CONCERN YOUR SCHOOL WITH MISSIONS
BY HAROLD J. WESTING
A study of the history of missions revealed to me that some churches are well-known for the host of missionaries they have sent into vocational Christian service. Other churches were especially productive only during certain periods of their history. It was interesting to notice that during those more productive periods there was a great concentration on the church’s major objective–an involvement in the task of worldwide evangelization. There was more than a token exposure to missionaries as they passed through town; they held a yearly missionary conference, featured a few mission books in the library, and the pastor prayed more consistently for missionaries and promoted missionary literature in the church lobby.
What made the difference?
The churches that sent out many missionaries consistently exposed and involved their students in missions in the total church program. Every aspect of the church life was taken up with the task. It was the ultimate purpose of the Sunday School, the prayer meetings, the fellowship times and, of course, the preaching services. Missions was no secondary thrust. Nor was it a temporary thrust. It was the most important mandate from the Lord.
Total Church Missions
The following list of goals will obviously be reflected in the ministry of a Sunday School that is involved in a total church program.
1. Build a concern for the lost world
The Holy Spirit of God operates within the context of compassion. Where there is no compassion among those in your congregation, it is very unlikely that compassion will be caught by the students in Sunday
School. The Sunday School Superintendent may need to speak up and lead church planning sessions to consider the need of a total church involvement in missions. If this is not successful, his next step might
be to set goals and work toward a total Sunday School emphasis on missions.
The world is reached when people burn in their hearts with a true missionary purpose. This incendiary purpose must be there if you expect to send out missionaries from your congregation. This is first on my
list because I believe it to be the most essential.
2. Expose your students to missionaries.
A survey taken among college students indicated that the most effective influence on collegians to consider the mission field was their relationship with real missionaries in the flesh. When students have a personal opportunity to visit with missionaries in the Sunday School departments, or to entertain them in their homes, they are going to catch the excitement and challenge of being a missionary themselves. Along with their formal presentation to groups, missionaries should be asked to mingle among the students. This is why the idea of having missionaries in homes with a small group of people for a fellowship and sharing time has been such an exciting addition or replacement for the church missionary conference.
3. Broaden students’ missionary outlook.
Students must come to see the vast worldwide missionary program carried on in today’s world. Use world globes and maps with indications of the missionary outreach of your church along with audiovisual
presentations. Keep news from mission lands before them. Provide literature telling about missionary work around the world.
These will continue to expand their horizon of the church’s gigantic task and the magnificent job being done toward worldwide evangelism.
4. Encourage reading about missions.
Missionary biographies continually play a major role in exciting students about prayer for missionaries or becoming involved themselves as missionaries. This is especially true with hero-worshiping juniors. Have a special children’s section in your church library, well supplied with missionary stories. Book reviews and missionary flash card stories should have a primary thrust in departmental planning.
5. Systematically educate on missions.
The following guide might serve as an aid to your administrative staff as they plan to establish a missionary emphasis for your total Sunday School throughout each year.
Primary. Missionary stories and memorization of missionary verses.
Junior. Digest of great missionary biographies.
Junior High. Bible basis of missions.
Senior High. Preliminary steps to missionary service with some involvement.
Young Adult. History of the missions of your denomination, and some opportunities for service.
Adult. Mission boards under which your missionaries serve. (Doctrinal position, goals, fields, method of operation, administrative policies, etc. Write Boards directly for information.)
6. Use a variety of teaching aids to teach missions.
A study of the means that God used to teach in the Old Testament might help us to see what additional ways we might use in communicating missions. He used words on the doorpost, sacrifices, feasts, symbols in the temple, public readings, music. His message was communicated among families, priests, prophets, kings, heretics and even writings on tablets. God had a lot to say and He used many ways to make sure the
people clearly got the message. The following ingredients might wisely be used.
(1) Teaching tools and aids–flannelgraph, flash cards, filmstrips, slides, movies, overhead projectors, chalk talks, maps, pictures, puppets.
(2) More permanent atmosphere aids–illuminated world map, bulletin boards, missionary portraits, decorations, missionary hall, posters, display case.
(3) Missionary library center–books, magazines, picture file, maps.
(4) Music–missionary song sheets, cantatas, records, specials, foreign music.
(5) Special methods and events–drama, meals, socials, tours, conferences.
(6) General resource materials–missionary idea handbooks, missionary information sources, missionary organization publications.
The Biblical Concept of Missions
Exposing students to missions but not teaching the theology of missions can tend to build a faulty view of missions. I have found that to be the case among so many Christians today. It tends to build an experientially oriented Christianity without its Biblical moorings. So, to say you are going to teach the mission of the church in one quarter is to do a great disservice to the cause of Christianity. It must be
the constant concern of the Sunday School.
