As we continue considering how we might involve all of God's people in all of God's mission, we should consider what it means to convey better understandings of the role of God's people on mission.
There are several components to consider here. We need to think like global Christians. We live in an era where media, especially video, has a common presence in church services. Consider this: When was the last time your media depicted those from unreached people groups rather than just man on the street interviews or movie clips? Have you used the powerful short video exploration of the glory of God over his creation in Willow Creek's, Ten Thousand Words? Have you explored the universal themes of love and redemption from an international perspective like those in the Academy award nominated Czech movie Most?
Have you taken a service to show Ee-Taow or a video of the Maasi worshiping? Until western Christians are exposed to what God is doing around the world, our people may remain wrongly convinced that we are the locus of God's work on earth.
If we are going to be global Christians, we must think like global Christians. To think like global Christians means that we must put the kingdom of God first. We no longer consider ourselves American or British Christians first, but Christians who are American, British, or Kenyan second and citizens of heaven first. The emphasis here is not an artificial disintegration of national borders, but a biblical perspective that the breadth of God's kingdom transcends those geo-political restrictions.
Another way to help God's people understand our roles is to pray for believers around the world. To say that western Christians are insulated from real persecution is as obvious as affirming that the sun is bright. Our lack of being persecuted for Christ does not mean, however, that we are exempt from remembering our brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer and die daily. Surely one of the most ignored texts in all the scriptures is Hebrews 13:3, "Remember the prisoners, as though you were in prison with them, and the mistreated, as though you yourselves were suffering bodily."
Pray openly for the global church and the persecuted among them. Take advantage of the resources at Voice of the Martyrs to keep the kingdom at the forefront. As thankful as I am for the evangelical passion for world evangelization, we must remain cognizant of God's ministers taking the gospel to their own people often paying the ultimate price.
A decade ago, it was not uncommon to enter a church auditorium decorated by flags of the world as a reminder of peoples who need Christ. That particular method is not as common as it once was, but the need to have visual reminders has not changed.
A couple of months ago we had a yurt set up in the church where I have served as interim pastor this year. A yurt is a simple home that is easily disassembled and light enough to be carried by yaks or camels. It was there as a reminder of the nomadic people living in central Asia who have little access to the gospel. We need to keep the reminders prevalent and constant that many people have never heard the name of Jesus--not once.
One reality we will encounter and must overcome is the natural preference people have to not cross cultures. Sociologists will affirm what we easily know from experience and that is that people prefer to be with "their own kind." This is the very reason that sub-cultures form--to avoid the discomfort of a loathed culture. Cross-cultural avoidance is also a reason that our people do not evangelize. It is not just Africa or central Asia; try getting a suburbanite to cross the inner-city barrier, a factory worker to talk with an executive, or a wealthy person into the low-income trailer park.
People work hard to avoid crossing cultures because it takes an uncomfortable amount of effort and an endless amount of time to understand a culture of which we are not a part. To learn the context, the sub-text, the language, hopes and expectations necessary to become immersed in another culture takes more than most are willing to give.
As church leaders weave the music, arts, expressions and images of different cultures into the hearts and minds of God's people, expectations and understandings change. False impressions give way to truth, and negative stereotypes are replaced by accurate representations providing a fertile garden where love and sacrifice for the sake of the gospel can grow.
For us to involve all of God's people into all of God's mission, global thinking must give way to global perspective. And global perspective will birth a global passion.
Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., is President of LifeWay Research and LifeWay’s Missiologist in Residence. Ed is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine and Catalyst Monthly, serves on the advisory council of Sermon Central and Christianity Today's Building Church Leaders, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USA Today and CNN. Ed is Visiting Professor of Research and Missiology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and Visiting Research Professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Ed blogs daily at EdStetzer.com.