And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "....All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. Matthew 28:18-20
Missions, when I think of the word, I think of it as an adventure. Jesus tells us to go and make disciples of all nations, and that is what missions sets out to do. To evangelize, by definition, is to spread the gospel by public preaching or personal witness. Spreading the power and love of the truth of Jesus Christ. The awesome thing about this is that you can do it anywhere. I know we automatically think that missionaries are only those who go abroad to reach the lost, but there are different types of mission fields.
“The soul is the mission so wherever you go is a mission trip”- Pastor Brian Williams
It can be your workplace, your family, your inner city, or a college campus. Whether you’re abroad or preaching the gospel door to door, the harvest is ripe and ready for laborers. Today we're going to talk about the diversity of missions. To discuss this topic with us is Amanda Brown, Outreach and Missions Director alongside her husband Sam, at Hope City House of Prayer.
1. When did you start doing missions work? How did you know you were called to it?
My husband and I started doing "missions" work our 1st year as new believers. God abruptly moved us from CA--away from all of our family, friends, and everyone we knew--to Appalachia WV where we lived for 4 years. We were planted in a local church in a very small town and actively reached into the community. The impoverished communities in that part of the country are astounding! It was definitely a culture shock. People lived in small trailers with several family members, plywood in place of windows, handmade living space additions to the already broken down structures, and minimal heating in the winter. All alongside broken families, drug and alcohol abuse, and generational poverty mindsets. These communities were our prime mission focus for providing material needs such as food, clothing, school supplies, even refurbishing the beat-up community center at one location to host "revival" services. We also did a lot of one-on-one relational ministry.
Outside of the domestic mission field, we made our first international trip to Honduras during the summer of 2015. I knew from very early in our new life in Christ that we were called to minister outside of the traditional building, though to what degree didn't actually come to fruition until later. Everything I learned about the mission field confirmed the many things I felt inside but hadn't specifically identified as a "call to missions." It was very difficult for me to accept that the godly desire to "Go..." could actually becoming a reality. Until we were invited to Uganda in 2014. Something came alive in us at that time and the box we had put ourselves in was destroyed. Since then, we've never looked back. Though Uganda did not come to pass as we had planned, we have learned to just keep saying "Yes, Lord" and go where He leads. Hence, how we became "missionaries to Columbus!"
2.How can one get involved in outreach at their church? Is it limited to street outreach or can you be involved in other ways? (I.e. supporting outreach in different ways)
Outreach, by definition, happens anywhere you are reaching out to those who are not a part of a local church. Most churches have a variety of outreach ministries, for example: street ministry, community outreach events, youth outreach into the local school systems or other youth programs in the community, rehabilitation centers (nursing homes, drug/alcohol, etc.), and prisons. Many fulfilling how Jesus says we should engage with one another in Matt 25:35-36. For someone who is interested but not sure where to start, the first thing I would encourage them to do is pray. Pray about what God has put on their heart. Is there a certain people group (age, social class, ethnicity, etc.) or location that you are drawn to? Then inquire at your home church. Church leadership should be able to offer suggestions and help you get involved. Alternative forms of supporting outreach can be done behind the scenes with event planning, soliciting donations (goods or services) for the various ministries, and intercession for the times the teams are actively ministering (prayer covering is at the top of the list in my book).
The most basic form of outreach, though, is our everyday lives. Even if we are not actively participating in a formal ministry, we are surrounded by people every day who do not know Jesus or who have fallen from the faith that we can reach out to in love. What's commonly referred to as "marketplace evangelism," is witnessing to co-workers and others in our workplace sphere of influence. Apart from all the labels and different ideas we have of evangelism and outreach, it really boils down to simply telling people about Jesus and demonstrating the same type of love and compassion He did. "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked" (1 John 2:6).
