By / Oct 19

The world is many things. It is both stunningly beautiful and unquestionably broken. It is vast and expansive, and surprisingly small. And it is loud. Very, very loud. The noise that we hear so often now, though, is not the sound of thunder or rushing waterfalls, but rather what G.K. Chesterton described in his book Orthodoxy as the bustle of “human repose.” 

That contradictory phrase — bustle of human repose — has become even more true in our own day than it was in Chesterton’s. A sort of societal idleness, masked as activity, has reached its widespread peak in our era of social media. And the noise is almost unbearable. 

Boredom will not be silent

As a self-acknowledged grouch when it comes to noise, I should start by stating something obvious: noise, in and of itself, is not inherently negative. In fact, some of the most moving and formative experiences of life involve a high decibel count, like a good belly-laugh with friends or the collective voice of a congregation singing to and about the Triune God. And we can be sure that these sorts of joyful noises will come with us when heaven and its King descend and this age gives way to the age to come. 

But this is not the noise that Chesterton had in mind when he wrote Orthodoxy, nor is it the clamor that fills our minds when we scroll through social media. 

Despite all the good that we’ve convinced ourselves we’re doing on our respective social media platforms, we are without question contributing to a societal noise that is not healthy by filling every idle moment with a post or tweet, or simply scrolling our timelines. Part of it could be, as Blaise Pascal wrote, that “all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

But, in this case, I suspect it is more so the fruit of boredom or, to use Chesterton’s word, repose masked as activity. And what’s more, this deafening noise, this way of idling away our days through the glow of a screen, has deadened our capacity to embrace the blessed monotony of real life. 

The cure for boredom

Has there ever been a time in history in which more hours of our day were wasted? On bathroom breaks, between meetings, on the clock, and across the table from those dearest to us, we’re haunted by a perpetual boredom fed by the very thing with which we seek to cure it. The constant buzz of social media — it’s noise and sensationalism — draws us in, rescuing us from and reminding us of our life’s mundanity all at the same time. It is a self-perpetuating black hole of boredom. 

But there is a cure. And for Christians, it’s spelled out for us in the black-and-white text (or red letters, depending on your Bible) of the scriptures. The cure for boredom is obedience to the commands of God; particularly in obedience to the cultural mandate and the Great Commission. 

1. Cultural mandate

In the opening book of the Old Testament, not long after God had formed Adam “out of the dust from the ground,” Moses wrote, “The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it” (Gen. 2:15). This text is part of what has historically been referred to as the “cultural mandate” (Gen. 1).

The cultural mandate, to summarize very briefly, is at the very least the commission that God gave to Adam, and to us, “to work and watch over” the areas where he has placed us. For Adam and Eve, this was the garden in Eden. For us, it is our homes and our places of business, and wherever else God has placed us. As God’s likeness, we have all been given a task to attend to. 

On this topic, I can’t help but think of Samuel Hamilton, one of the prominent characters in John Steinbeck’s novel, East of Eden. When introducing Samuel, an able and tireless farmer, the narrator writes, “He was a busy man. He had no time for nostalgia.” Samuel Hamilton was a busy man; he had no time for Chesterton’s “bustle of human repose.”

Boredom is not an unhealthy thing. It’s what we do with our boredom that reveals whether we are healthy.

So, before we allow boredom to drive us online to the noise of social media and to the neglect of our God-given responsibilities, maybe we, like Samuel Hamilton, should go do the dishes. Or instead of mindlessly scrolling through our feeds to pass the time, maybe we should faithfully serve the work our employer has hired us to do. Maybe we should retire from the mindless bustle that takes up so many hours of our day and instead take up the activity of faithfully carrying out the cultural mandate, wherever God has placed us. 

The jungle of weeds overtaking my home’s flower beds bears witness to my own neglect. What areas of responsibility have you neglected in exchange for idle time on social media?

2. Great Commission

On top of the cultural mandate lies the commission given by Jesus, to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe” the commands that he gave to all his disciples (Matt. 28:18-20). As if working and keeping the places where God has put us wasn’t enough to stave off boredom, here is another task: go and deliver the greatest news the world has ever known to everyone you encounter.

Moreover, though we are certainly messengers of good news, by God’s own decree, we are much more than that. We are “ministers of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18), “ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), and, by virtue of our union with Christ through his Spirit, we are those who’ve entered the “strong man’s” (Satan) house and begun to “plunder his goods” (Matt. 12:29). When we carry out the Great Commission, sharing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and when our hearers set their allegiance on Jesus in response, we get to witness the plundering of Satan’s house. 

One of the phrases that my pastor repeats often is “if you’re a Christian who’s bored, you’re doing it wrong.” So, if we find ourselves bored, and prone to medicate our boredom with idle scrolling, let us commit ourselves afresh to the mission of God.

Make friends with boredom

Boredom is not an unhealthy thing. It’s what we do with our boredom that reveals whether we are healthy. 

