I write this post as a pastor who is leading training this week in West Africa, where my fire for missions has been refueled again. Every pastor, I’m convinced, needs to spend some time overseas. That time may be as short as a week or as long as years, but I’m certain we need to commit the time. Here’s why:
- We need to see that the world is bigger than our world. By far, most of the world doesn’t live in the United States. Most of the Christians in the world don’t live here, either. Simply stated, we won’t reach the world as long as we think we are the world.
- We need to see how little we are. Even if every believer in America knew your name, read every book you’ve ever written, listened to every podcast you’re produced, and saw you as a hero, 95% of the world still would not know your name. That’s humbling.
- We need to see the lostness of the world. Get a chance to listen to the sounds of the Islamic call to prayer five times of day. Hear and see Buddhist prayer flags flapping in the wind. Watch as people bow before statues they created with their own hands. You’ll never be the same after you stand in the middle of darkness.
- We need to see the hunger of the believing world. I’ve watched as believers around the world listen to my teaching, record every word, and then reteach it to others. I make no claim that my teaching is that good; I’m simply noting the hunger of people who long for training. You’ll likely find people who don’t want to stop the training.
- We need to meet people who are paying the price of following Christ. We Americans tend to throw around the term “persecution” and act as if any opposition we face is persecution. It wouldn’t hurt us to learn more about what real persecution is.
- We need to learn the realities of contextualization. Teaching well overseas is never as simple as translating our outlines into another language. It requires understanding contexts, worldviews, histories, and theologies of the people we teach. Frankly, learning the importance of these issues will help us in sharing the gospel in the United States as well.
- We need to meet missionaries. Pastors and their congregations will support missions better if they actually know missionaries—and it’s not the missionary’s job to come to us. It’s our job as pastors to develop relationships with them.
Pastors who have been there, give us other reasons to spend time overseas.