(Bishop Paul L. Leeland) - During an engaging conversation with one of our United Methodist Missionaries several weeks ago, my wife, Janet, and I found a growing interest in the movement and work of missionaries from a global perspective. We were intrigued with those who dedicated themselves to enter into areas of our world to do evangelism and offer specific ministries that point others to Jesus Christ. This, of course, is the traditional view of missionaries – people who witness across cultures to make disciples of all nations, fulfilling the Great Commission. I think our interest was heightened when we were told about the growing number of Korean and African missionaries that can now be found all over the world, even in the United States.
The Church owes a great amount of gratitude to those who have entered other cultures, learning the language of the culture, coming to adapt and respect the values of the culture, and developing deep relationships of respect in order to introduce these new found friends to Jesus.
Our son-in-law shared his experience of campus ministry during his college years where as a student he was encouraged to get a part time job. This job would introduce him to a circle of people whom he would see consistently and often. Many of these people would not have a relationship with a church and may not think of themselves as Christians. Still, our son-in-law was urged to be friendly, make a friend, and bring this new friend to a Bible study, a mission work team, worship service, or prayer group. The college mantra was, “Be a friend, make a friend, bring a friend to Christ.” This was not done in a manipulative way, but offered as a guide to initiate and present new disciples of Jesus who would have a growing interest in what the Bible says, who Jesus is, and what life looks like when one lives their personal life following the teachings of Jesus.
For some, as they step into a new work environment, meeting new people, this means finding oneself in a new culture – perhaps an un-churched culture. It becomes challenging to listen both to the language of this new culture and recognize the values of this new culture. As new relationships of trust and respect are developed, these new friends are invited into some contact point with our own Christian community that will allow a healthy interest in Jesus Christ to develop.
We don’t need to travel to Africa, Korea, or South America simply to find new disciples. We need to go no further than our own zip code. Changing our patterns of behavior, the time we walk, where we go to eat, or opportunities to serve our community through volunteer efforts, will allow us to meet new people. As we learn of their interests, what they value, and their needs, we develop genuine relationships of trust where it becomes natural and easy to invite them to join us for Bible study, worship, mission work teams, or covenant groups. We become missionaries within our own zip code.
Next month, October 11-12, at Woodlawn United Methodist Church, Panama City, you will certainly want to participate in our Conference Evangelism offering, “Seed Cast,” when Rev. Jim Cowart, founding pastor of Harvest United Methodist Church, Macon, Georgia, comes to share practical steps and insight for growing disciples of Jesus Christ. He started a congregation that now has an average worship attendance of over 2,000 people a week. I hope you will register for this event today by clicking here; it will be well worth your investment since this will be a practical approach to inviting others to follow Jesus Christ.
More importantly, when you return home from this event, thoroughly tour your zip code and then “Be a friend, make a friend, and bring a friend to Christ.” Become a Zip Code Missionary!