Does our boredom send us to the digital ether in search of stimulation? Does it compel us to embrace the noise of social media because we’re afraid of the quiet? Has our boredom given way to idleness, a sort of addiction to the mind-numbing habit of seeking entertainment as we scroll endlessly down? 

In our day, boredom comes easily. We have no lack of entertainment, but we nevertheless live in a boredom epidemic. And if we continue to feed our boredom with paltry substitutes like the never-ceasing noise of social media, we will find ourselves in a perpetual state of unhealth. But if we make friends with our boredom, if we respond to its message by giving ourselves to the mandate and mission of God, we will find that boredom is our ally, not something to be stuffed down with the idle noise of our social platforms. 

If you’ve grown weary of feeding your boredom with the noisy bustle pouring out of your social feeds, hear the clarion call of God through your boredom: “Go and make disciples.” 

By / Feb 26

In this episode, Josh, Brent, and Lindsay discuss the SBC’s executive committee meetings, J.D. Greear’s message, COVID-19 milestones, the approval of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, sounds from Mars, and the next generation of USPS mail trucks. Lindsay gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including Josh Wester with “The Equality Act: A dangerous law with a clever name,” Michael McAfee with “Celebrating the American Sign Language Bible translation: And praying for more laborers to translate the Scripture,” and Joe Carter with “5 facts about Fred Luter.” Also in this episode, the hosts are joined by Christine Hoover for a conversation about life and ministry. 

About Christine

Christine Hoover is a pastor’s wife, mom of three boys, host of the “By Faith” podcast, and author of several books. Her latest offering is With All Your Heart: Living Joyfully Through Allegiance to King Jesus. Previous books include Messy Beautiful Friendship and Searching for Spring. Originally from Texas, she and her family live in Charlottesville, Virginia, where they planted a church in 2008. Find more about Christine on her website https://www.christinehoover.net/. You can connect with her on Twitter @christinehoover.

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. Greear decries division and repudiates pharisaical spirit in SBC
  2. Greear, Floyd stare down division; call for focus on Great Commission
  3. SBC EC disfellowshipped four churches
  4. ERLC-focused task force releases report
  5. SBC Executive Committee creates ERLC study task force
  6. 500,000 lives lost ot COVID-19
  7. FDA analysis finds Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine is safe and effective
  8. Pfizer-BioNTech Shot Stops Covid Spread, Israeli Study Shows
  9. Not the mark of the beast: Evangelicals should fight conspiracy theories and welcome the vaccines
  10. Mars rover beams back first ever sounds from Mars
  11. Tiger Woods crash: What we know
  12. USPS unveils next-generation mail truck

Lunchroom

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By / Feb 8

When my husband and I set off with our children on an adventure to move overseas, we knew they would make an adjustment to a new culture, make new friends, learn a new language, and call another place on the globe their home. All of this was to be expected. Even with the challenges, we felt ready to accept these cultural adaptations.

What I didn’t know was that cultural adaptation would mean more than just accepting what was around them. It also meant transforming them too. Hence, the cross-cultural name, third-culture kid (or TCK for short). The name signifies the blending of a home culture with a host culture, and how kids who blend two “homes” uniquely identify with the world around them. Missionary kids, military kids, and any child whose parents have relocated across the globe can be TCKs. Being a TCK is a gift that I am thankful my children have received.  

But what does the reality of TCKs mean for family members, friends, and church communities back home who send families across continents and want to care for them even at a distance? How will churches that send missionaries receive TCKs back when they come for visits, or if they make a more permanent move back to their home country? 

As the child has adjusted and changed to adapt to a new culture, do those who care for them need to adjust and change as well? The answer is yes, and quite honestly, this experience is not unlike all relationships where we must continually adapt, adjust, and be diligent students, observers, and respecters of one another. 

To talk about good examples of care, I’ve interviewed my daughter and son, Megan and Parker. I’ll let them speak their own wisdom and personal experience

What are some ways that you felt cared for as a TCK? 

Parker: At a younger age, I would say that I remember feeling loved through gifts. Though we don’t want to make material objects the things that bring us the greatest happiness, it was meaningful and tangible that someone on the other end of the ocean cared enough to send you money or that new toy. 

As I grew older in Germany, I was able to connect and build relationships with kids and adults in our home churches. I began to see the continual and transformative work of the gospel in the world. I saw the world as a mission field, and, as I learned about God’s grace, it inspired me to live out my identity in Christ with open arms for those in need around us. The act of giving one church can do for a TCK is one of the things that inspires young missionaries to go outside of their doors and give to the nations.

Megan: Like Parker said, I felt cared for by the gifts churches would bring or send to us, especially at the beginning. Culture shock was still setting in, and I remember not having the words to express what I was feeling or even what I was missing. When churches sent boxes of macaroni and cheese or peanut butter cups, it struck a deeper chord. Those items represented something bigger that I was missing, and they gave me a sense of comfort and grounding in a time when I had lost my usual bearings. As I got older, I remember feeling cared for in the relationships I found within the church. Upon each return we were welcomed with warmth and generosity. I made supportive, lasting friendships with peers and mentors within the church. Relationships like these gave me a deep sense of care. 

