So, what happened to this Cooperative Program supporting SBC pastor that changed his view of global missions – I went on my first international mission trip and it changed my life! I wish I could say my first experience with international missions happened while I was a teenager, active in my church’s student ministry, or as a seminary student, focusing on evangelism and church growth, but I must confess my first taste of global missions didn’t occur until my second pastorate. You see, I was serving a “typical SBC church” in West Florida. We were small in size, approximately 150 in worship attendance, but we were working hard to reach our community for Christ. As I stated in Part 1, we gave 10% of our undesignated funds to the Cooperative Program and we annually received the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for Foreign Missions and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for Home Missions, both key missions offerings in Southern Baptist life. To be honest, I thought we were a good missions-minded Southern Baptist church.
Then, I was invited to travel with a team of pastors to El Salvador to engage in a week of evangelistic activities and God turned my “missions life” upside down. On the dusty streets of an El Salvadoran village, as I went door-to door inviting families to attend the viewing of an evangelistic film, God captured my heart for the world. He spoke ever so loudly through the faces of two little El Salvadoran children whose lives were trapped by religious activities and religious tradition but not by a life-transforming relationship with Jesus. Standing on the doorstep of their home, looking into the eyes of those two little boys, I heard God speak ever so clearly concerning my responsibility as a Pastor and as a Christ-follower to fulfill the Great Commission. I knew, as of that moment, it was not “enough” for the church I served to simply give money to the Cooperative Program and “let the professional missionaries do the work”. We, our little church in the Panhandle of Florida, had a responsibility to be “on mission” for the Lord around the world and I, as an individual follower of Christ, had a responsibility to be so Great Commission oriented that my passport became an essential tool in ministry.
God used that one, 7-day, international mission trip, to change my mind and heart about missions and to guide me in developing a more holistic, local church global missions strategy. On Tuesday, I’ll share what that strategy grew to look like. Until then, grab your passport. There is some place in the world where God wants to change your life!