mission

I’ll never forget the spiritual journey that brought me to faith in Christ. My father is a retired pastor, and we were always in church. My mother was a godly prayer warrior. From my earliest age, I remember having my spiritual faith encouraged. We had devotions, went to church, and I had numerous opportunities to experience faith.

I learned to be a good little boy. For most of my childhood, I believed the facts about the gospel. I tried to do all the things I should (read the Bible, confess my sins, behave well). In spite of my efforts, my teenage years were internally disturbing. I experienced uncertainty about my salvation and could not be confident that I would have eternal life. For about 6 years, I faced mounting doubt and uncertainty. There were a number of occasions where I just wanted to die so I could find out where I would spend eternity.

On the outside, I’m sure I looked fine. On the inside, I was a spiritual mess.

During the summer of my 18th year, I was invited to go to summer camp with my cousin’s church. I distinctly remember having a conversation with God prior to camp where I said,

“God, I don’t know what is going on in my soul. I can’t get peace. But whatever you say, whatever you tell me to do, I will do.”

At camp, the internal turmoil did not ease. Rather, it grew exponentially. My heart was bursting with tension and frustration. It was at this point of tension, that God spoke loudly and clearly,

“Chris, you need to be forgiven. Your sins are the reason I died. You need to trust Me alone for your salvation.”

That night is forever imbedded in my memory. I gave up. I asked God to forgive me. God saved me that night at summer camp. In that moment, I experienced a peace, a joy, a freedom that was unexplainable. Something else became unalterably clear to me in that moment. God wanted me to preach his gospel to others. For me the call to salvation and the call to preach occurred at the same moment.

In the 20+ years since that experience, I’ve thought a lot about my conversion and call experience. Following are some insights into God’s call that I’ve developed as I interpreted my experience through the lens of Scripture.

  • Personal experiences are not universals, but they can be templates. It is important that we don’t generalize our experiences that we believe they are universal for everyone. But we should learn from personal experiences. Moses’ call in Exodus 3 might not be replicated in our lives today (God speaking through the burning bush), but when God calls, it will be to reveal himself and send us on his mission (this is the universal).
  • My need for salvation was because I had been relying on my goodness rather than God’s grace. Over the years I reflected deeply on why I was not converted at a younger age. I believed the facts of the gospel long before I experienced salvation. God helped me understand that one could believe spiritual facts while still relying on self for salvation. Trusting in Christ alone is required for salvation, and that is what I was missing.
  • God’s calling to salvation may not always be a calling to preach, but it always includes a calling to serve. Not every salvation experience includes a vocational call. But every salvation experience does include a call to follow Christ and serve his purpose. I’m afraid that in experience-driven Christianity, this may not always be communicated clearly. God’s call to salvation anticipates a call to serve his purpose and testify to him and his glory. According to Matthew 28:18-20 we all have the obligation to lead our neighbors and the nations to follow Jesus.
  • In order to hear/sense God’s call, we need to have distractions removed. That fateful summer camp for me provided a time of devoted attention to hearing from God. Moses’ burning bush experience occurred in the wilderness where he was alone. Many of David’s psalms were written during his alone time with the sheep. The principle is this: if we are going to hear from God, we need to make time to be alone and quiet with him. Cell phones, television, and other distractions must be removed so we can hear and experience God.

What about you? Have you experienced God’s call to salvation? I hope so. Nothing is more important than knowing God and being confident of eternal life. If you have that peace, then have you embraced God’s call to serve his purpose and live his mission? If not, why not make time to pause, pray, and hear from God about his calling on your life.

Originally published at Lifeway’s Pastor’s Today Blog

If your church is like ours, then you have mission trips planned for this summer. We have teams going to West Virginia, Vermont, Honduras, and Kenya. As a missions pastor, I’ve witnessed the power of God on numerous mission trips. There can be no doubt that prayer is the primary ingredient for spiritually successful mission trips. Here are some prayers I’ve learned to pray for our mission teams.

  1. Pray that the mission team will not let the platform take the place of the mission. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus commissioned us to make disciples. That’s our mission. Oftentimes, compassion ministry, construction, or other need-based ministries are the “platforms” that give opportunity for mission trips. But success in meeting these needs is not our “mission.” Our mission is disciple-making (evangelism, teaching, baptizing) connected to a local church. It is easy to let the need (platform) become the focus. Pray that your mission teams will not forget the “mission” in lieu of meeting the need.
  2. Pray for the spiritual preparation and development of the mission team.There’s a reason Paul’s prayer for spiritual boldness in proclaiming the gospel (Ephesians 6:19) followed his treatment of Christian armor and spiritual warfare. Mission trips are not for the spiritually weak—they require recognition of the spiritual war we are facing. Pray that your teams will be spiritually prepared for the work and war they are sure to face.
  3. Pray for the flexibility of the mission team. Sometimes our mission plans require revision and flexibility. Acts 16:6-10 records Paul’s prevention by the Holy Spirit of going into Asia and the Macedonian call. Mission teams must learn to trust God’s plan, not their own and be spiritually discerning. Pray that your teams will be flexible in their planning and discern what God wants to accomplish on the mission trip.
  4. Pray for the financial support of the mission team. When Jesus sent out his witnesses, he told them to trust the provision offered in the villages for their wages and sustenance (Matthew 10:9-10; Luke 10:4-8). International mission trips cost money. And I believe in a God who owns everything. Pray that God would meet the financial obligations of each team member and mission trip.
  5. Pray for the health, safety, and travel of the mission team. Traveling to mission destinations and encountering new bacteria (internationally) can drastically affect the health and strength of mission team participants. Getting sick is just a normal part of international travel. However there is precedent for praying for the health and safety of mission teams in in travel. Acts 27 records the storm at sea and shipwreck of Paul and his captors. Yet Paul prayed, and God protected all on the ship (Acts 27:24). Pray that your teams will experience safe travel and health protection while on the mission trip.
  6. Pray for the spiritual wisdom and loving service of the mission team. One of Paul’s prayers for the Ephesian church was that they would grow in spiritual wisdom and depth of love (Ephesians 3:14-20). Mission team members need an abundance of wisdom and love, and God desires to provide it. Pray that your team members will be abundantly wise and discerning as well as filled with love for those whom they will serve and share with.
  7. Pray for the Spirit to open blinded eyes and that unbelievers would see Christ in all of his glory. Satan blinds the eyes of unbelievers to the truth of the gospel and the glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). It is the Holy Spirit’s role to convict and bring to light the truth and power of the gospel (John 16:8-11). Pray that the Holy Spirit would go ahead of your mission teams and prepare the hearts of the lost to respond to Christ and that the Spirit would draw unbelievers to Christ through the preaching of the gospel.
  8. Pray for the spiritual development, strength, and growth of the partner churches and missions that your teams will work with. Paul encouraged, commended, challenged, and prayed for the churches, elders and leaders of the Ephesian church before he finally parted ways with them. (Acts 20:17-38). Mission teams are only a part of God’s ongoing work in the world. Churches, organizations, pastors, and believers across the globe will continue God’s work far longer than a mission team serves on a mission trip. Pray for the partner churches, pastors, and organizations to have strength, growth, and success in fulfilling God’s disciple-making mission in their context.