How do we gauge what to do and what not to do in Christian missions? Our resources are limited, so how do we know where the best places to put our resources are?
One test to help us answer this question is something I learned from a missionary in Nigeria. I don’t know if this concept is unique to him or if he learned this from someone else. All I’m saying is I cannot take credit for this as it’s not my original idea.
He shared this, “Good, Better and Best.”
We can do many “good” things for God. We would all say that helping someone is a good thing. But is it the best thing? We can evaluate our “good” things and make them even better in the work that we do, but how do we know if we are doing the “best” thing?
The “best” thing is always sharing the Gospel message and pointing others closer to God.
I can do many acts of kindness, but so can someone who isn’t a Christian! I know many kind, giving people who aren’t Christians. What makes the Christian different than any other volunteer who serves an organization? The difference is we have been transformed by the Gospel message and that is the very reason we have a desire to do an act of kindness. So, we can take our good thing and make it the best thing if we share the Gospel as we go along. We should always be ready to share the reason for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15).
My grandfather went on several trips to Mexico years ago. When he arrived back home he would light up when he told us how many tracts they had given away on the street corners. This was their main task: handing out little folded papers that had Bible Verses on it. As a person involved in missions now I believe what he did was a waste of time and resources. I know many Mexican people and have good relationships with them. I’m well aware that some of them are illiterate. I’m also aware that their culture is very relational. Handing out tracts isn’t the “best” thing to reach them.
In our church we have a team that leads our church family missionally. We constantly feel the tension between social justice and evangelism projects. At one time some were wanting to throw out all social justice ministries and focus on evangelism alone. This would have been a major uproar in our church family as many among us are called to the ministries of social justice. I’ve learned throughout the years that we need to just be intentional in sharing with people no matter what the focus of the project is. If we are serving in a food pantry, we can ask people if we can pray with them. While some will say, “No thank you,” others will share a lot about what’s going on in their lives and appreciate a prayer. Sometimes just asking a simple question like this opens the door for someone to hear the Gospel message. It also is relationship building that can bear fruits in ministry later on down the road. Someone might meet you for lunch later on for example, or you might just see them again next week when you’re volunteering.
I deeply encourage our classes and small groups to choose something and get deeply involved! Build relationships and KNOW the people you are giving to and praying for. This is a natural setting where our faith can be shared freely and naturally. Adopt a ministry for a year: give to this ministry financially, pray for this ministry, encourage the ministry leaders and volunteer together in this ministry. After a year, evaluate what God has done and remain with that ministry or choose another to walk with for a year. Eventually a class or small group will feel so passionate about what they see God doing among them together as a group that long-term partnerships will naturally form.
We have so many of these that we have created what we call a “missional moment” of 3 minutes long for people to tell their God-stories in worship each Sunday, remind our congregation of the ongoing partnerships and ministries we have and lead our church family in corporate prayer for that ministry. We have a great problem! Our people feel so passionate about the ministries they are involved in that they want more and more PR time to get more people involved! It’s a great and fun problem to have! When our people’s faith is deepened through these missional ministries they want others to experience it too.
Our people don’t need our mission leadership team to tell them what to do or only bless the ministries our leadership team creates. We encourage our people to live out their calling and let us know what they need from us. This past year we had more individuals go out on mission than ever before! This is a mark in ministry for us to celebrate that our people aren’t waiting on us to create something for them to do missionally. They are stepping out on their own and we are blessing them, financially supporting them and praying for them as a church family. As people see, hear and experience what God can do when we step out and try what we feel God is leading us to do others are encouraged to do the same.
Can we intentionally ask God how what you’re already doing can be made better? Can we challenge and encourage our people to get more deeply involved beyond praying and giving? Can we set aside funding to empower our people to be brave and try what God is leading them to do? How can we take everything we do and make it “better” and eventually the “best” thing? God has great things and plans for each of us. Can we be actively seeking what that is together? Are we asking the right questions? Are we probing new areas?
Don’t be afraid of trying something new. I’m always telling our people that the one who tries and fails is greater than the one who did nothing! At least we know what NOT to do if we try something and it doesn’t work out! It’s how we learn and get better and better at what we do. I pray God’s blessings for you each time you step out and try!