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Posts Tagged ‘FriendSpeak’

SikhsIn an article that appeared in August web-only edition of Christianity Today, Abby Stocker wrote about “The Craziest Statistic You’ll Read About North American Missions.”  Her article opens with this paragraph:

One out of five non-Christians in North America doesn’t know any Christians. That’s not in the fake-Gandhi-quote “I would become a Christian, if I ever met one” sense. It’s new research in Gordon-Conwell’s Center for the Study of Global Christianity’s Christianity in its Global Context, 1970-2020. Missiologist Todd M. Johnson and his team found that 20 percent of non-Christians in North America really do not “personally know” any Christians. That’s 13,447,000 people—about the population of metropolitan Los Angeles or Istanbul—most of them in the United States.

The study shows that it is not the atheists and agnostics clustered together in academia or Hollywood or the liberal unbelieving media whom evangelicals love to hate that make up the majority of those who do not know a Christian.

No, mostly it is the immigrants and those they live among.  Here is the chart that was published with the study:

stats

And although Christians make up one-third of the world’s population, eight out of 10 people in the world do not know a Christian.

Sherrylee and I just went to a wonderful Journey to Generosity retreat and in the opening session, we were confronted with the fact that Americans hoard much of the world’s wealth.

So is it worse to be poor because we hoard our wealth—or to be LOST because we hoard Jesus??  I’m not so sure it is not the same thing if looked at from our side of the equation.

So why do you think that 79% of the Sikhs in North America don’t know any Christians?  It’s not because of a scarcity of Christians; it’s not for lack of churches they could visit?

Well, how many Sikhs do you know?  How many Buddhists from Asia live in your community?  How many Chinese?

Just last week there was a Chinese couple in Wal-mart and I could tell they were searching for something that they couldn’t find, so I asked them if I could help.   They were looking for that kind of ice cream with many flavors in it, so I found the Neapolitan and they were quite pleased.  I wish I had been even friendlier and asked about them and . . . .who knows what might have come from a little conversation about ice cream.

They might already be Christians!!  But I don’t know because I didn’t take the time to even offer to get to know them.  And because of that they may still be one of the many Chinese in our country who don’t know any Christians.

I’ve quoted this verse before in describing the reason for the FriendSpeak program, that we offer churches through the Let’s Start Talking Ministry.  But surely the convicting results of this study should make us question whether we truly believe the verse to be inspired by God—or not!

26 God began by making one man, and from him he made all the different people who live everywhere in the world. He decided exactly when and where they would liveActs 17:26 (ERV)

Immigrants are in North America for the same reason you are—because God decided exactly when and where they would live.  And Paul says the reason that he put people in the same place was so that they could find Him!

It’s not just “foreigners”  who cluster in ghettos.  Christians do too!

What could you do to reduce the number of people who don’t know a Christian?

  • Make a point to speak to people of other origins in public places.
  • Find meaningful service projects to join or to launch in ethnic ghettos.
  • Adopt an international student from a local university!
  • Host a Thanksgiving meal at your church and invite the immigrant community nearest you, specifically!
  • Inquire about beginning a FriendSpeak ministry at your church (www.friendspeak.org)  and volunteer to be a part of it.

What can you add to this list?

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Campus ministries are perhaps the most undervalued area of kingdom work in spite of having the greatest potential for kingdom growth.

In the last week, Sherrylee and I have visited three different campus ministries. In a normal year, Let’s Start Talking will work directly with 15-20 different campuses. In our history we have probably worked with as many as fifty different campus works.

Here’s what you find on almost every campus that offers such great potential for the kingdom:

  • Thousands of impressionable people searching for who they are and what they want to become.
  • Hundreds, if not thousands, of foreign people who are eager to learn everything they can about American culture, including Christianity.
  • A whole community with a lot of discretionary time. (I know they don’t think so, but going to class 15 hours a week  in addition to preparations rarely comes up to the 40 hour work week, and they usually do not have family obligations.)
  • A whole community in a learning and experiencing mode.
  • A whole community in the age of challenging the values they received from home.

To me, all of the above describe a great mission field! If all of the above is true, then why is campus ministry such a neglected area of ministry?

One reason for neglect is that campus ministry is poorly defined! We aren’t sure what we are supposed to be doing—or what the best approach would be! Is the purpose of campus ministry

  • the protection of Christian students who might find their faith attacked by higher learning?
  •  outreach to Christian students who don’t attend your church?
  •  outreach to foreign students?
  • in-depth Bible study for the nurturing of believing students?
  • provision of a Christian environment for students?

