I enjoy spending time in our local public library. Something about the stacks of books and dozens of people reading paperbacks, newspapers, and magazines makes my heart beat a little faster. During my last visit I spotted something I had not seen before. Nestled in the middle of the soft chairs in the children’s section was a large globe. It’s so prominently placed I’m surprised I hadn’t noticed it in all these years. As children step around it to get to their newest novel it continues to speak volumes. It says, “Remember that the world is much bigger than this little room we are in.”
Although Jesus didn’t have the latest Rand McNally globe as a visual aid to teach his disciples, they got the message loud and clear. Challenging them with what we now call the Great Commission, he reminded them that the world is much bigger than the hillside they sat on or even the nearby city of Jerusalem. Sending them to make disciples of “all nations” placed a burden in their hearts they would never forget. They were to be global Christians.
Embracing the Great Commission
A quick google search of “global Christians” nets over 66 million websites. Even with this plethora of information, the church is coming up short. Consider recent Barna research in their Faith and Christianity survey in March of 2018. When asked if they had ever heard of the Great Commission, 51 percent of those identifying as Christians responded with “No.” Information reported by Gordon Conwell University shows that between 2000 and 2010 Islam grew faster than Christianity. Islam grew at 1.86 percent per annum, whereas Christianity grew 1.31 percent while the world’s population grew at 1.20 percent (Trends in International Religious Demography, Todd Johnson).
Taking a road trip with my wife is more and more common these days. But on this particular trip I was tired from a busy week and wanted to take a short nap while she drove us down the open road. As we were approaching a major city with congested traffic, she gave me a nudge and said, “Could you help me navigate the twists and turns up ahead?” In a drowsy reply, I muttered, “Don’t worry, I’m right here.” With more concern in her voice, she insisted, “I don’t need you to be here, I need you to wake up!”
This is exactly the case with our need for global Christians. The Lord doesn’t need another church, another elder or deacon, or family to just “be here.” He needs us to wake up to the fields white unto harvest all around us. What will it take for us to stand up and say with conviction like Isaiah, “Here am I, send me” (Isaiah 6:8)?
Becoming Global Christians
Thankfully, some answer the call by selling everything and leaving for a foreign country. My friend Molly and her husband, Adel, said “yes” and they couldn’t be happier teaching and serving in a destitute third world area. Reading their emails and newsletters inspires me to pray for and support them while doing more right where I live.
Others become global Christians by helping fulfill the mission of their local church to make disciples. In friendship and faith, they reach out to their neighbors and coworkers with the good news of the gospel. Hearing about the astounding growth of many churches reaching their region overwhelms me with encouragement.
But, to be honest, for years I conveniently left three words out of the Great Commission: “of all nations.” When I woke up to the multi-national calling of Jesus, I began to fully understand what it meant for me to be a global Christian.
Please don’t read between the lines and hear what I’m not saying. Leaving to serve in a foreign country is wonderful. I’ve joined those ranks on short-term mission trips (another great way to be a global Christian). In fact, I wish more would answer the sacrificial call to cross salt water to translate Bibles, build houses, and alleviate the suffering of the poor and destitute.
Starting at Home
What I am saying is let’s not ignore our own calling to be global Christians right where we live. When Jesus charged the disciples with the global mission to make disciples of all nations, they were dumbfounded. How could this crew of “average Joes” who rarely traveled outside their own region ever have a global impact? They did and so can we.
Let’s reimagine how we can reach the nations from our living rooms. Without even realizing it, I interact with people from other nations every day. A nurse at our local hospital is from Sudan, a doctor from Nepal, a cardiologist told me he is from Greece. There is a favorite Chinese restaurant in our town that employs people from throughout Asia. They speak with broken English but are thrilled when any American shows them the least amount of friendship. And we can never forget about those with refugee status moving into our cities and apartment complexes. I’m convinced that Jesus cares deeply about them since he himself was a refugee as a toddler in Egypt. But there are even more.
International students are flooding into our country. This is the fastest growing segment of university enrollment on many campuses. Last year a Wall Street Journal headline declared, “Foreign Enrollment at U.S Colleges Sets a Record” (November 15, 2017). Imagine standing in one spot and within a five-minute walk you can meet and speak to people from over 50 nations. Welcome to the American university campus. Seventy percent of these students will never see the inside of an American home even though they are in the United States for four years. Being a global Christian is more possible now than ever before in all recorded human history.
Let’s talk about John and Jane. You can find them in church with their three kids every Sunday. They love the worship. The sermons inspire them to be more like Jesus. And now they have decided to be global Christians. Their attitude and behavior is different. They see the world as much bigger than their small neighborhood and their closed circle of friends.
John and Jane now greet the server at the Chinese restaurant and ask about his week. They learn to say Xian, a name that’s really tough to pronounce! Jane went to the university website and discovered when the Korean festival will be held and plans to attend and meet new students. She knows that international students can’t wait to say “yes” to her invitation for a home-cooked meal. John works out at the YMCA and always sees the new oncologist in town on a nearby treadmill. He greets the man in his native Arabic language, “Marhabaan.” They are becoming friends.
Churches are filled with many people just like John and Jane. They hear the soft whisper of Jesus to “make disciples of all nations” and can’t wait to hop on that wagon. Now, when John and Jane sing the chorus along with the worship team, “Oh Lord, we ask for the nations,” they really mean it.
John Stott said, “We must be global Christians with a global vision because our God is a global God.” I’m thrilled to hear people around me talk about the second coming of Jesus. But today I realize there are hundreds around me that have never even heard of his first coming. Psalm 57:9 reads, “I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples.” That’s something I can do today. And so can you.
Greg Swinney serves as ministry facilitator with Crossroads International Student Ministries in Kearney, Nebraska, and is the National Representative for the Association of College Ministries.