Missions In The Home
By Melbourne E. Cuthbert
The local church, to a great extent, is much like a family and basically is a congregation of family units gathered for worship, learning, and service. Therefore, there are two family units which God uses in a unique and special way to select, motivate, prepare, train, and send out prospective missionaries. I would like to suggest that God uses both the physical family and our spiritual family to raise up laborers for the harvest field. Let me show you how.
First, we must ask, “What was God’s design in establishing the home?” Secondly, “How did God intend for that design to be carried out in the home?” Thirdly, we must ask, “How does the home family and church family interface in order to accomplish God’s master plan given to us by Christ in the Great Commission, to evangelize our globe?”
God’s Design For The Home
In Genesis 2:18, “The Lord God said, It is not good that the man [Adam] should be alone; I will make him an help meet [Eve] for him.” An alternate translation might be “an helper suitable for him,” The Hebrew words emphasize two aspects of God’s gift pre-pared for Adam: (1) Eve was to be a helper; (2) she was to be “meet” or “suitable,” but more properly “agreeing to him as his counter-part” In counseling young couples for laying the foundation for a Christian home I have used the illustration of a 1,000-piece puzzle, The first step in solving the puzzle is building a corner. Let’s assume that the corner piece is the husband. There is only one corresponding counterpoint to that puzzle piece which is exact and perfectly matching.
Realistically, we who are married know that the two companion pieces, though cut to match, need trimming, sanding, and commitment to a life of flexibility to avoid friction within the marriage, but we can truly become agreeing counterparts.
Now let’s carry that concept over into the point at hand, world missions and the home. How do couples determine whether God wants them to serve as missionaries? By God’s design it must be a joint decision, based upon joint compatibility, abilities, and desire to serve as a “sent couple.” Far too often one member of the husband/wife team feels “called” and the other does not. Immediately a problem surfaces: one must be more spiritual than the other, one is holding out, one is not being submissive to God’s leading of the other mate, now we are relegated to God’s second best.
How can a couple know that God desires to use them as missionaries? Without taking on the whole task of writing a treatise about discerning the will of God, let me share that working together as a couple in daily study of God’s Word and prayer is imperative. God leads us in our daily walk to fulfill His worldwide goal of communicating redemption’s plan through evangelism. The question then is not when but where, for we all ought to be evangelizing in every situation (Acts 11:19 ff). No couple should consider missionary service who are not actively engaged in lifestyle evangelism now.
God will show you together as a couple where He would desire to use you by (1) a desire to go and serve based upon God’s Word, (2) confirmation of godly people in your local church who see God’s hand in preparing you for service, and (3) circumstances which make the timing and location clearly apparent. If God has never given you a desire/burden to serve as a missionary, God has not left you and your family out of His plan. This leads us to our second point: making new pieces (our children) fit into the overall puzzle of God’s sovereign plan.
Evangelism In The Home
Moses, in writing his farewell address to Israel, his great family, pens instructions for the order of the home. In Deuteronomy 6:1-9, Moses clearly points out that it is the father’s responsibility to instill in his family a desire to be obedient to God’s commands. The teaching of those principles is not to be so much a lecture as to be an activity of the entire family.
How can moms and dads integrate world missions into the warp and woof of their family life? As a boy I loved to hear my mom read missionary stories. We literally lived in the heart of Africa with Dr. Paul White, the Jungle Doctor. Each evening devotional time had an exciting chapter from the Jungle Doctor’s book which revealed the excitement of missions together with the hardships, needs, and joys. But my mom was sharp. She knew that being a missionary was not someday but everyday, so she also read Danny Orlis and Sugar Creek Gang books, where a large dose of personal responsibility to witness was woven into each exciting story. Today there are many missionary stories available for children. Incorporate them into your family devotions.
Secondly, praying for missionaries will instill in young hearts God’s priority of world missions, acquainting the family with an understanding of world geography, national needs, missionary ministries, countries, and other important details which will make missions come alive. Here are some suggestions for meaningful prayer time.
Prayer Cards: Many missionaries provide prayer cards when traveling in pre-field and furlough ministries. Collect cards of those for whom you are going to pray and then mount them on a bulletin board in the room where you regularly have family devotions or put them in a file box or on a recipe stand, dated or in an order so each missionary is regularly prayed for. You might also attach on the back of the prayer card a 3×5 index card with recent prayer requests and leave a space for answers and praise. Keep prayer time concise, practical, and specific; avoid praying around the world, but rather highlight a field or a missionary each day.
