Vision trip update from Clay

So here we are! We read a lot about this place and we watched a lot of documentaries in order to prepare for this trip. The Faulkner family has welcomed us into their home. We are asking a ton of questions and they are graciously answering them all. There is a lot to take in about ministry in Naples. This is a difficult place for ministry but God is definitely at work in the hearts of the people we have talked to.

Even though we were aware of the issues here it is still shocking to see the trash on the streets and the prostitutes along the roadways. The culture loves children so despite the crime it is not unusual for children to walk throughout their neighborhoods without fear, even for the American children/parents. The toughest mafia boss would apparently stop to help a fallen kid get back up.

Lauren and I have looked at various communities to get an understanding of where we may live. We have been to one language class at the church and will attend another on Thursday. The church is great and we can see the hearts of the leadership for reaching the people here. Tonight we are going to a birthday party for a member of the church. We have been able to spend time with both Italians and American families here. It is comforting to see the American families caring for and discipling each other. Our focus will be on serving and ministering to the Italians while encouraging bridge building between the two cultures of the church members.

We still have a lot left to do during our time here. Lauren and I will take a day trip to Rome on Wednesday, spend one day touring Naples, visiting with the president of the Biblical Institute and much more. Oh, and of course the food is awesome. We have actually had American food a few times as well…Yep, hamburgers, hotdogs and baked beans, go figure. Café is amazing and we can’t wait to make you guys one when we return! Thanks for your prayers! We miss our kids but are so grateful for this opportunity. God has continued to confirm this calling and our hearts are broken for the lost here. We can’t wait to reach the Italian people here with His love. Hopefully we will be able to move here and immerse ourselves in the culture soon.

Well, its almost 2:00pm here so time for lunch!

Ciao!
Clay

Vision Trip update from Lauren

There is so much to process right now, going through culture shock. But I love these people. They are so warm & welcoming and the missionary team of is amazing, I’m so thankful for their guidance. Mostly, I’m thankful that the Lord has opened my eyes to another culture and that He has called us to be apart of His work here in Italy!

-Lauren

Confirmation: Lauren is willing to move?!

When I first met Lauren she was a senior in high school. Ever since I have know her she has had a huge interest in Italy. She told me when we got married that she would love to go there one day. I responded to her that I had absolutely no desire to ever move to Europe.

For the last 10 years I would often mention moving to another city or state. This was NOT an option for my wife. She could not even think about leaving family and our home to go somewhere else. I couldn’t even get her to consider moving 2 hours away to NW Arkansas. So when I knew God was calling me into full-time ministry I figured it would be local or He would have to change her mind. I finally reached a point where I stopped asking God for my 10 year plan, healthcare, and retirement options and finally told him that I would follow where ever He would lead. I prayed with men in my discipleship group, asking God to open doors and confirm His leading through my wife.

Over the next year I would overhear my wife talking with family or friends and she would make subtle statements like, “Who knows where we will be in a few years…” Now I know she was 100% behind my desire to pursue ministry, and while these statements were subtle, they were HUGE to me. I knew God was at work. Even my own mother noticed this change of heart.

Lauren finally confirmed that she knew God was leading our family to something new. She was ready to follow where ever that may be…but there were still questions and nervousness. What would our mothers do? What about our children? These are normal questions and I would probably be worried if she were not asking them. We began looking into missions organizations and seeking council from leaders and friends. We looked into WorldVenture and decided to check out the opportunities there. I saw a church planting opportunity in Ireland that sparked my interest so we talked and prayed about looking into it. WorldVenture contacted us and did their homework to make sure we were capable to enter ministry-We aren’t crazy thank God!

The opportunity in Ireland was not there so our missions coach sent us a list of other opportunities in Europe. There was a church planting intern program and a need for a web designer/techie to help a biblical institute in Italy. This immediately stood out to me and so I showed it to Lauren. When she saw it she knew that we needed to pursue these opportunities and her nerves turned to excitement. We asked our missions coach if those positions could be combined. I work in IT and I desire to help plant churches and make disciples….

