The global church offers Western Christians hope in what feels like hopeless times; however, because many Western Christians do not see the global church, they can often forget about it in the midst of the busyness or anxieties of life. With so much competing for the attention of church members, how can pastors lead their churches to think about the global church?
Talk about the Global Church
Global Christians in areas like Asia, Africa, and Latin America are far away, so most of your church members probably have little direct contact with the global church. As leaders, you have a unique opportunity to direct their attention worldwide. Talk about the global church. Mention Christians in other parts of the world. Tell your congregation about the remarkable shifts in Christianity’s demographics in the last one hundred years. Learn the statistics. And when people despair over the lostness that exists around the world, point them to the hope they can find by recognizing that King Jesus is building his church in unexpected places.
Pray for the Global Church
Do not just talk about the global church—set aside time to pray for global Christians and lead your congregations to do so as well. When international events happen, pray for the Christians in that part of the world. If you need specific resources, check out Operation World, the World Christian Database or resources about the persecuted church like Open Doors. Praying together as a church for Christians and churches around the world develops a deep awareness of other believers and their needs, and it reminds your congregation that God is indeed a global God.
When people despair over the lostness that exists around the world, point them to the hope they can find by recognizing that King Jesus is building his church in unexpected places.
Invest in International Students, Refugees, and Immigrants.
Your church may be near pockets of global Christians, perhaps among the international students, refugees, and other immigrants who live around you. If you are near a university, then seek out opportunities to get to know international students. These students are often only in the area for a season before moving either back to their home country or on to a job. Share the gospel with those who are not Christians. Encourage, equip, and listen to those who are.
Next, look for opportunities near you to serve refugees. Many of them are Christians fleeing religious persecution in their area. Hear their stories. Invite them into your churches. Learn about Christianity in their homeland. Pray for the churches they left behind.
Finally, seek out immigrants in your area. These people have moved for jobs or family or a chance for a new life. They put down roots here in the United States, even though they very likely have strong connections to family back in their country. Meet these men and women and welcome them into your lives and churches.
By investing in international students, refugees, and immigrants, you can grow the heart of your congregation for both missions and the global church. Teach them to participate in missions by sharing the gospel with those who do not know Jesus. Show them the beauty of the global church by introducing them to Christians from other nations.
Develop Short-Term Missions Strategies That Intentionally Develop Relationships with the Global Church
Western Christians often build relationships and strategies around their partnerships with Western missionaries. While the desire to serve and walk alongside a missionary is a good one, challenge yourself to consider a short-term missions strategy that intentionally includes partnerships with the leaders of the global church. Build friendships with these church leaders, pray for them, and tell them how they can pray for you. Invite the leaders to send messages to your church members. If they are in the United States, welcome them to meet your congregation. These kinds of long-term, strategic relationships with Christians from other countries will open your church members’ eyes to what God is doing around the world.
Learn from the Global Church
Finally, learn from the global church. Western Christians often assume the role of a teacher, but what would happen if your members watched you take the posture of a student? Ask your global Christian brothers and sisters questions. Let them drive the conversations. What are their needs? How do they do evangelism, missions, and discipleship? What can you learn from their methods? What are the biggest issues their churches back home face? How can their stories encourage you? Model for your congregation the humility that is necessary to listen to and learn from brothers and sisters around the world. Let God work through these relationships to encourage you with the beautiful way he builds his church and call you to fervently pray for your family around the world.
Model for your congregation the humility that is necessary to listen to and learn from brothers and sisters around the world.
The global church may feel like a far-off reality to most of your church members, but you can bring it closer to home by talking about the global church, praying for the global church, investing in international students, refugees, and other immigrants, developing missions strategies that include the global church, and learning from them. Point to the global church as a picture of hope. Thank God continually that he is raising up a people for himself from every nation, tribe, people, and language, and praise him that you get to be alive at a time where you can see it and participate in it.
Anna Daub is the Director of Special Projects and Partnerships for Global Theological Initiatives at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She has a PhD in Applied Theology with an emphasis on Missiology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, an MDiv from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a BS in Biology from Howard Payne University. She has served overseas in South Asia and worked with international students in the United States.