up for their mailing list).

NIGERIA: A Christian Perspective of a Community in Conflict

Source: INcontext Ministries, April 9, 2019

During the first three months of 2019, hundreds of lives were lost, and hundreds of homes were burned, raising new concerns about the truth behind the violence occurring between Muslim Fulani herdsmen and predominantly Christian Bachama farmers in Nigeria.

In addition to the seemingly countless numbers of people killed, it has been estimated that as many as 300,000 people (mostly Christian farmers) have been displaced from their homes by the violence.

[Some narratives] label the Muslim Fulani attacks against Christian farmers as a “genocide” perpetrated by radicalized Muslims looking to drive Christians from their homes. But even though this might be fully true, it is not the full truth.

» Read more.

» See also Seeking God on the Edge of the Sahara (Pioneers USA).

KENYA: Africa, Your Time Has Come!

Source: WEA News, April 14, 2019

The Senior Leadership Team of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) together with several regional Alliance and WEA network leaders attended the Opening Celebration of the AEA Plaza. The 10-story building in Nairobi, Kenya, that will serve as the new headquarters of the Association of Evangelicals in Africa is the fulfilment of a vision and the result of many years of labor. Bp Efraim Tendero, WEA Secretary General, was invited to share remarks at the ceremony and commended the great achievement, saying “Africa, your time has come!”

» Read full story and watch the five-minute video of the Secretary General’s remarks.

» Also read an article that states, “Africa is set to be the global center of Christianity for the next 50 years” (QuartzAfrica).

CHINA: Christians Cry after Receiving Their First Bibles

Source: Christian Headlines, March 21, 2019

“In the West, we often take the Bible for granted, but I recently saw a video … of underground Chinese seminary students receiving their first Bible,” wrote Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern. “When the boxes were opened, they all converged on the box to make sure they got their own copy. Each one then held their Bible, kissed it, and wept. They had finally received the book that gives life!”

The video is at least five years old and shows several dozen Christians in a building opening the box. International Christian Concern said none of the Christians are in danger because of its release. International Christian Concern posted the video on its website and on social media this month as part of its new campaign to raise money for Bibles to be sent to countries where Christianity is either outlawed or severely restricted.

Christians in the US said the video is convicting.

“If only we had the same zeal as these students,” Susan Elise Pearson wrote on International Christian Concern’s Facebook page.

Charity Meyer [added], “How beautiful. It made me realize how much I take reading and holding my Bible for granted and that my life is so easy.”

Satan “knows well that the Bible is the most dangerous book in the world,” King said.

“Everywhere it goes, it smuggles Jesus and his Spirit into the hearts of dead and dying humanity, and exposes Satan and his schemes,” King wrote. “The Bible is, in fact, spiritual fertilizer. Everywhere it goes, life springs up.”

» Read full story and watch the video (less than a minute long).

» See also a video about a small tribe in Northeast India receiving scripture lovingly translated into their language for the first time (Asia Harvest), and read North Korea: More than 100 Underground Churches Planted in 2018 (Cornerstone Ministries via God Reports).

FRANCE: Notre Dame Cathedral Burns

Sources: various, April 2019

This was all over the news, but here are a few pieces we recommend:

» See also, from a ministry colleague, May God Bring Beauty from Ashes in France, which includes scripture and links to other sources (Jen Oshman).

Five Ways to Love Those Short-Term Mission Goofballs

By Shane Bennett

Here in my corner of the world, spring is gloriously breaking out all over the place. With it comes the proliferation of three things:

  1. New life, thanks be to God.
  2. Allergies, thanks to the Fall.
  3. Short-term mission-trip funding requests, thanks to the upwards of two million short-term-mission participants sent out each year by America alone!

The number of requests you receive may correlate closely to how much money you have given in response to past requests. So, if you’re complaining about the stack of letters on your kitchen counter, realize it’s like a war veteran whining about the weight of the medals on his dress uniform. You did this to yourself. But now, what to do about it?

What if this year we all made a concerted effort to really help the short-termers who reach out to us? The Great Commandment (love God, love people) may apply even more than the Great Commission.

Here are five ways you might show love to mission trippers.

1. Give them money.

This is why you read Missions Catalyst, right? For surprising, unforeseen insights such as “give money to someone who’s raising support to go on a short-term mission trip.” Of course this is a way to love them!