Susan: One of the most meaningful acts of care my children received was before we even made it overseas. We had planned to arrive in October 2001, but the events of September 11 delayed all international visas. We had already sold our house, car, and belongings, and all we had were our suitcases—with nowhere to land while we waited.  Our home church provided us a house, a car, and our children a place in their school during the wait. When we arrived at the home provided for us, there were backpacks, school supplies, lunch boxes, a stocked fridge, and sweet notes to our family waiting for us. They went above and beyond with these provisions, and it had a huge impact on our family—giving us a sense of security and belonging in the midst of an uncertain time. The church continued to care for us through our years overseas in ways that spoke of availability, understanding, and compassion. It was just never a question that they were there for us.

Were there some ways you were cared for that might not have been as helpful?

Parker: One thing that caregivers want to avoid is making assumptions. When I think of difficult care situations, I think of things that were done or said that made me feel misunderstood. For example, someone might say, “Isn’t it great to be home!” or “Aren’t you lucky to be able to live in such an amazing place!” Those statements assume the TCKs feelings based upon the caregiver’s own perceptions of their life. The TCK might instead be thinking, “You don’t live away from your friends and family, so you don’t understand,” or “You don’t know what it’s like to feel so different.” In reality, everyone does feel this way sometimes. So, it’s important to think about times you’ve felt different and consider your words, or choose to ask good questions about someone’s perspective, instead of speaking your own view of their life over them. Asking thoughtful questions is a way of providing care and understanding.

Megan: I remember feeling pressured at times. Sometimes this looked like a church wanting me to share experiences from “the field” in front of my youth group or at a Bible study, and that always made me feel uncomfortable. I believe there was an intention to show support by listening, but it always made me feel singled out and pressured to share impressive stories that I simply didn’t have. The language used during these interactions also perpetuated my sense of confusion between “home country” and “the field.” These interactions were difficult for me in processing “home” and “other,” as there were clear lines being drawn from the church’s perspective, but I did not follow those same boundaries. 

Susan: Families returning to their home culture are thankful to connect with their sending church or churches to thank them for support, share updates on their ministry endeavors, and to be in community with them. This provides a much needed rest, spiritual salve for the weary souls, and encouragement. It’s a lifeline they provide. It is natural for the church to want to celebrate this family in special ways and to give them an opportunity to share their stories in various settings. In doing so, we have a tendency to bring children into these moments of sharing in front of groups, whether formally asking them to speak during worship or at a youth event or conference, or informally in a small group setting or with friends.  

This pressure to speak about one’s life can be a bit overwhelming for a TCK. It can cause some isolation if they just want to blend in as they adapt to being back in their home culture. It may create anxiety if they haven’t been in such a setting before, or at least in a long time. The social norms of American culture may be very different from their host culture—the noise level, social distance, ways of conflict resolution, and humor. It is important to be sensitive to the child’s comfort level when finding ways to celebrate them. Listen to them, and ask what they might enjoy doing as they integrate into this new-to-them and new-again social setting.  

Looking back, do you have ideas or advice to share with churches, family and friends as they care for their TCKs?  

Parker: Focus on community. Find a way to get TCKs together with other TCKs, whether it be through an annual conference, a weekend getaway, or through a virtual connection. TCKs need to understand that someone in another country is feeling the same way they are. It’s one of the only sources of empathy that makes sense to a kid—that is a true connection. Invest and devote thought, planning, money, and time to getting TCKs together. 

Megan:  I agree with Parker, connection was so important. I mentioned earlier the tension I felt when there was pressure or a sense that I needed to perform to gain connection. What was more helpful was the church’s ability to foster natural spaces for connection. Going out for ice cream felt much more supportive to me than being placed in front of the same group of kids and being asked questions about my experience as a TCK. I imagine there are many creative ways to do this now virtually that didn’t exist when I was younger. I also think it’s important to be cognizant of the “developmental stage” of the TCK—not in regard to their actual age, but their development in understanding these particular intersections of identity. For example, you might provide support to a 15-year-old who has just moved within the past year in a very different way than to a 7-year-old who was born overseas. Their needs are going to be vastly different, so I would warn against lumping all TCK care together. 

Susan: Acceptance of where a person is in their journey encourages connection even when we are quite different from one another. The posture of listening, the invitation to join, the patience when joining, is hard. The presence of just being together with no explanations needed, and the offering of space as they adjust are all acts of care toward TCKs and their parents too. 

Thank you, Megan and Parker, for being a voice for TCKs as you draw from your own experiences and give insight into what caring for TCKs can look like. My family is grateful for the care we have received in many and varied ways from those who sent us, loved us, and cared for us as we made our life transitions cross-culturally. It’s amazing to me how these 20 years later, I can look back and mark the moments where someone in our home culture reached out to us in a way that touched our hearts and welcomed us in. From big events of bringing groups to serve alongside us overseas to small, simple moments of bringing my child a school jersey so they could wear it to the school sports event like their peers—these are the moments, big and small, that accumulate over the years and across the miles to make us feel connected. Care simply says, “You matter.” And that is all that is needed. It makes a world of difference.

