Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Disciple-making Page 1 of 15

the big idea
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Preparing to Preach: Stating the Big Idea

In the first post in this series on preparing to preach as a missionary, I noted that the preacher must understand both the Bible and the audience. Moreover, the preacher must connect the two. Now I raise the question, “Does a good sermon consist of one point (one main idea) or does it need at least three points?

Often expository preaching is viewed and practiced as a running commentary on a text of Scripture. The pattern seems to come from lectures heard in Bible college and seminary. Yet, I have never read a book on preaching that advocates a running commentary approach. In fact, John Stott points out that the chief difference between a lecture and a sermon is that the sermon “aims to convey only one major message.”John Stott, Between Two Worlds, Eerdmans:1982, p.225.

preparing sermons

Preparing to Preach as a Missionary

“Missionaries need to be ready to preach, pray, or die at a moment’s notice.” Or so I’ve heard all my life. Though this is often said jokingly, there is a ring of truth to it. In this new blog series, I am focusing on how to prepare a sermon. Missionaries often have opportunity to preach both in their home country and in their host country. Yet, many missionaries do not have formal training in preaching. In this post and four additional posts, I will share my perspective on preparing expository sermons gleaned from teaching homiletics (the art of preaching) at Alaska Bible College for 35 years. In this introductory post, I will define expository preaching, and focus on the preacher’s relationship with the Word and the audience. I will also list the topics for the next four posts.

Expository Preaching

Expository preaching is also known as expositional preaching. It is a form of preaching that focuses its attention on the meaning of a particular passage of Scripture.1See Wikipedia article.

YouTube evangelism

YouTube Evangelism

God calls all of us to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim 4:5). As Gary Ridley points out in another blog post, this work is not just with non-believers. Nevertheless, those of us who are called to serve as cross-cultural workers look for opportunities to share the Gospel with those who have never heard this good news. Typically, we expect that we will do so through sharing the Gospel in one-on-one conversations with our friends and acquaintances. Sometimes, we have opportunities to present the good news in public events through sermons or testimonies. A few of us might use Gospel tracts or other printed literature. But rarely if ever did we envision that YouTube could be our best platform for evangelism.

Digital missions

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have become much more interested in “digital missions” – how to do mission work through the Internet. We continue to see the strategic importance of living among the people we serve and learning their language and culture (see my recent blog post on this topic). But when we have fewer face-to-face interactions because of social distancing and quarantines, we look for additional opportunities to multiply our outreach. One of our colleagues in Japan has figured out a way to use YouTube for evangelism. The following article first appeared on the SEND blog and is used by permission.

mission drift

Avoiding Mission Drift – part two

I have been looking at how a non-profit organization can avoid mission drift. You can find Part One of this series at this link. My mission organization, SEND International, says our mission is “to mobilize God’s people and engage the unreached in order to establish reproducing churches.” Recently, we have adopted the theme of “kingdom transformation.” We want to broaden our ministries to more than just spiritual needs. In so doing, we want to strengthen our evangelism and church planting among the unreached. We are not in any way changing our mission statement.

Historical examples of mission drift

Nevertheless, as I noted in my previous blog post, this new theme raises the danger of mission drift. This has happened many times in the past. Organizations that were focused on one thing gradually changed until their work in no way matched what they originally set out to do. For example, the Puritans of New English who founded Harvard University stated it’s purpose in this way:

mission drift
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Avoiding Mission Drift

It happens every day. I have a project or task in mind, put it on my schedule, get started on it, but then get distracted. My thoughts and then my actions drift off in another direction and I begin to work on another project instead. The same thing can happen to organizations. We call it “mission drift.” We have a stated purpose, but we are no longer doing what we said we are going to be doing.

Boundary markers

Over the years, I have adopted a few tools to get me back on track through the course of the workday. Keeping track of how I use my time on Toggl is one such tool. See also my blog post on “Deep Work.” I have also developed a few warning signs or boundary markers to prevent me from permanently drifting off course. My personal mission statement and my job description are two really important boundary markers. I review my alignment with these documents every quarter. My monthly goals prominently featured on my to-do list is another such boundary marker. What are the boundary markers for a non-profit organization to avoid mission drift?

asking for prayer
Photo by adrianna geo on Unsplash

Follow-Up: Paul’s Prayer Requests

Follow-up with churches that we have planted needs to include receiving ministry as well as providing ministry. Paul not only prayed for churches; he also asked them to pray for him. In this way, he practiced fellowship in the gospel.

Prayer is a struggle

Moreover, in praying for Paul and his ministry, these churches were “striving together” with Paul (Rom. 15:30). In describing prayer as struggle, Paul highlights its importance. Prayer is not just a polite convention; it is active involvement in gospel ministry. D. A. Carson comments on this struggle of prayer:

incarnational model

Are missionaries called to be incarnational?

The incarnational model is how we often describe our decision to live among the people to whom we are sent. We learn to speak their language. We immerse ourselves in their culture, eating their foods and building deep friendships within that people group. The term “incarnational ministry” may also refer to adopting a living standard (e.g., the type and size of our house, the transportation we use, the clothes we wear) that does not create social barriers to the common people.

But is “incarnational” the best word to describe our strategy of immersing ourselves in the culture of the people? Is the incarnation of Christ the model we should follow as we engage the unreached people of this world?

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