2020 has been significantly more homebound than previous years due to COVID-19, which included for many churches the cancellation of planned mission work. Our church was among that number, so for November (which we designate as Missions Month), we are focusing on the topic of Missions at Home. To coincide with this theme, I gave on Sunday evening these few practical suggestions for supporting and doing missions in the home.
To be clear, I define missions as the work of all Christians to see the Great Commission fulfilled, to see disciples made among all the nations. We, therefore, typically think of missions as the act of going to another country in order to share the gospel; however, local evangelism is really just local missions (and foreign missions is simply foreign evangelism). Furthermore, the acts of evangelism and discipling must not be separated either because they are two sides of the same coin. Evangelism is teaching the gospel to non-Christians, whereas discipling is further teaching the gospel to Christians. Thus, missions, evangelism, and discipling can all be distinguished, but they must not be separated.
Prayer is, without doubt, the greatest action that we can take to further the Great Commission. As a friend says, prayer is the work.
Pray the Lord’s Prayer. Perhaps the greatest resource for praying for missions is the Lord’s Prayer. Not only are the first three petitions explicitly missional (that God’s name would be seen as holy, that the kingdom would come, and that the Father’s will would be done), the final three commands guide us in praying for our brothers and sisters around the world. The Prayer is, after all, structured in the first-person singular: our Father… give us… our daily bread… forgive us… deliver us… Therefore, when you pray through the Lord’s Prayer, remember that you are praying for the church collective. Pray for the Father’s provision, pardon, and protection to be upon brothers and sisters that we will never meet in this lifetime.
Use Operation World. This book and website gives known religious statistics by country and/or region of the world, providing specific points for praying for that country or region. It is a wonderful resource for working into your daily prayer time.
Use Joshua Project. Similar to Operation World, the Joshua Project takes a more narrowed focus upon the unreached people groups around the world. Their website contains free resources, and you can also download their app, which provides daily prayer points for different unreached peoples.
Use Voice of the Martyrs. Founded by Richard Wurmbrand, who was imprisoned and tortured under Communist Romania, Voice of the Martyrs provides resources for praying and encouraging brothers and sisters around the world who are presently enduring persecution for the gospel. Most of these Christians live within largely unreached parts of the world; therefore, their conduct and faithfulness under trial is the primary influence for the gospel in those regions.
Read good missionary biographies. Well-written biographies upon well-lived lives stir the affections like few other things can. Piper’s The Swans Are Not Silent are great starters for adults. Piper originally gave each biography as a lecture during his church’s yearly pastors conference, and he then collected them into groups of three, publishing seven volumes. Most are not about missionaries, but the ones that are a most certainly worth reading. The Trailblazers Series is great for kids. As more novelized biographies, they are great for introducing children to the lives of those who gave their lives for the gospel.
Use Operation World. As I noted above, Operation World not only gives prayer points for each country or region of the world; it also provides information and statistics to show us that locations need for the good news.
Finally, when it comes to teaching our children about the need to fulfill the Great Commission, I would give two general pieces of advice. First, let your speech be seasoned with the salt of the gospel. That point in Colossians 4:6 is specifically referring to how we speak to nonbelievers, yet I think we can also apply the principle with our children. They will not know the importance of the gospel and of sharing the gospel unless we are actively teaching them. Therefore, keep the gospel and missions always on the forefront of your mind and the tip of your tongue, showing them by example the need for discipling all nations.
Second, be ready to explain children’s questions. If you are constantly speaking of the gospel, you must also be prepared for the rightly inquisitive questions of a child, which will almost always be surprisingly profound. For example, just this Saturday, my daughter asked why some people do not believe in God. The question came out of nowhere (at least, as far as I could tell), and certainly caught me off guard. I gave her a children’s summary of Romans 1-3, saying that all people really do know that God is real, but a lot of people, like Adam and Eve (which is her favorite story at the moment), don’t want to obey God.
A hard truth of a fallen world is that missions always require at least some degree of funding. The letter to the Philippians was in some ways a letter of thanks in response to their support (likely financial) of his missionary work, and it concludes with the apostle encouraging them to continue their generosity. As receivers of the free gift of God’s only Son, we should likewise be generous in supporting those who are acting as the hands and feet of the body of Christ in going to the nations.
There are too many missions organizations to list here, so I would encourage, instead, for everyone to primarily (by which I mean the placement in the heart, not necessarily primary in terms of dollar amount) give to your local church. From there, encourage your local church to formally support a few missionaries and/or missions organizations, while also providing your own personal support as the Lord leads. Of course, let your support extend beyond the reach of your local congregation, but the local church should ideally be one’s starting point.
Collecting coins in the home for missions can also be a great way of combining these first three points. As you put coins in the container, you are giving your children a visible display of giving, a designated time to remind them of the importance of missions, and a great opportunity to pray for the advancement of the gospel.
Finally, as I said above, we must remember that many of our neighbors and coworkers are just as lost as the unbelievers on another continent, and while most in the United States today have still heard the name of Jesus, many are increasingly ignorant of any meaningful knowledge about Him. In other words, as the church’s influence dwindles, we are increasingly surrounded by unreached neighbors. Never forget, therefore, that the Great Commission must be fulfilled at home as well as abroad. How, then, can we live on mission in our ordinary lives?
Pray for our neighbors, coworkers, family, etc. While praying for the gospel to advance on other continents, we must also remember to pray for its advancement across the street. Pray for the lost who are around you each day and even within your own family.
Pray and look for opportunities to share. At the end of Ephesians, Paul asked for his readers to pray for his boldness to speak the gospel clearly. If the imprisoned but lion-hearted apostle needed prayer to boldly communicate the gospel, how much more us! I am a firm believer that many of us do not find evangelistic opportunities because we are not praying for God present them to us and clearly see them.
Be hospitable, but not weird. One of the greatest ways to share the gospel is within your own home. If your home life is structured around Scriptures, then you won’t need to look for special opportunities to share Jesus with them. For instance, if you regularly pray meaningful and gospel-rich prayers before meals, simply follow your pattern with perhaps a brief explanation whenever a non-Christian is having dinner with you. The gospel, after all, is not a sale’s pitch, and we are not salesmen. It is the good news of salvation in Christ, and we are Christ’s ambassadors.
There is obviously much more that could be said about this topic. Nevertheless, I pray that these suggestions will be a starting point for making your home ever more centered around the gospel and the fulfilling of the Great Commission.
Grace and peace.