By / Dec 4

Growing up in rural western New York, I had never heard of Lottie Moon. It wasn’t until I moved to North Carolina and met the woman who is now my wife that I was introduced to this truly inspiring and innovative missionary. 

Most Southern Baptists can identify Lottie Moon’s name and pair it with both the Christmas season and China, but that’s usually where the conversation ends. So recently, as part of my never-ending quest to teach kids about the importance of missions, I went to work on a Lottie Moon lesson plan. I couldn’t have imagined how much I would learn in the process. In fact, I discovered some fun facts that I think will help you retell her story in a way that will stick in kids’ minds. Let’s start at the beginning.

1. Lottie grew up almost 200 years ago. She was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, on Dec. 12, 1840, as Charlotte Digges Moon. That was 180 years ago. Imagine growing up then. What would it have been like? What was it like being a woman during this time? 

This is where Lottie begins to make her mark. Let’s dive a little deeper. Lottie wasn’t a converted believer until she attended college (Yes, she went to college—a milestone for women at that time.) In fact, Lottie rebelled against Christianity until that time (Does that sound familiar to some of you?). Lottie later went on to be one of the first women in history to receive a master’s degree from Albemarle Female Institute, a sister institution of the University of Virginia. She later served as an army doctor during the Civil War, but she felt a different calling for her life.

2. In 1872, Lottie’s older sister was the first single woman appointed as a Baptist missionary. Edmonia Harris Moon actually went to China before Lottie, but the letters she wrote home about the dire spiritual needs of the Chinese people stirred her little sister’s heart and helped Lottie to make a decision to go. Lottie left behind a fiancé and a life of ease for the call to serve Christ. She then became the one of the first single women appointed by what was then called the Baptist Foreign Mission Board.

3. Lottie trusted in God to provide. Lottie struggled while she was in China. She had a difficult time learning Mandarin Chinese, her sister’s health was failing, there was hostility toward the missionaries in China, and financial resources were thin. Lottie once wrote, “My heart turns longingly to the city homes grimly closed against us, forbidding our entrance, and hating us with a hatred that would vent itself in blood if only they dared.”

In spite of all these trials, Lottie trusted God to give her a way to spread the gospel. She invited her existing relationship network to a Sunday school class. Few would show, but this didn’t deter her. Lottie would also bake tea cookies for children, and eventually the children would take her to their homes. She would then have the opportunity to share the gospel with moms. In this way, Lottie became a “door to door” evangelist.

4. Lottie was an advocate for girls’ education. Lottie Moon established a boarding school for girls. Chinese families at the time placed little value on girls’ education. Lottie was determined to change this. Even though she struggled to support herself financially, Lottie assumed all costs for the pupils at her school. As a result, even less fortunate girls were able to afford her boarding school. Some even escaped prostitution and lives in sex slavery as a result of her ministry. Lottie taught the girls in her school a catechism as well as reading, arithmetic, geography, and music. By 1883, her school was so successful that she was forced to turn away applicants.

5. Lottie became a pioneer missionary to China’s interior. Lottie and her team pioneered evangelism in the difficult and hard-to-each areas of interior China. This new work came with additional challenges. Lottie decided that she needed to look like a local, so she adopted Chinese clothing and customs in order to put locals at ease. In this way, Lottie pioneered missionary methods that are still in use today. 

Learning from Lottie 

So, what can we learn from Lottie? 

First, Lottie helps us see that God doesn’t abandon us even when we rebel against him. We may refuse to surrender our lives to Christ just like Lottie did prior to her conversion, but God is still faithful. God has a plan to save and include in his mission even those whose hearts are far from him. 

Second, Lottie helps us see that we can trust God to provide. Though she had many hardships, God was faithful to provide a way for his mission to go forward—even through baking tea cookies. What obstacles stand in the way of God’s mission in your life? Pray that Christ will show you a way to move forward and minister to a struggling friend or even a struggling nation or people group.

Finally, Lottie modeled what it means to fulfill the Great Commission. Christ has called every Christian to go and make disciples. Like Lottie, we must have a kingdom focus. We should take the risk to share Christ with people who are lost. Anyone at any age can be a disciple maker. We just have to be intentional about moving toward others. Is God calling you today? Surrender to him and listen. He has an exciting plan for you.

By / Dec 3

“It is the worst possible decision you could make for your family,” is the phrase my parents heard from multiple people after sharing that they were taking their three young daughters and moving halfway across the world to become missionaries in another country. But God’s call on their life to “go and make disciples of all nations” had been a cry of both of their hearts since they were young, and they knew it was what they had to do. So what was the result? Was uprooting, leaving everything behind, and entering an unknown culture going to change the outlook of their family? Well, yes, but not in the way the naysayers said. 