3. What is your method of evangelism? How important is rapport and building relationships with those you encounter?
Love and childlike faith. (Sounds too simple, doesn't it?) Really, I can't say that I have a particular "method," but I try to seek from the Lord what He wants to say and do. Always ensuring my motive is love and my faith is as a child to take God at His word. There is no step 1-2-3 for evangelism. It depends mostly on what type of evangelism in which someone is active. For example, personal evangelism which occurs in our day to day lives will take a different form than that of street evangelism, and that from event-driven evangelism. In all of these, however, there are two primary keys: The Word of God and the Presence of God. It's obviously necessary to know what the Bible says, rightly dividing the word of truth in order to present the gospel message to others. Yet carrying encounter, to me, is equally important. Paul says, the letter kills but it's the Spirit that gives life. Though some may receive a theologically-correct gospel message, it takes the Spirit to breathe life upon it. We are called to be glory-carriers, bringing encounter, bringing the kingdom of God (which is within us!) wherever we go! For this reason, spending quality time with Him daily matters!
Overall, relationships are very important. The whole kingdom is built upon relationships. What I call "drive-by" evangelism has its purpose in planting seeds of the knowledge of Jesus and the gospel; however the end goal of evangelism is to bring sons and daughters into the family where they can grow into the fullness of Christ (discipleship) and that cannot happen apart from a true relationship. For the purpose of long-term ministry efforts, I think it's important to show yourself consistent and longsuffering to those in the area. That even when they despise you or treat you badly, mock you or simply ignore you, we still show forth the radical love of Jesus Christ. This in itself is an amazing witness of the gospel because it is so contrary to the world!
4. We hear about the success stories of lives impacted by missions but what about the opposition? Tell us about a time where you were faced with difficulties by the people you tried to reach.
Opposition, for us, is expected no matter what type of ministry work we engage. Going into dark areas will always cause an increase because your very presence (which hosts the very presence of the Holy One) stirs up the enemy's camp. Opposition, or persecution, is not only a risk of world missions. The reality is that every Christian should accept it to come their way at some point, as Paul told us that everyone who will live godly in Christ Jesus SHALL suffer persecution. And Jesus Himself warned that if they hated Him, they would hate us as well for the servant is no greater than his Master. Accepting this reality before it happens makes it a little easier to respond in the love of God when it does come and to rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer for His name sake. We've been slandered, falsely accused, cussed at, "black-balled" from whole groups of people, been at the receiving end of racial slurs, verbally attacked in public restaurants, our children targeted, and most recently, our team was even "egged" during one of our street outreaches. We couldn't help but laugh that off!
Recurring oppositions we come up against in Columbus are primarily from those with a false gospel religious belief. They, or more accurately the spirits behind them, have staked claim on certain areas so they often come to distract and interfere with our efforts. When we choose not to engage, they become agitated and progressively hostile. It leads to very tense moments, unsure if they're going to physically lash out. By God's grace, we've learned through every new experience to bless and curse not, to seek the love and forgiveness of Christ and to truly walk out "overcome evil with good."
5. Any advice for someone who, for one reason or another, fears evangelizing?
First, that fear has to go. Identify the root and face it. If it's a fear of failure, know that it's ok to make mistakes. We have an amazingly good Father who sent His Spirit to TEACH us. We learn so much through experiences not only about evangelism, but how to better hear the Lord, how to move in the flow of His Spirit, to be obedient, and ultimately, how to learn from our mistakes. We grow in spiritual gifts by setting ourselves in place to use them.
If it's fear of not being like "that guy", take the pressure off and just be you. It's not us anyway, "for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." We just have to learn to flow with Him. Evangelizing should be a reflection of who we already are in Christ. For example, I am very light-hearted, I love to smile and hug people. Yet I'm also straight forward when it comes to life and the need for Jesus. I'll cry when you cry because that's how Jesus made me and so, for the most part, that's what flows from me when I encounter people on the street (or anywhere really). God chose us and made each of us unique. Often we think we need to be like someone else who appears more successful in ministry or is bolder or prays better or [fill in the blank] but that is the quickest way to hinder the unique purpose God has for us and quench our own fire.
And lastly, if it's a fear of rejection... well, accept it. We will be rejected, despised, mocked, humiliated, persecuted and, for some, even put to death for our faith. If they hated Jesus, so they will us. As I said above, once we accept that "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (2 Tim 3:12), it's a little easier to bear when the time comes. Ultimately, the more confidence we put in Christ (less in ourselves), the more confident we will be to step out in faith. The more we step out in faith, the easier it becomes to share the gospel with those around us. :)