by Erich Bridges
EDITOR’S NOTE: Missions columnist Erich Bridges, writing in conjunction with Southern Baptists’ Week of Prayer for International Missions, notes that a vibrant spiritual relationship with Christ is foundational to global outreach. “One Sacred Effort — Find your place in God’s story” is the theme for the Nov. 30-Dec. 7 prayer emphasis in support of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches undergird approximately 4,800 international missionaries in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at imb.org/offering, where there are resources to promote the offering.
RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — Light shines brightest in darkness — even in the murk of a stagnant water canal near a village in southern Asia, where six new believers in Christ are baptized.
“I want to follow Jesus!” says Dhanwan, one of the six, who became a Christian through the church-planting network led by Christian worker Mitch Englehart* and his national partners.
The local pastor baptizes Dhanwan, who in turn baptizes the next new believer, who baptizes the next. Mitch has seen more than 3,000 baptisms in the past five years alone — and his team is developing a new wave of church planters focused on the least-reached districts where he works.
“God is using these guys in mighty ways,” Mitch says. “There’s already a fire burning. My role is to pour a little gasoline on that fire.” (See featured video.)
The fire began in the heart of God. His divine plan to reconcile creation to Himself was fulfilled when He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us. After His death and resurrection, Jesus sent His disciples to continue God’s mission. Today, we’re part of His plan, if we obey His call to take the Gospel to all nations:
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20 HCSB).
Before the resurrected Christ said those words, however, verses 16 and 17 record how His followers encountered Him that day: “The 11 disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted.”
Even after seeing Him risen from the grave, they needed His presence and power before going forth into the world.
“Jesus had some important instructions for His inner circle, but before He offered the outer commission, He simply invited them to be with Him,” writes former missionary Randy Rains, IMB leader for spiritual life and formation. “They needed to understand that their relationship to Him was far more important than anything they would ever do. They worshiped Him, though some doubted, or as some interpretations render it, they hesitated. Within this context of doubt, fear and hesitation, He reassured them of His presence, authority and unconditional love. He knew they would need all of this before embarking upon any fruitful mission endeavor.”
Rains notes that the Great Commission “does not begin with our going out to make disciples. It begins first with our meeting Jesus in the place where He has invited us to come. … It is the location where we listen in prayer as He reminds us we are His beloved, that He has all authority and will be with us wherever we go and in all that we do. Let’s make sure we are fulfilling the inner commission as we seek to fulfill the outer commission of making disciples of all peoples, baptizing them and teaching them to observe all things He has commanded us.”
This is the one sacred effort to which He calls us — first to Him, then to His mission.
This year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions gives us a fresh opportunity to join God in His work. When you pray and give, you become part of God’s story around the world.
Erich Bridges is an International Mission Board global correspondent.