But seriously, there’s only so much of this kind of love to go around, right? How do you choose how much and to whom? Consider these options. You’re smart; pick the criteria that seem best to you.

  • First come, first served. This will reward the go-getters who actually follow their organization’s fundraising schedule!
  • Give when they make it easy. Prioritize those who crowdsource or who email their letters and include an online giving link. Who uses checks anymore?
  • Give when the ask is personal. Only give to those who make their request in person or by printed letter and take the time to sign it. Unless it’s a blood relative, in which case you may be close enough to give both money and a scolding.
  • Give when it’s strategic. Only give to those you sense are meeting real needs in a way that short termers can do well.
  • Give a little bit to everyone who asks. This is kind and generous, but also a sure way to multiply the number of requests you’re looking at this time next year.
  • Have a focus. Decide on a type of work or a geographic area to which you’ll give. Bless the rest, but stick to your plan.
2. Give them prayer.

God alone knows how large a donation has to be before it outweighs heartfelt prayer, but I suspect it’s more money than I’ll see in my lifetime. You know prayer matters! You also know it’s easy to check the prayer box to say you’ll pray, and then forget. (Unless that’s just me?)

Make your prayer commitment meaningful by asking for regular prayer requests. Maybe daily ones for a trip that’s two weeks or less, weekly for a longer experience. With a little thought, most can come up with such a list prior to departure.

Some good buds recently participated in a huge, multi-day prayer gathering for unreached peoples and sent out this crazy great prayer guide in advance. Check it out. It might serve as an inspiration for you or someone you’re helping to go.

You could also show love by writing your prayers in a text or email or calling them and praying live. What about taking their prayer requests to an ongoing group you are part of?

3. Give them advice.

I know, I know, you’re thinking, “What advice do I have about missions?” Or maybe, on the contrary, you don’t want to break your new year’s resolution to stop telling other people how to live their lives (again!) But you probably do have some words of wisdom. And can I tell you something? If you deliver them right, they will even bless your friend.

Your advice may be as simple as, “Read this article, Nine Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Mission Trip. You’ll benefit.”

You can also think for a moment of a key way God challenged you during a short-term trip and share that, or even a way the Lord has spoken to you in a sermon or your devotions recently.

You may want to provide a word of warning or counsel. You know: don’t fall in love with your team leader or local translator. Do consult with your team leader before going off with a friend or starting a multi-day fast. Give ongoing attention to how God is using your experience to transform you. Drink more water if your pee gets dark and smelly.

4. Give them a shout.

Over the course of my career I’ve gone from frantically throwing tokens in a Turkish pay phone for a once-a-summer, 90-second call, to now enjoying leisurely, multi-participant video chats at will! Technology allows for—to the point of almost demanding—instant global contact. This does cause some problems (“Stop chatting with your girlfriend back home and pay attention to this local person we flew across the ocean to hang out with!!”)

While keeping that in mind, consider reaching out and communicating with the person you helped send. A ping or two over the course of a week-long trip or weekly for a summer-length project wouldn’t be intrusive but could be super encouraging.

Simply let them know you’re thinking of them. Use the communique to tell them how you’re praying. Pat them on their virtual back and say, “You’re doing good, kid!”

5. Give them follow up.

Finally, one of the best ways you can show love is to follow up with the short-termer after they get back. I’m thinking a coffee-centric event in which two things happen:

  • You listen and ask good follow-up questions. I’ve never met a returned short-term goofball who said, “Ugh, if one more person buys me coffee and lets me tell them about the trip, I’ll scream!!” One of the best ways to love someone is to listen to their stories.
  • You show up packing some good questions. I assume most sending organizations provide their participants some sort of debrief. On the off chance they don’t, be ready. And even if they do, doubling down on this never hurt anyone.

Here are four easy-to-remember, worthwhile-to-answer, debrief questions:

  1. How did you win?
  2. How did you lose?
  3. What did God teach you?
  4. How does this trip fit into the rest of your life?

Ask those questions and the follow-up ones that emerge from their answers and your short-term bud will feel the love.

Conclusion

Ministry people debate the value of short-term missions ad nauseam. You could probably argue both sides of the debate intelligently. But maybe, like me, you feel it’s often a waste of time. The goofballs are going to go! And some of them are not even goofballs. God will delight to use them. And they’re going to ask us to help them succeed.

This summer, let’s go above and beyond. Perhaps we’ll be honored to play a small part in a mighty kingdom harvest.

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