1. The Bible teaches missions.
As a student grows in chronological and spiritual years, he must come to see that the concept of service is at the very core of the Christian life. Each doctrine takes on depth and meaning as it relates to the purpose of God-redeeming mankind, worldwide.
2. The work of the Holy Spirit relates to the life of missions.
Students must be taught how the Holy Spirit forms the church, calls and thrusts men out to witness, how He works in redemption, the gifts He gives to men to see His work accomplished and ultimately how the Holy Spirit will deal with them about their responsibility.
3. The responsibility each believer has in missions.
One of the most exciting aspects of the contemporary church is the growing awareness that each believer has a responsibility in using his spiritual gifts in proclaiming God’s eternal message of salvation. Too long that was not presented forcefully as part of the church’s educational curriculum. We must start at an early age to cause students to think through what part they personally can play in missions.
To teach children the doctrine of personal involvement and hope that sometime in the future they will pick up that challenge is to completely miss the concept of the way students learn.
A wise teacher will motivate his students to present Christ to their peers in direct and meaningful ways. The teacher is causing his students to learn “to do all that the Lord commanded,” when that occurs. Of course, that will happen more readily when the teacher personally leads his students to that kind of involvement.
Involve Your Students in Missions Now
A football player is not going to have a good mental attitude very long if you keep him in training and at the training table but never give him a chance to play in the games. We in Christian education are apt to keep our children at the training table for years without giving them a chance to utilize their training. Keep in mind that values are established within a discovery atmosphere where people can be involved.
1. Provide service projects.
Every wise Christian Education Board will provide service projects for all their youth and adults. Youth can have an effective ministry operating neighborhood Bible clubs after having adequate training. They can effectively reach their peers through special youth weekends, and visitation programs.
2. Consider vocational opportunities presently available internationally.
Every significant missions society has innumerable types of short-term and long term vocational openings. Today there are so many openings besides teaching and church planting-anything from secretaries, translators, medical workers, engineers, builders, to financiers and publishers. You should continue to excite your people constantly by exposing all ages to the ways in which God might choose to use them.
As the church commissions their youth in these projects and continues to pray for them, they will reinforce the students’ concern for missions.
Most mission leaders are saying that we are in a new day of missions. There are innumerable means today in our technological society to take the message of Christ to a lost world. This fact, plus the new concepts the church has learned about church growth has greatly changed the means of getting out the gospel message. Youth can’t help but be excited as they see the mission force preaching and teaching the unchanging Word of God with contemporary methods.
3. Publicize the opportunities.
Some groups of churches, or individual churches, have had vocational films either separately or in connection with their missions conference. Keep talking about these openings and share all the available literature with your youth and adults.
4. Develop an intercessory prayer life.
Transmitting a prayer burden for missions is best taught while teaching the elementary concept of prayer. Here is one way in which missions can be introduced in earlier grades. Since you will seek to teach them how to be specific about praying and that God answers prayer, there should be ample illustrations of God’s intervention. Stories from the past and present should illustrate how God became very specific in the way He intervened on behalf of His servants.
Helping your church become a missionary praying church means many things: reading prayer letters in public services, consistently praying for missions in all services asking for God’s intervention of specific
items, and, as a church providing some specific financial and physical needs for individual missionaries. Sometimes each department chooses one missionary to support and pray for. As children get older, they
should be introduced to many more fields and missionaries.
5. Commission career missionaries from your own church families.
The New Testament pattern seems to indicate that a church should send out its own members to do the work of missions. As a church has a total concentration on missions and a constant calling unto God by the
congregation to thrust out laborers into the harvest field, they can’t help but see workers being sent out. No other experience should bring greater joy to the congregation.
It appears to me that churches who involve, reinforce proper missionary practices, and pray their youth into God’s harvest field, generally see that glorious culmination to the efforts of their Sunday School training.
C. E. Arnold, a missionary to Jamaica, was one of a Sunday School class of seven boys, 11-year-old rascals. Every teacher who took the class gave up in despair. Then the pastor asked for earnest prayer that someone might be led
And someone did volunteer–an old, old man. The pastor and all who heard about it were crestfallen. The man was too old to handle a class of unruly boys. But he insisted that the Lord had led him to volunteer to teach that class. And to satisfy him, it was agreed to allow him to teach for a while.
“Because of that teacher’s influence, five of us are now in full-time service for the Lord,” the missionary testifies. Who can measure the impact of a missionary heart in the Sunday School?
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY ACCENT-B/P PUBLICATIONS, INC., 1980, PAGES 146-153. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.