Last weekend was our church’s “Missions Emphasis Weekend.” One of the things that really attracted me to Emmanuel when I was interviewing seven years ago was the strong emphasis on world missions. We always have a missionary share in Sunday School and then since High School Youth Group meets on Sunday nights, we invite one or two of the missionaries join us in order to share about their life and ministry. I always leave those times encouraged.
Meanwhile, last week I was talking to a friend about missions weekend coming up and my friend gave me “that look.” You know what I’m talking about… that look that says, “Ugh, really? They’re doing that again, better you than me.”
Here are a few reasons why I love introducing students to missionaries:
- The Great Commission really does apply to every disciple of Jesus Christ. If I’m trying to build disciples but I’m not introducing students to men and women who have literally left their homeland in order to make disciples of all nations, then I’m seriously short-circuiting my attempts to teach the Great Commission to my students.
- Students need to see and hear that missionaries are actual people. People often thing that missionaries are some breed of super-Christians, and while they are people we should esteem and learn from, most of them are very down-to-earth simple people who have humbly and boldly obeyed God’s call on their life. These missionaries often started out just like the students in our youth ministries today.
- Missionaries remind students that the world is bigger than their problems. When a teenager is stressed over exams or tryouts or whatever, it’s a great reminder to hear that life is so much bigger than their life/family/school.
- Missionaries challenge our assumptions about what’s “normal” and what we “need.” Culture is a funny thing, because most of us assume that everyone in the world either has or needs what we have or need (or what we think we need). Missionaries remind us how strange Americans are, and the missionaries who are really bold even challenge our claims that “Americans are better off” by asking us, “Why is it better to have more money? You have more money, but you’re way more miserable than those who have nothing.” Teenagers need this reminder (and so do I).
- I would love to see some of my students obey God’s call to become a missionary! There are still thousands Unreached People Groups in the world who literally have no way of hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15)
I know it’s not “cool” to have missionaries come to Youth Group. Most missionaries aren’t trendy, some aren’t the most riveting communicators, others may seem completely out of touch with youth culture. I get it, I understand why some people would roll their eyes over having a missionary come and speak in their Youth Group, but I absolutely love introducing students to missionaries who are willing to be real with students, who will share openly about who they are and where they’ve come from and what God has done in them as they’ve obeyed His call to the mission field.
Missionaries are the Great Commission in human flesh – that’s why I love introducing my students to them!