I often struggle to keep the concerns of the world in front of me. The gravitational pull of immediate needs makes it easy to forget what’s happening around the globe—and I’m someone involved in international missions!
How can Christians stay engaged with God’s work around the world? Life is busy. Work is hard. We have to pay bills, raise kids, visit doctors. Relational conflict and drama enter our lives. It’s easy for Christians—and churches—to focus on what’s in front of them and miss God’s global purposes.
Christians today are more aware of international events than at any other time in history. Yet exposure to information doesn’t make us more involved. Instead, we tend to move on quickly with the next news cycle. So, if Christians are going to have the nations at the forefront of their minds, churches need to take some basic steps to develop a global focus for their people.
It’s easy for Christians—and churches—to focus on what’s in front of them and miss God’s global purposes.
Global Focus Week
A great first step for your church is to plan for a week each year to focus on the nations. Some churches already do this well, but I’ve found many where this isn’t a priority. Purposefully setting aside this annual time can help to disrupt our routines and get our minds thinking about the world.
During this week, you can sing missions hymns, pray for unreached people groups, or commission new missionaries. Those who have served cross-culturally can give a testimony. Those currently overseas can record a message for the congregation. The sermon itself could be about God’s love for the world and the church’s international work.
You could even bookend this week with two Sundays, with guest missionaries or pastors speaking on missions. Throughout the week, consider ways to involve the congregation. You can feature a prayer service, a missions film night, or seminars on evangelism, poverty relief, or mobilization. If you have international students or church members from other cultures, they might be willing to share about their home countries or what it’s like living as a foreigner in the U.S.
Global Focus in Weekly Worship
Once you set aside an annual time to focus on the nations, consider how to highlight missions on a weekly basis. Worship planners can introduce songs new and old about the nations. During the Sunday service, you can read Scripture that talks about God’s plan for the peoples of the world. Within a pastoral prayer, you can remember the church’s global partners and their needs.
In every sermon, I try to share stories of things far away. I might talk about how other cultures apply the text I’m preaching, or I might mention a missionary we support. Preaching this way keeps the nations in front of my church. Some stories inspire. Others challenge our understanding of current events and cultural perspectives.
For pastors, this means extra work to collect illustrations and information from trusted sources. You can start by reading missionary biographies or subscribing to newsletters from trusted missionaries and organizations. You can also watch Dispatches from the Front, Free Burma Rangers, or Jesus in Athens. You might even find a mentor from another culture who will transform the way you view the world.
Global Focus in Daily Routines
Focusing on missions one week a year—or even every Sunday—is better than nothing, but you can also work the world into your daily routines. You might start by downloading the Operation World app onto your mobile device. Every day it provides a report and prayer requests from a featured country. Church leaders might consider using the app during staff or elder meetings to guide a time of prayer for the nations.
You can also get to know missionaries. It’s never been easier to stay connected across the globe through technology. (Missionaries often prefer secure texting apps like Telegram or Signal.) You might also read or watch an international news outlet (such as BBC or Al Jazeera) that provides global analysis. I personally subscribe to Justin Long’s Weekly Roundup which helps me stay updated on what’s happening around the world and gets my eyes off the latest debates in the U.S.
Global Focus in Sending
Over the years, I’ve noticed a big difference between churches that have missionaries and churches that send them. “Having” missionaries looks like checking a box, putting names on a bulletin, and supporting as many people as possible. “Sending” involves purposefully blessing the nations by commissioning the best people you have and supporting them “in a manner worthy of God” (3 John 6).
I’ve noticed a big difference between churches that have missionaries and churches that send them.
Churches with a global focus often concentrate their support on fewer missionaries. They recruit quality candidates, equip and commission them for service, and even help parents let them go. Local churches should be the incubator and sender of missionaries. As we release those we know and love, it hurts. But our hearts go with them, and we stay engaged with their work.
Our Global God
If we’re going to give ourselves to a mission focused on those far away, we’ll need to break free from the gravitational pull of the present and immediate. I’ve given some practical steps churches can take, but these efforts must start and end with God.
The local church sends missionaries because of God’s compassion on the world. We send them because we believe God created us for his glory and has promised to gather people from all nations to enjoy him forever (Isa. 66:18–19). We support and thoughtfully fund work around the globe because the gospel has enlarged our hearts to care for the world and not just for ourselves.
We’re living in a time where the Holy Spirit has blown across Africa, Asia, and South America. He is transforming the nations. Christ is at work. God’s promise is being fulfilled. Who wouldn’t want to join in his global mission?