Written by Pete Lowman
You can download the PDF of this resource here.
God is a missionary God; and from its opening pages the Bible shows us his passionate heart for the lost, worldwide.
So: we are reflecting his nature, and his Spirit’s control (look at Acts 1:8), in a very thorough way as we care about the lost world in the self-giving way he did (see John 3:16 for that!) And as our group grows more and more like him, we can expect this nature to be expressed through the contributions of our various members.
Some things to think about, then:
1. How may the Lord use us as leaders to help our group on into a deeper vision of global mission as the shape within which everything else we do finds its place?
Vision is primarily caught, not taught. Inspiring stories help! Who do we know in our church (or churches we’re close to) who has such stories, that we can field occasionally in our group? People who’ve worked for missionary reasons in other parts of the world, or who grew up in another country and can help your group pray about it?
Part of the homegroup’s job is to introduce its members to wider (and more colourful!) issues. So, a globally oriented event in the homegroup programme twice a year? What about a creative regional evening - eg on east Asia: Chinese food, Chinese music CD, China prayer issues?
But it's good too when in an `ordinary` Bible study we can catch at opportunities to pick up on the global and missionary dimensions of the passage we're studying.
Make space also to care and pray about the suffering church abroad, using websites like www.barnabasfund.org .
Build in chunks of time for returned missionaries who are briefly back home.
It's good if we can include one global prayer item each meeting - eg from the newspaper (the amazing Operation World book will give us brief supporting information on how the church and the gospel are doing in a country that has just hit the news). A missionary website can also help; www.omf.org.uk is great for east Asia, www.latinlink.org for south America, www.arabworldmedia.org or www.interserve.org.uk for the muslim world. This gives us the essential big picture - `Yes, our prayers here really can affect Greece!`
And then PRAY!
2. What creative ideas do we have for enhancing how we relate to the missionary our group supports?
Facebook and Google Earth have shrunk the miles! Nevertheless, sending a group e mail or letter is still a great idea. But if people in our group are busy, we may find it hard to find someone to actually write it. So, we can have a laptop at our group meeting and then everyone can contribute to an e mail - or even send a physical letter on which everyone has written or drawn something. Or, pass around a mike to record an MP3 (or, depending on the missionary, a cassette), on which everyone can speak. Or better still a Skype phonecall where different group members can talk to the missionaries live? Or our kids to their kids?
(If you need any technical help with any of this, don’t be ashamed to ask – someone in your church will be happy to help!)
Maybe you know one of your missionaries abroad well enough to know what hobby magazines they enjoy, and you could arrange a subscription as a birthday present - or for their kids. Or, maybe, when you see a new book you know they would enjoy, you can send it to them. And not just spiritual books – indeed with some of these you would need to be careful; it wouldn’t be good at all to send someone working in the Middle East an exciting new book about breakthroughs in muslim evangelism! But secular books too; funny books; books for their kids.
If they’re in a place where it’s not easy to download, then perhaps a new CD of their favourite music, or their kids’? Is there special food we can safely send to our missionary? Some of us love marmite and you can’t get that in many countries! And it’s nice (and easy) if their kids get a card from you on their birthday (and is there a game that can be sent them by post?); or indeed perhaps their ageing parents. (Just why don’t we do that?)
Missionaries too tend to be very busy, so we want to write to them for prayer news in a way that doesn't increase their workload too much. In fact there are ways we can pray for them without having to get information from them at all: just think of what’s hard for you, and pray about the same things for them. Having good times with God, for example; sharing our faith; loneliness; singleness; sexual temptation; marriage tensions; relationships with colleagues; plans for the future - we know how to pray these things for ourselves, and we can be there for them in prayer on exactly the same topics. Or, for variety, use the prayer topics in Eph 1:15-20, Phil 1:9-11, or Col 1:9-12. A third alternative to using a missionary's prayer letter is to send them an e mail in which we ask for one-line prayer requests in eight categories. (Afterwards we can use these in eight successive weeks.) For example ask for prayer requests on: health issues; adapting to language and culture; the children/family; their outreach plans; people they're discipling; money coming in (and could your homegroup help with this by a fundraising walk or ball?); the missionary's parents.
And of course, find out when the missionaries are home, and plan (and advertise) a lunch with them.
Do check carefully with their sending agency, however, as to whether there any things you shouldn’t mention in communications with your missionary, or particular phrases you should be very careful to use - `talk to Dad` rather than `pray`, for example.
And: Would it be feasible for your homegroup here to `twin' for a three year period with a homegroup in the church to which your missionary belongs out there?- link up on Facebook/Skype, exchange messages, photos, postcards, local papers, Google Earth...? Have your kids be in touch with their kids?)
3. How in our homegroup can we respond to a world event like September 11 that may open up new global evangelism opportunities - or alternatively may close doors for the gospel?
Give space to cope with people's initial reactions. Help them come round to a positive insight.
Bring the newspaper to the group meeting. Again, Operation World is a great resource for background.
Get people thinking: How will this affect the view that different peoples have of Christians and the gospel? Is Satan trying to close doors - how should we pray? Is God opening up opportunities - how should we pray? And what will it mean for isolated Christians?
4. How as a homegroup might we relate to the positive opportunities presented by the many people from hard-to-reach countries who have come to our town?
This is above all a matter of encouraging awareness: that ministries like Friends International exist (www.friendsinternational.org.uk); that there may be many foreign students in your town or one not far away who would love contact with a UK family (even to cook a meal!) – and they may well come from `closed` countries where missionaries are unwelcome. Christmas especially is a great time to invite international guests who otherwise might be extremely lonely, and show them Jesus. You will find that any sacrifice involved in this ministry is much more than compensated!
How can we bring out people's fears of the unknown when it comes to making friends cross-culturally? Help them hear that God is interested in our doing what we can do, not what we can't do. Maybe include time in the first week of the month to pray about this ministry. Maybe use the summertime when people are more relaxed anyway.
(We might even end up sending a mission team abroad from our homegroup!)
Obviously we as homegroup leaders aren't going to do all these things; but God will send opportunities for us to encourage some of these things, and learn together to have God's missionary heart…. `This is our God. This is what he's like!'