A little over 20 years later, I can confidently say that the decision my parents made to follow God’s call on their lives to go to the nations was the best decision they could ever make for our family. It was what molded me into the person I am today. When we lived overseas, I was a preteen—that time of life where you not only begin to remember the things you experience, but also begin to develop your self-identity, worldview, and passions. And that was the case for me. Being raised in a family with a missional mindset and living for a time on the mission field helped me experience a world outside my own, develop a passion for serving others, and motivate me to make the Great Commission my life’s focus.

A world outside my own

As a young child, I had seen pictures, heard stories, and even watched video clips of people in other countries. While those things helped me understand there was a world outside of the one I lived in, I wouldn’t say there was any true recognition of what that meant. Sure, I went to school with people of different ethnicities, but average “suburbia” in the 90s didn’t exactly lend itself to experiencing a culture outside of your own. But the moment I stepped out of the airport in our new home and experienced what this new place looked, sounded, smelled, and felt like, I knew right then and there that this was unlike anything I’d known before.

As a 10-year-old girl, the things I’d seen and read about had now come alive! My senses were heightened, and I took every bit of it in. My eyes saw people who looked different than me. I was the minority now. My ears heard the bustling groans and beeps of this major city, and in order to be heard, I needed to speak loudly. My nose smelled the scent of unknown foods, spices, and herbal medicines. (To this day, when I smell something similar, I can close my eyes and be taken back there.) My body felt the humid air that whipped off of the nearby sea, which was a bit miserable in the summer, but was comfortable in the winter.

The place my family served as missionaries was a hub for people from all over the world, so not only did I experience the culture of the place where we lived, but I also got to experience cultures of other countries. We were invited into people’s homes, ate food from their homeland, and also learned to abide by their customs. 

We served at an international church, and I can remember services where we would have Scripture read in the varying languages that made up our congregation. So, when I would read Scriptures, such as verses in Psalms that talk about people from varying nations coming together before God and praising him, I was witnessing something quite similar, a vision of complete unity in Christ. I realized that the differences were what made each of us unique and special to the Creator who masterfully designed it all.

A passion for serving others

Prior to living overseas, my parents took me along for various mission trips and projects. Although I really don’t have authentic memories of taking part in these events, I know that serving others was something that was instilled in me during those years because it came naturally as I grew. 

As a missionary kid on the field, I had the opportunity to serve others in various ways. One way I was able to serve was through my church. My very first church ministry “role” was given to me by the pastor of our international church. I was the Sunday School attendance taker. I was also able to serve through the girls mission group my mom started. While my mom taught the young girls, I led my peers. Eventually, our girls group was able to put hands and feet to our learning as we served at a welcome event to immigrants and passed out “blessing bags” that we packed from donations given by our fellow missionaries and church members. 

A little over 20 years later, I can confidently say that the decision my parents made to follow God’s call on their lives to go to the nations was the best decision they could ever make for our family. It was what molded me into the person I am today.

So when I would read about how Jesus encouraged his followers to serve others and that when we did so, we were actually serving him (Matt. 25:35-40), I knew what it meant because I was living it. When walking the streets, we would pass beggars and at times provide them sustenance. When a friend’s unbelieving relative was in the hospital, we would go visit them. And when immigrants arrived as strangers into our city, we welcomed them. 

I knew I was an ambassador for Jesus; in serving others, I reflected him. From then on, I never looked at serving others as something that was a requirement or that I had to do because my family was doing it. Rather, I saw and continue to see it as a blessing and an honor that I get to represent Jesus by serving others and thereby serve him.

A Great Commission focus

The spiritual, global, and missional awareness I experienced during these pivotal years of my life most definitely provided me with a Great Commission focus, one that increased when I returned to the States. When I returned, I was shocked to discover there were people who honestly did not care about what I had done and experienced. They made fun of people from other cultures; they only cared about serving themselves; and church seemed to be the place you went to fellowship, not to listen to God’s Word and understand terms like “the Great Commission.” I now know that this mindset is not really that unusual for the typical American teenager, but at the time, it was a devastating realization that took time to come to terms with.

Around the age of 16, I knew I had to dare to be different from my peers and help others grasp what living out the Great Commission really meant. As a teenager who didn’t really understand her own peers and vice versa, how would I go about doing that? By influencing the next generation. What began as a teenager being trained in how to teach children in children’s church, eventually developed into a young woman who was leading children’s missions education in her church and also throughout her state.

God has given me many amazing opportunities to influence the next generation in what it means to have a Great Commission focus. Today, there are children I taught who are now in college majoring in a career that they can use on the mission field. Once, I taught a child who decided to learn another language because she was certain God would send her to a country where they spoke that language. And there are multiple stories of children who would come back and share with me that they told their friends and classmates about Jesus. 

God has even given me the opportunity to use my Great Commission-focused heart as a career path. I am able to serve Southern Baptists every day through my job. I do not say these things to boast in myself at all. I say these things to boast in Christ alone. He gave me the experience of living out the Great Commission, placed that focus in my heart, and used me as his vessel to encourage the same focus in the hearts of others. 

