So You Want to Serve in Missions… | World Challenge

So You Want to Serve in Missions…

Andreas Steffensen
September 4, 2020

Christ called us to share the good news with the world, but how do we do that effectively and in a way that meets people wherever they’re at?

The famous Danish poet Nicolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig once wrote, “A simple, cheerful, active life on earth, a cup I’d not exchange for monarch’s chalice…“

Missions work is often challenging. The Holy Spirit may be the same across all borders, but the people whose hearts he works in have fantastic variety. This requires us to stretch ourselves in order to understand very different cultural views of conflict and community building.

The rewards, however, are witnessing the endlessly creative ways that God meets people and transforms their hearts. Personally, I wouldn’t exchange this work for anything else.

We are all called to missionary work on some level, whether it’s in Cambodia or with our neighbors. If you feel the burden of the Great Commission, here are some books and authors whose work I’ve found helpful.

When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

What do we believe ‘poverty’ is? Who do we define as ‘the poor’? How do we help them in a real and long-lasting way?

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert set out to answer these three questions that have been the centerpiece of relief and missional work for decades. This book is a comprehensive journey, combining Corbett and Fikkert’s real-life experiences with missions, heavy-duty thinking and practical tools for how to help without hurting.

More than anything, they encourage us to see God’s image in others and empower those in need because we believe that our Lord is reconciling all things to himself. Stephen J. Baumann, senior vice president of World Relief, aptly described this book as “A clarion call to rethink how we apply to gospel to a broken world.”

We Are Not the Hero by Jean Johnson

Jean Johnson lived and worked as a missionary in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, a place once known as the Killing Fields. About 16 years later, she was leading a university class discussion on the topic of global perspectives. The question was raised, “Why do American Christians have a propensity to enter other countries as experts instead of learners and as heroes instead of servants?”

One student gave an answer Johnson would never forget. “Because Americans think they own Christianity.” She had witnessed the damage done abroad by Western Christians entering with the mentality of We’re here to bring you God! Here’s how to do church the right way!

After years of experience and teaching, Johnson’s vision for church planting is encompassed in the Cambodian proverb, “Enter a river where it bends; enter a country by its customs.”

The Legacy of William Carey by Vishal and Ruth Mangalwadi

William Carey was born to the family of a poor parish clerk, and he was expected to do no better with his life. His own childhood poverty gave Carey an enduring sympathy for the oppressed and a passion for the notion of equality before God.

In 1793, Carey took his famous, one-way journey to India, the land he would grow to love and where he would eventual die. He resisted the inequality of the caste system and dedicated himself to translating the Bible into Bengali, Sanskrit, Hindi, Oriya and Marathi, as well as creating some of the very first dictionaries and grammar books for these languages.

Carey’s legacy of passionate immersion into another culture, his doctrinal fidelity and moral integrity have inspired and informed missionaries well into the modern age.

Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by Dr. Howard Taylor

Many British missionaries had already set up camp in China when Hudson Taylor arrived on the scene. However, Taylor stood out as a strange one. He actively pursued any avenue that would allow for him to respect the culture, dressing in a changshan tunic and even wearing his hair in a queue. His desire from the start was for the church to be as Chinese as possible and led by Chinese believers.

The group of like-minded missionaries who joined him helped Taylor develop one of the largest missionary organizations in the world, the China Inland Mission. It was deeply informed by the desire to see Christ build his church in every part of China, however God saw fit.

Hudson Taylor’s passionate pursuit of God’s will on the mission field is instructional for believers in all walks of life.

The Rise and Fall of Movements by Steve Addison

History is defined by movements within universities, businesses but especially the church. Shortly after planting a successful church, Steve Addison was sharply struck by a conviction that he had made this church plant more about his success than God’s. He went to his knees, and from there, his journey to understand how God redefines society and history through church movements began.

“A ministry is what you can do with the help of others,” Addison explains. “A movement is what God can do when you let go of control and multiply disciples and churches.”

Throughout this book, he tracks the life cycle of movements, using biblical truth, personal experience, historical analysis and contemporary realities to explain each stage. No matter what stage an organization or a church is at, there is always hope for God to rekindle believers’ hearts and move again.

Andreas Steffensen is the global director of Development Programs for World Challenge. He is dedicated to helping communities around the world to progress spiritually and physically while achieving greater independence.