Another reason for neglect is that there is no specific educational path to become a campus minister. Virtually all of our Christian universities have majors or emphases in Youth Ministry, I know of none who have such a program for campus ministers.  This absence may be because of lack of demand, but I suspect it is something else. The result, however, is that potential ministers don’t know how to become one and churches don’t know who is qualified to be one—not a promising situation.

These questions are all inter-related, aren’t they! If a church doesn’t know what they really want the campus ministry to do, then they don’t know who to hire. The potential ministers don’t know how to prepare, and the colleges don’t know what to offer—if anything!

In the meantime, thousands of students are left on their own spiritually. We vaguely hope that those who are seeking will come to our church on their own, find a group of peers that they will like and who will like them, and listen to our sermons.  That seems a pretty poor way to reach out to what could be the most receptive community of people in our neighborhood!

And my worst fear is that we are negligent in this area because of the economics of campus ministry. Students have two big black strikes against them:

  • Students have little money, so they do not contribute; they just take.
  • Students don’t usually stick around to become long-term members of the local church, so they are a poor investment.

So why should a local congregation invest in reaching out to them?  Of course, you will recognize right away a business model for growing a congregation, not a Spirit-led model for growing the kingdom of God!

Students are also a little messier. They test values, they challenge tradition, they lack “proper” respect for authority, and worst of all, they don’t dress appropriately!!

Here are a few suggestions for your church to think about:

  • If there is a campus near you that does not have a campus ministry, at least determine the demographic of the students and see if you don’t currently have resources enough to do something with some part of that campus!  If there are international students, could you start a FriendSpeak program to help them with their English and share the story of Jesus with them?
  • If you see great potential on your campus, contact one of the churches with a vital campus ministry and ask them to mentor your leadership!  Do this before you go out and just try to hire a campus minister. Know what your purpose is first.
  • If you have a campus ministry and/or a good campus minister, make part of his/her job description to mentor emerging campus ministers.  Provide the necessary time and money for this task of multiplying and training new workers.

The common statistical wisdom is that most people experience conversion to whatever religion they will choose between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five!

 If this is true, we Christians have no choice but to focus on all those unchurched people in this age group—and lots of them are in college.

Going into all the world is pretty easy when the whole world is next door to your church building on a local campus! 

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I can’t tell you how many times in my life I have heard someone say the equivalent of, “Don’t we have enough to do at home? Why do we need to go overseas? Shouldn’t we take care of our neighborhood first?”

When Sherrylee and I were newly married and committed to going to Germany with our newly-formed mission team, I asked a very prominent preacher whom I knew for help raising support. Without thinking about what the implications were, he said, “Man, if only you weren’t going overseas!” I mistakenly took this as criticism back then, but I know now that what he really was saying was that American Christians prefer to support local over foreign outreach.  Bad decision!

Remember how God allowed persecution on the earliest church in Jerusalem and “scattered” people, forcing them into other countries, even to the Gentiles (Acts 8:1,4,19-20). I don’t think He used the same technique with American Christians—although WWII was the real beginning (not the earliest) of foreign outreach in churches of Christ—but I do believe that He has worked in time and space in our day to wipe away our tepid excuses for not sharing the Good News with people different from us.

Look at this snippet from Wikipedia about U.S. Immigration:

As of 2006, the United States accepts more legal immigrants as permanent residents than all other countries in the world combined. Since the liberalization of immigration policy in 1965, the number of first-generation immigrants living in the United States has quadrupled, from 9.6 million in 1970 to about 38 million in 2007. 1,046,539 persons were naturalized as U.S. citizens in 2008.

If Christians hesitate to “go into all the world,” then why shouldn’t God bring all the world into our neighborhood?  It’s not punishment—it’s who we are and what we are about!!

Let’s Start Talking is best known probably for its short-term, overseas mission programs, but as early as 1990, LST was also training Americans to reach out to international students, immigrants, and non-English speakers in our universities and neighborhoods.  FriendSpeak is LST’s program for training churches to reach out cross-culturally in their own communities—and it is huge!

Rather than tell you about it, I want to give you a link to the Christian Chronicle which just ran an online article and asked for feedback from those who might have used FriendSpeak in their churches. Just click this link and you will see firsthand what can be done here at home for the whole world:

http://www.christianchronicle.org/blog/2010/08/reader-feedback-tell-us-about-your-friendspeak-experience/

Local versus Foreign—not even a legitimate argument anymore—if it ever was. There is only, “Who can I talk to today—and who can I talk to tomorrow—and who will talk with those people over there?  Sure, I will.”

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