Conclusion

Was moving our family halfway across the world to become missionaries the worst possible thing my parents did for our family? Not even close. It was quite the opposite. My life completely changed when I stepped off that airplane. And I wouldn’t fully understand the effect of it until many years later when I realized I am who I am today because my parents took Proverbs 22:6 to heart: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” 

In being raised with a missions mindset, some of which was experienced on the mission field, I grew up to realize that there is a world that is desperate to hear and know about the Savior who came to save them and that it’s our job as his followers to go, make disciples, teach, and baptize them (Matt. 28:19). 

And the thing is, anyone can do this same thing for themselves or their family. Decide today to live and raise your family with a missional mindset and see the world outside of your home as a mission field. For some, your mission field might be your community. Get to know and be kind to your friends and neighbors from other countries and cultures. For others, a big city may be where God is calling you to serve. The crowds and noises may be crazy, but think about the unique ways you can serve people from all walks of life. For others, God may be prompting you to live in another country halfway across the world, making disciples in a land you have never heard of before. Will it be hard? Will people question you? Will life change? Yes. But when you live and raise your family with a missions mindset, the Lord will undoubtedly change you and those you minister to for his glory. 

We encourage you to consider giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. You can help send even more Southern Baptists to the ends of the earth by making a year-end donation to the International Mission Board

By / Dec 2

As a young woman, I felt the call to serve God overseas in a Muslim country. Like many students in a thriving college ministry in the early 2000s, the call to take the gospel to the ends of the earth was heard often and taken seriously. I remember being faced, for the first time, with the reality that God did not exist to bless me and make my life better, but that he blessed me so that his name would be glorified among the nations. 

I signed up to spend six weeks in a Central Asian country where my team and I would teach English at universities and build relationships with students outside of class. Our hopes were that God would allow us to share the gospel with them. Prior to leaving on this trip, I was actually quite terrified. I felt anything but courageous. I was leaving the comfort and safety of my Midwest existence and heading to a country whose religion caused fear in the hearts of many post-9/11 Americans. However, I was not scared of being in a Muslim country or being with Muslims; I was scared of God. 

Learning to rest in the gospel 

During my college years and for several years afterward, I had a poor understanding of the gospel. I thought I needed Jesus to get to the cross, but after I received salvation, it was up to me to be good and perfect and holy. This meant that I pursued the “most holy” thing I could do, which was going overseas for the sake of the gospel. And when I was there and struggling with a lack of desire to do what I’d been sent to do, I became fearful of what God thought of me. Surely, he would not love me unless I committed right then and there to spend the rest of my life living in the Middle East. 

Later on in life, my husband, 8-month-old daughter, and I headed overseas again. This time we were spending two years with the IMB working with a Muslim people group in Europe. I was less fearful this time, but I still held onto a low-level fear that God was somehow inexplicably disappointed in me each day. It wasn’t until I read a parenting book on grace that I finally understood that I was the heathen, not just those I was going to share the gospel with. Once I realized that I was in need of grace and understood that God had already freely given me grace for my sins, I was set free from the fear that had caused me to keep God at arm’s length. 

Today, we are living in time that causes a lot of fear for many Christians. I think many of us have either assumed or been taught, albeit subconsciously, that it’s up to us to be holy and prove our righteousness before men and God. Scripture even tells us to be holy as God is holy. But if we look at the whole Bible, we see how much emphasis is placed on God’s saving work on our behalf. 

Responding to the fears of our day

As we near the end of 2020, you may be feeling that the world has completely turned upside down. You could be fearful of a pandemic or a new government in the United States. You may be worried about job loss and the economic future of our country. Our subconscious Christian culture may have told us that these things should cause us to fight for our rights. But, I would like to suggest a different way to react to these things that, for many, are truly scary. 

As we look to increased COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, while also looking down the barrel of an uncertain political future and economic disruptions, the greatest thing we can do is embrace our fear and take it to God.

When I look back on my time overseas, I remember how scary it felt to share the gospel with a post-modern European who believed that all truth was relative and anyone who believes in a Middle Eastern carpenter who walked the Earth 2000 years ago is crazy. The largest mosque in Europe was just a few blocks from our apartment, and every Friday I saw droves of North Africans fill the neighboring streets so they could attend Friday prayers. At times, the spiritual lostness was so overwhelming I felt paralyzed to even know what to say.

I can even look to my life here in the states and see when fear has crept into my heart. I pray for my neighbors and the friends of my children. But what if God gives me an opportunity to really talk about my faith? Will I freeze up in fear, or will I trust that God can give me words to say?

What I’ve learned most about fear and courage in my 37 years of life is best defined by my friend Lori McDaniel who says there are four ways to deal with fear: 

  1. Pretend I have none: denial
  2. Remain in it: paralyzed
  3. Hand letter it and post on social media: facade
  4. Absorb God’s Word and move forward: trust 

As we look to increased COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, while also looking down the barrel of an uncertain political future and economic disruptions, the greatest thing we can do is embrace our fear and take it to God. Tell God what you are fearful about, not social media. Instead of getting angry and attacking someone on the other aisle of your beliefs, take your anger and frustration to God. He wants to hear what you have to say, and he wants to show you in his Word how he will take care of you. God can and will give us all the courage to be salt and light in this broken world. No matter what happens in the remainder of 2020, 2021, and the rest of our lives, we can be sure that God is on his throne, completely in control of everything happening. Be strong and courageous in the truth that God is God and you are not. 

