For many years, I have heard critical comments that our mission process is impersonal. Some suggest that the work of more than 5,100 missionaries encircling the globe cannot be personalized. How can we help the people—those who give and pray—feel connected to our dedicated missionaries as they serve in the midst of spiritual darkness? How do we personalize giving and praying?
It would be naïve to think the question can be answered in a brief article. Yet, I do have some suggestions that may help pastors, staff, mission leaders and Sunday School leaders. They aren’t difficult to follow, but they do require a little work. By the way, we at the BGCO will help you. In fact, it would be a privilege to connect you with those serving on mission for Christ around the world.
Where do you begin? It can be as simple as each Sunday School class or small group adopting a missionary family. With 5,100 individuals serving on the mission field, there is no lack of people to adopt. Start by researching which IMB missionaries consider your church or associational area as home. You will be surprised at the missionaries who come from your region. You can be part of the prayer team for an international missionary from your part of our state.
Another approach is to ask the BGCO to connect you with missionaries serving where our state convention has partnerships. Many missionaries with Oklahoma ties are serving in the area of our partnership in the land of Lottie. Wouldn’t it be a blessing to pray for a missionary family living in the provinces where Oklahoma Baptists are seeking to join them in reaching the lost for Christ?
In last week’s Messenger, Bob Mayfield, who leads Sunday School work for our state, called upon every Sunday School class to choose an unreached people group to target in prayer. These people groups have had little or no contact with the Gospel. Most of them have never heard the Gospel in their heart language. We can help you connect with missionaries who are seeking to engage these groups so that as you pray for an unreached people, you can also pray for a missionary seeking to carry the Gospel to them. Not every people group has an assigned missionary, but many do.
Another approach would be for your church to adopt two or three mission families for a year. You can get e-mail information and receive newsletters from these missionaries. Your opportunity to join them on their field of service will be “through your knees” as you pray for them. Once or twice a month, at the time of the offering in worship service, call the church to pray for your missionary family or families.
I am convinced we do not need to know 5,100 missionaries to personalize the work of the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. We do need to be familiar with one or two. It is a great help to be aware of specifics about a missionary family—their needs and their mission field. As you pray for them, world missions becomes a part of your heart.
Can you imagine what spiritual dynamic and strength would result if Oklahoma Baptist churches did more than pray in general for all our missionaries, but rather personalized those prayers through adopting a missionary family for a year? Think of the power of prayer when thousands of Sunday School classes across our state choose a missionary family and connect with them! I believe it would exponentially increase the effectiveness of those missionaries in penetrating the darkness around them.
I would also propose that if our churches and Sunday School classes took seriously the responsibility to personalize missions, our giving to the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering would increase dramatically. We would no longer give to a faceless ministry but to people in whom we make a spiritual investment. Spiritual investment will heighten our financial investment.
So this year, do more than give the greatest single gift you have ever given to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Make a commitment to lead your church, Sunday School class or small group to step foot on the battlefield of the world. Adopt a missionary family and pray for them weekly when you gather for Bible study or worship. Our God answers prayer! And specific prayer will personalize missions for you and those you lead.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.