Have you ever experienced a divine interruption, a moment when God arrests your intention and reshapes your outlook?
One day, early in my ministry, God communicated to me a truth I believe is the key to the miraculous. He taught me the victories you experience, the accomplishments of your ministry, the level of success Christ brings to your life, are all an outgrowth of your willingness to give sacrificially, especially to the cause of Christ around the world. I’m talking about world missions.
Think about it. You belong to the Assemblies of God fellowship that has, since its inception, dedicated itself to sharing the Gospel with the lost around the world using every available means. The Assemblies of God takes the Great Commission very seriously. So does our Lord. The Assemblies of God fellowship has grown to over 55 million adherents around the world in less than 100 years. With these numbers, you can understand why we embrace the miraculous.
When you communicate a passion for world missions to your congregation, you will begin to see two things happen: 1) Your ability to minister to distant and desperate needs will multiply, 2) Your ability to meet the needs of your congregation will expand more quickly.
I first learned about missions as a Youth Pastor when working for my father-in-law, Gerald Jordan, at First Assembly of God in Springdale, Arkansas. I could not understand why he was so interested in giving to complete strangers who he would never see, meet, or personally influence. I understood the need to win the lost, but weren’t the lost right around us? America has the third largest group of lost people of any nation in the world. Shouldn’t we concentrate our efforts in our own neighborhoods?
I asked Pastor Jordan for an explanation. He must have noticed the consternation in my voice or perhaps the quizzical look on my face because he took me to lunch that day, sat me down, and began to explain to me the heart of God in such a profound way. I’ve never forgotten that conversation.
One thing he said particularly stirred me, “Son, if you’ll care about God’s world, He will care about your church.”
“I do care about God’s world,” I protested.
He responded, “Our doing must be propelled by His going.”
What a profound statement. This was the very core thought and beginning of the Church. Jesus told His disciples not only to go to Jerusalem, but also to Judea and Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world.
My father-in-law taught me true giving is giving to areas that do not particularly benefit your church. I think, as pastors, we sometimes forget this. We’re so interested in winning the lost and building our churches that sometimes we get confused about true giving. Missions is about reaching people you may never see, you may never touch, and you may never hear. When I began to understand and apply this, everything began to change. God began to bless our youth ministry as we became increasingly involved with missions.
By the time I became a senior pastor, I was convinced of the foundational role of missions, but were my congregations? The first church I pastored had previously given less than $2,500 to missions. They believed this was admirably sacrificial, considering they were barely meeting their own obligations.
I began sharing with the congregation the concept of mission’s giving. I worked it into my sermons. I looked for opportunities to invite missionaries to minister to us. I brought to attention the world’s needs, as we also looked to meet our own. The results were amazing. God began to bless our church in proportion to how much we put missions to the forefront of our monthly activities.
After over nine years, the church’s missions giving had grown to almost $60,000 per year, and overall giving grew from $30,000 to $550,000. I like God’s mathematics. During those years, even as we invested our funds in many ministries around the world, God blessed the congregation abundantly, enabling us to construct two new buildings and improve our grounds. With increased giving to missions, we experienced increased resources to meet the needs of our own growing church. We always had more than enough.
When I became the senior pastor of First Assembly of God in Griffin, the church was $5,000 behind in its bills. Its income hovered around $400,000 a year, but the budget was more than $8,000 a week, resulting in a $20,000 annual shortfall compounding every year.
The church’s mission’s giving in 1992 was nearly $10,000. In my book, mission’s giving of less than $10,000 represents a genuine neglect of a key to the miraculous.
I remember when a board member asked me how we were going to overcome the financial dilemma. “We are going to give our way out,” I responded.
A miracle happened the day we attended a Light for the Lost banquet. The speaker shared how Light for the Lost funds purchased literature that could be used multiple times, resulting in multiple decisions for Christ. I knew at that moment if we sacrificially gave to Light for the Lost, thereby sharing in God’s heart for the lost, then the money we gave would be multiplied back to us to meet our own needs. I knew if we wanted to grow a church, we would have to sow a seed to win souls.
That day, we sowed a seed of $3,000 as a faith promise – the largest faith promise the church had made in its 65-year history. Within weeks, people began to be saved at our church services – drug addicts, prostitutes, gay bar keepers, and the largest marijuana dealers in the State of Georgia. It seemed to me when we became interested in God’s world, God became interested in our church.
Five building programs and two major remodeling projects later, our church’s annual income had grown from $400,000 to $10 million. Our church mission’s giving has increased from less than $10,000 a year to over $3.6 million in recent years.
When times were tough, such as in the wake of 9/11, when we had to choose how and where to give, we always gave priority to missions. We knew absolutely God would take care of our building when we took care of His Kingdom work. And He did. Through the most difficult economic times our city has ever experienced, God continued to grow our church, both spiritually, numerically, and financially.
Some would say that we have done enough. To those voices I would have to say a resounding no! Recent mission’s statistics, as of 2006 tell us the following:
Almost 6.6 billion people live on the earth.
1.2 billion people live on 23 cents a day.
2 billion people have no electricity.
80% of all people live in substandard housing.
1 billion people are without safe drinking water.
Every 16 seconds someone dies of hunger.
57 million people died in 2006. 10.5 million of those were children under the age of 5.
14 million children were orphaned because of HIV/AIDS
2 million children have died as a result of armed conflict during the last 10 years.
$8 billion were spent on cosmetics in America in 2005.
$11 billion were spent for ice cream in Europe.
$17 billion were spent for pet food in the U.S. and Europe.
$105 billion were spent for alcohol in Europe.
(Excerpted from World Challenge, Inc. Mission’s Update-Newsletter)
Have we done enough? Have we given as much as we can? In 2006, the Assemblies of God U.S. Missions gave $221 million to World Missions through 2.8 million adherents in the United States. That means we gave a grand total of $7.81 per person per year, or about two cents per day per adherent!
We must feel the burden and we must finish the task. Nothing worth achieving is ever going to be easy. Your pursuit of ministerial significance will include the seemingly impossible. When you identify your need for a miracle, take that opportunity to dedicate even more of your resources to the Miracle-Giver.