Russell Moore’s latest book, “Courage to Stand,” is about how courage means embracing your fears. Check out his book here

We encourage you to consider giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. You can help send even more Southern Baptists to the ends of the earth by making a year-end donation to the International Mission Board

By / Sep 15

During pre-COVID-19 times, raising funds to go on international mission trips has been popular in America’s culture of Christianity, and rightfully so. But there are mission fields that are often neglected within our own country, in neighborhoods that surround us. This isn’t news to many. But one of those types of fields may be surprising: low-income communities. I say this because one thing that I have noticed as an African American male who has lived in different types of neighborhoods is the alarming number of differences in the church experience for low-income communities as compared to suburban areas. 

The struggles in low-income neighborhoods

Various factors, including racism, have led to the fact that many of these low-income communities are made up mainly of people of color. And these poverty-stricken communities often have a culture that includes generational cycles of violence, physical/sexual abuse, broken families, and less educational opportunities and recreational resources. Millions of children are born into these communities, and for them to attain certain forms of success in life they will be forced to overcome tremendous adversity But this reality has additional implications as well. Ultimately, this means that many people of color in our country have to navigate more complicated stumbling blocks in order to come to know Christ.

While salvation works the same for everyone—we repent of our sins and trust in Jesus—opportunities to hear the gospel or grow in faith aren’t the same everywhere. For example, working at churches in low-income neighborhoods doesn’t normally come with a large paycheck, or any paycheck at all. Another example is that these communities are often made up of older churches without large youth groups, or budgets for student ministry. And for these and other reasons, many children in these areas never establish a strong connection with a church and are therefore unlikely to attend church after entering adulthood. 

This is not to say that such neighborhoods are neglected entirely. There are many ministries and nonprofit organizations that come to mind that do a great job of bringing the gospel to and meeting the needs of those in these communities. But even so, why isn’t it more common  for us as the body of Christ to serve in such areas? Why does it seem that so many churches overlook the opportunities, present in their own communities, to minister to those around them? 

We don’t have to wait for an international missions trip to disciple or minister to people who don’t look like us. As believers, we should be intentional about seeking people of all nations and backgrounds. If we truly want our churches to reflect the church in heaven, we must seek diversity in our discipleship, not just in color, but in the many things within the make-up of human beings that cause us to be diverse.

The Great Commission calls us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). This is a command to take the gospel to all people. We don’t have to wait for an international missions trip to disciple or minister to people who don’t look like us. As believers, we should be intentional about seeking people of all nations and backgrounds. If we truly want our churches to reflect the church in heaven, we must seek diversity in our discipleship, not just in color, but in the many things within the make-up of human beings that cause us to be diverse.

The gospel opportunity gap 

I firmly believe there is a large opportunity gap when it comes to reaching low-income communities with the gospel, and this particularly affects many people of color in our country. I call this the gospel opportunity gap. Jesus is able to save anyone, anywhere, but we should not let the location where a person is  born determine their ability to receive the gospel. Right now there are areas (and people) in front of us that are in need of our attention.

More affluent churches or those represented by majority-culture shouldn’t assume they can “solve the problems” of those in low-income communities. But they can minister in these communities by sharing the gospel and meeting needs, especially by partnering with those already doing ministry in these locations. Instead of deflecting, ignoring, or simply being afraid, we must find a way to be the church in these areas and to support church-based ministries in the communities. The struggles churches experience in low-income communities versus middle-to-high-income ones include weaker discipleship models, fewer resources, and fledgling finances—to name a few. 

Yes, the gospel opportunity gap is strong in many places outside of our country. But it also exists in places that could be within a 30-60 mile radius of where you live. Christians, let’s start figuring what we can begin doing to adequately serve these areas. It may require extra sacrifices, it may cause us to go out of our way to add a bus route, it may inspire us to create a new church plant, it may be something that never benefits our churches financially, or it may simply look like committed discipleship. But it is important to see these efforts as investments into communities that are in desperate need of the life-altering presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

By / Nov 20

Every day, the media trumpets unsettling news about global instability, terrorism, immigration debates, and ethnic tension.  Add to this the natural, fallen tendency to distrust people who are different from ourselves, and it can seem like a very bad time to talk about reaching out to people from other cultures.  

But I think it’s just the opposite.  

This is a great time for Christians to confound the world and proactively reach out with the gospel to the strangers in our midst. Whatever we may think about immigration and refugee policies, I hope we can all agree that everyone made in God’s image is worthy of hearing the message of hope in the gospel.  And a friendly word may be more precious than ever to our foreign neighbors today.

