Former director of Mobilization, Converge International Ministries
Point Magazine // Fall 2017
When I was 26, thanks to my parents’ generosity from an inheritance they received from Grandma, I collected the first stamp in my new U.S. passport.
I received the stamp in Tel Aviv, on my way to the land of the Bible, where I also visited my family. My dad, a pastor, was studying in Israel’s Jerusalem/Bethlehem area. “Life-changing” doesn’t come close to characterizing that spiritually awakening trip for me. I waded in the Jordan River, experienced firsthand the glorious triumph of the empty Garden Tomb and scrunched my 6-foot-4-inch body through the grotto’s tight passageway into the spot in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, said to be where Jesus was born.
Back home in Minneapolis, seven months later, I was tracked down in the church hallway by my pastor’s wife, blurting out, “Roger, come with us to Haiti this winter!” Immediately, my then non-missionary brain informed my kingdom-building heart, “Good! Another stamp in my passport!”
Even though I wound up going as a short-term missionary for the wrong reason, God used the wretched, Voodoo-entrenched conditions so prevalent throughout much of Haiti to warm my selfish heart. I began to care about the spiritual and physical needs of the entire world that God so loves.
Now more than 120 passport stamps later (acquired through my short-term missions trips) I remain convinced Jesus is God’s answer to every broken relationship, every need, every pathetic human condition around the globe. Yet much of the world remains in utter isolation from this good news:
Of the nearly 400 million Buddhists, 85 percent don’t know a single Christian person.
Of the 1 billion Hindus, 86 percent don’t know any Christians whatsoever.
And of the Muslim bloc, numbering close to 1.4 billion people, 86 percent don’t personally know a single Christian. Not even one.
How can our God-loved “neighbors” ever hope to understand the saving claims of Christ? Yes, radio and television reach much of the earth, often helping non-Christians come to faith in Christ. And our internet-wired tech world provides other opportunities to learn about Jesus. But usually life’s important decisions happen only in personal, face-to-face encounters. (If you’re married, did you seal the deal with a text message, or did you ask your beloved face-to-face?) Our loving Triune God, perfectly entwined as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is all about personal, face-to-face relationship. God also is about our personal, face-to-face, loving, healthy, reconciled, restored relationships — with him and with one another. Jesus affirms this personal connection as loving God with all our heart, soul and mind and our neighbor as ourselves (cf. Matt. 22:36-40, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27, John 13:34-35).
Our neighbors around the world need to hear about Jesus. But they won’t hear within the context of that all-important personal, face-to-face relationship without your church sending missionaries (Rom. 10:14). And these missionaries are willing to slog it out to learn the language and culture and to love — unconditionally — their new neighbors you’ve sent them to serve.
Are you a missionary-in-the-making — someone who has done a short-term missions trip and sensed God’s call to return longer-term?
Are you one of the estimated 2 to 4 percent “average” church members who have the spiritual gift-mix and godly call to become a longer-term missionary?
Are you waiting for your pastor to ask to pray with you about your becoming a longer-term missionary? (Pastors, your folks are waiting for just this.)
Nonnegotiable missionary qualities
The first nonnegotiable quality of a missionary is loving God (again, this #1 quality is how Jesus summed up the entire Old Testament). Missionaries personally experience God’s love and, although never perfecting their journey this side of heaven, remain on a lifelong pursuit of loving God with all their heart, soul, strength and mind.
Piggybacked onto this first quality of loving God is an affirmation of one’s call to missionary service. Our very first missionaries, Barnabas and Saul, were affirmed by the leaders of the early church and by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:1-3). Pastors, when you identify those 2 to 4 percent of your flock, affirm them for missionary service personally and, after Holy Spirit-led prayer and counsel with your elders, affirm them publicly.
Converge International Ministries can help in your affirmation process. Three times each year we conduct a Missionary Assessment Center (MAC) in Orlando, Florida. Each MAC helps candidates affirm their call to missions and identify important steps necessary to grind out their call successfully — as healthy, effective missionaries — for the long haul.
Converge can help you get that next stamp in your passport. We’ll help make sure it’s the right stamp to the right country for the right reason with the right people group still waiting to hear about Jesus.
Roger Peterson, Former director of Mobilization, Converge International Ministries
Roger Peterson is a professional recording artist and former Converge International Ministries director of Mobilization.