By Mark A. Taylor
Success stories about cross-cultural evangelism may make us want to reach unreached people in faraway places. We read articles like those posted at our site this month and decide to give more to missions, attend the International Conference on Missions, or answer our church’s call to take a short-term missions trip.
Any of these responses might be good, better for sure than those of a few who may quickly skim these posts and move on because (a) they’re bored by stories about church work overseas, or (b) they’re ashamed because they feel they should be a missionary or support a missionary and they’re afraid to make the sacrifice.
But let me suggest a better idea than any of the above. After we’ve read these articles, after we’ve read about “those missionaries” and “their mission work,” each of us can be challenged by an often overlooked, more foundational truth:
All of us are missionaries.
That’s the challenge Glen Elliott makes, along with other church leaders in Tucson, Arizona. When I spoke with him for CHRISTIAN STANDARD’s September Beyond the Standard episode, he explained their strategy. Every Christian can find other Christian friends, he said—in their neighborhoods, in their workplaces, in their local schools—and figure out how to show and share Christian love right where they already live and work. Remarkable results follow when Christians go to their neighbors and simply ask, “What can we do to serve you? What can we do to help?”
This approach has propelled hundreds of Tucson Christians into all kinds of service projects throughout the city. In the largest school district there, 75 percent of schools have been adopted by a church or group of churches. Schools benefit in every way from this arrangement, Elliott said. They get supplies, repairs, remodeling, and the service of Christians who work in the name of Christ. And government officials—from building principals to the city’s mayor—are asking for more.
One school superintendent held a pastor-appreciation breakfast, on school grounds, to thank the city’s churches for the difference they’re making in the schools. For the first time in 20 years, churches are being planted in school buildings. And churches are conducting VBS and offering school-sponsored parenting classes in public school buildings. One official said, “The days we meet with you Christians give us hope to keep going.”
Hope. Love. Long-term commitment to meet real needs. When non-Christians discover these from the church, God is glorified and doors are opened to share gospel truth. And that’s as true in Arizona as it is in Africa.
* Hear Mark Taylor’s interview with Glen Elliott here. Tune in to Beyond the Standard November 20, 11 a.m. Eastern, as Reggie Hundley, Doug Lucas, and Tony Twist discuss “How Are We Doing With Missions?”