Many of us don’t have to board international flights to reach people from other religions and cultures. We just need to open our eyes, look around, and engage the nations in our own cities and towns. Strangely, gospel work right here at home can seem more daunting than a two-week trip around the globe. Many people don’t know where to start, where to find unreached populations, or how to engage them with the gospel. But if we are spending good effort to see the gospel taken to places distant from us, it makes sense to notice the people that God has brought to our own doorsteps. Here are some ways we can do just that:

Strangely, gospel work right here at home can seem more daunting than a two-week trip around the globe.

1. Research. A first step is to find out who from other cultures and ethnic groups live in your area. This is as simple as opening your eyes as you drive around different parts of your city. Are there a lot of “Halal” food markets in a part of town near you? Chances are you have Muslims neighbors. Visiting ethnic grocery stores can be an especially good way to learn about and connect with specific ethnic or religious communities. These markets often have bulletin boards with information about events, festivals, and community needs that might provide opportunities to find out more and build relationships. Of course, just doing some straightforward online demographic research about your community can be easy and useful too.

2. Take initiative. Whatever you discover about your community, it will generally take initiative and encouragement to get your congregation engaged. In my local church, we concluded that the main population of internationals in our vicinity was students. So we began to pray occasionally in our public prayer meetings that God would allow us to reach international students with the gospel.

Reliance on God in prayer, however, is not the enemy of human initiative. One of our elders took initiative too. He sat down with a fellow church member who had himself been converted as an international student from Singapore while in London. This young man began hosting a Bible study for international students to model and encourage this outreach. Over time, it developed into English-language classes on two local university campuses and a network of church members meeting one-on-one with students interested in studying the Bible in English. Ultimately, more than fifty church members were meeting each week to explore the Bible with students from countries where evangelism is severely restricted.

3. Try different things. What might that look like in your own congregation? It could mean hosting English classes at your church, or members joining local adult soccer clubs dominated by internationals. It might mean connecting with efforts to resettle refugees or volunteering to meet newly arriving international students at the airport. Each of these can be a great entry point. But the best way to reach out to internationals may simply be your friendliness and openness when you bump into them in shops, on the street, or in your neighborhood.

4. Talk to people. One member of our church met a Muslim woman who’d begun working in the shop where she had her hair styled. During their first meeting, the Christian woman mentioned she was getting her hair done for a friend’s wedding. Then she asked the Muslim woman—clearly new to our country—if she had ever been to a Christian wedding. She had not. So right then and there this Christian invited the woman to join her for the wedding at our church that weekend. The woman came, she heard the gospel, and a new friendship was born. It can be as easy as that.

5. Practice international hospitality. Most visitors and recent immigrants are naturally eager to meet locals and understand the local culture. Sadly, it’s often reported that 80 percent of international students never see the inside of an American home during their stay. Long-term immigrants seem to fare only a little better. This is a great opportunity for Christians to exercise hospitality. Holidays are especially good times to do this. Nearly every major holiday, our family has at least one or two international students join us for a meal. In the process, we are able to share with them our supreme thanks for the grace God has extended to us in Christ, as well as expose them to some pretty amusing food and cultural traditions.

6. Prepare to be patient. However you go about pursuing relationships with internationals, you should recognize some of the challenges involved. For starters, the time expectations of internationals can sometimes take Americans by surprise. Other cultures often have much greater time expectations for friendships. You need to be prepared and willing to educate your international friends about your culture by kindly setting boundaries that are appropriate for you and your family.

You’ll also need a great deal of patience for long-term investment in relationships. Often a lot of underbrush needs to be cleared away before the gospel begins to take root. North American culture is far from Christian, but it does seem that many North Americans have some passing affinity for the gospel, whether through parents, relatives, or friends. And there is at least some cultural fluency with gospel ideas, even if twisted.

But for many of our friends from other cultures, there is none of that. They may have never known a Christian before and have no affinity for the Bible or the gospel. Persons from Muslim or some Hindu communities may have been taught to hate Christians and the Bible. Or your international friends may have come from a radically secular culture, as in much of China, where theistic belief is equated with mental deficiency. God can and will do whatever he pleases, but in the normal course of things, it usually takes a good bit of time and patience to work through the questions that these cultural hurdles create. But the fruit is always worth whatever effort it takes.

*This article is adapted from Andy’s book, "Missions: How the Local Church Goes Global"

By / Jun 6

We’ve reached a tipping point regarding family in our culture. Our society is ravaged by destroyed marriages and dysfunctional families. At the ERLC National Conference, Dennis Rainey said this is an incredible opportunity for Christian marriages and families. We hope this message strengthens you to be a faithful witness to those you live among.

Hear Dennis Rainey and other speakers at the fourth annual ERLC National Conference on "Parenting: Christ-Centered Parenting in a Complex World" on August 24-26, 2017 in Nashville, TN.

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By / Nov 22

Trying to navigate our way through this ever changing and challenging culture that we live in can be difficult. At the ERLC National Conference, Robby Gallaty gave a message titled, “Making Disciples who Engage Culture.” He says that a reformation of the 21st century is dependent upon the return of discipleship

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