Writing: Have your family adopt a missionary family and each family member write to a corresponding member, if possible, in order to become better acquainted with that mission field. Have a globe or world map to locate strategic cities, country locations, and distances to better understand your missionaries’ situation. Have your children pray specifically for the requests received in their letter from the field.
Missionary Guests: Praying for missionaries is far more interesting when our children can see them as real flesh and blood. Entertain missionaries, and have them share in family devotions by relating information about the field. Recently we had Dr. Ben Kendrick in our home, and he shared in our devotional time a story of God’s protection from a deadly cobra by sending an army of carnivorous ants. Our children will never forget Ben or God’s unique ways to protect His foreign missionaries. Allow your children time to talk to the missionary and prepare them to ask meaningful questions.
Encouragement: Possibly you can identify with Dr. Ross Campbell’s comment written in his book, How to Really Love Your Teenager, published by Scripture Press. “Many people feel that regardless of how well they do their job as parents, their efforts have a small effect on their teenagers, but the opposite is true … ” if you were to compare the influence of school teacher, peers, neighbors, television, youth pastors, churches, or whatever, you would find that the evidence proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the home and parents win consistently in forming the thinking, motivation, values, and direction of our children. That being the case, how can you be of help to your child if he/she desires to serve the Lord as a missionary?
Interfacing Home And Church
Do not lock your children into a decision they may have made concerning missions or force missionary ministry upon them. Do not elevate missions as though it is more spiritual than being an engineer, lawyer, mechanic, or carpenter. There is no separation between secular and sacred when all is done to the glory of God. It is important, though, that you do discuss with them their interests globally, e.g., what part of the world attracts their interest; what cultures fascinate their minds? Help them find information about the world through National Geographic magazines and library books. Use trips to cities such as New York and Chicago to visit ethnic neighborhoods and stores (Greek, Scandinavian, German’ Asian, Jewish, Italian, etc.) Take vacations to places like the Epcot Center or Busch Gardens where the countries of the world are on display; attend the World’s Fair or visit portions of the USA where mission work is being done. Another suggestion is getting films from your lending library and mission agencies. You might also write to consulates, travel agencies and country travel bureaus, and contact mission agencies for data. Encourage your children to pursue these sources
Evaluate their skills, abilities, and interests according to the need of the fields in which they are interested, and encourage them to develop their inherent, innate talents such as linguistics, mechanics, flying, medicine, etc, Encourage their personal daily devotions by having regular family devotions. Ask them questions and discuss what they are learning daily, and provide them with study helps. Your children need to be assured of your willingness to sup-port them in their decision to serve the Lord as a missionary.
Encourage your pastor or youth pastor to develop a youth out-reach which is missions-oriented. In a larger church, the youth pastor could be encouraged to organize a visit to one of your USA missionaries in a summertime ministry. In a smaller church, parents will need to take the initiative to organize such a trip, but the results are thrilling and effective. Your church could even institute a summer missionary apprenticeship program, in concert with a firm, well-organized mission agency. Do all you can to encourage your church to budget for the future by making plans to send out its own young people with a large portion of their missionary sup-port (35 – 50 percent). This will also encourage other young people to consider missions positively.
Assist your children in evaluating a Christian college with an excellent missions department and strong Bible department. Sit down with them and work through the pluses and minuses, allowing them to decide where they should train and study. The college you select should be willing to take the responsibility for shaping your child’s character as well as training his mind.
They will also need your assistance when it comes time for them to select a compatible mission board. Evaluate the mission board’s lines of authority, field administration, personal and project finances, statement of faith and practice, and present and potential fields of service. Interviewing missionaries serving under that board would be helpful in doing this.
Write to your children regularly and encourage them at every level as they progress in their preparation to serve as missionaries. Nothing takes as great a toll as loneliness and discouragement. Without applying pressure, keep their goal in front of them. The Most important part you can play is to regularly pray for their growth. Here are some verses which may be helpful: Colossians 42 (Opportunity), 2 Thessalonians 3:2 (protection), Colossians 4:4 (clarity), Romans 15:31b (acceptance), Ephesians 6:19 (boldness), Romans 15:32 (refreshment), and 2 Thessalonians 3:1 (effectiveness).
Finally, the home can become the fertile soil which produces missionaries, which enables the church to become the catalyst as the sending agent. Missions-minded parents support missions projects in the church, serve on vibrant missions committees, participate in missions conferences, and pray regularly for the lost of the world and for the missionaries who are carrying the light of the gospel to the lost world.
The home today is the key to reaching our world tomorrow.
Article “Missions In The Home” edited by Melbourne E. Cuthbert is excerpted from Managing Missions In The Local Church edited by Melbourne E. Cuthbert.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”