Well, you know the rest of the story, but if you don’t just keep reading our blog or check out the video on the main page.

 

Confirmation: Stickers?…really?

I was talking with Lauren about ways to help people remember to pray for us. I started looking at making wrist bands, shirts or stickers that mention Italy. This way we could send them out with prayer letters and hand them to people we know would pray for us. I did my research in order to see how much this would cost us…but then our friend Emily Pendergrass showed up.

Emily is the garage sale queen of Cabot, and possibly Lonoke County? Her son Isaac is buds with my son. She sent Caiden home with a box of 75 stickers that she found at the Cabot Goodwill. They were Italy stickers that a scrapbook store would sell. See picture:

Some scrap-booking or craft store/enthusiast decided to get rid of them by donating them to Goodwill. We asked Emily if there were more stickers at the store and she said yes. I drove to Goodwill and found 6 more boxes of stickers on the shelf, every one of them Italy stickers. Now I bought them all at a little over $1 a box and thought that is was a pretty cool find. Not once did I think it to be confirmation from God that we are obediently following His leading in our life…until my good friend Eric Evans told me so. The more I think about it, the more I realize that God has been preparing us for this change for a long time now. And if I keep my eyes open I won’t miss the ways He decides to comfort us in our choice to follow Him.

Thoughts On Missions – Who is called to go?


Is there a difference between “mission” and “missions”?

My seven year old son Caiden asked me what I was learning this week in school. I told him that I was learning about the difference between the words mission and missions. He quickly responded with enthusiasm to tell me the answer. “That’s easy!” He said, “A mission is something I do on my video games. If I do it right then I beat the level and if I beat all of the missions I win the game.” Like all boys, my son enjoys video games, so of course he responded with such an answer. I was then able to explain what these words meant in regards to our faith in Jesus Christ.

The word mission (singular) is the entire biblical assignment of the church of Jesus Christ.[1] Jesus commanded His disciples to GO into all of the world and make disciples (Christ followers) of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have command you.[2] The mission is to proclaim the gospel and make disciples as we are going. This mission is clear and is carried out through, and by, the body of Christ as they proclaim God’s Word, encourage fellow believers, seek the lost, care for the orphans and the widows, and shine as a bright light in the dark world.

Missions (plural) was defined by George Peters as the sending forth of authorized persons beyond the borders of the New Testament church and her immediate gospel influence to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in gospel-destitute areas, to win converts from other faiths or non-faiths to Jesus Christ, and to establish functioning, multiplying local congregations who will bear the fruit of Christianity in that community and to that country.[3] In other words, missions is when Christ followers go to other people groups to proclaim the gospel and carry out the mission. These people groups are separated by socio-economic, cultural or geographical boundaries and the Christ followers that go to them are called missionaries.

If we compared this to a video game, the mission would be to accomplish everything, in every level of the game that the creator requires to be done before you croak. Missions would be leaving one level of the game for the next undefeated level in order to advance in the overall mission. However, unlike a video game, not everyone is called to play the same levels in the game. We all work to accomplish the mission, but only some people leave a level for another unconquered level; these people would be the missionaries.

Every Christian is not called to be a missionary. However, every Christian is called to the mission, the Great Commission. Those that are called to be missionaries depend on the mission being accomplished back home. It is the Christians at home that help support missionaries with their prayer, finances and encouragement. Christians that are not crossing borders still impact the world as they pursue Christ, seek the lost, and support missionaries that are called across those borders. We are called to do the mission well, and as we do, we can trust that we will win, because Jesus already has and He is our King.


What is the “missionary call”, is it biblical, and is it required to serve cross-culturally?

Does a person need to sense or receive a special “call” to become a cross culture evangelist, church planter or teacher-discipler? Many believe that you do. Acts 13:2 shows us that Paul and Barnabas were set apart for the work to which God had called them—preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. This is often used in support of the view that a person needs a special call into missions. Those that believe a person does not need a special call point out that Paul and Barnabas had previously been called to reach the Gentiles. They also point out that it was the leaders of the Antioch church that sent Paul and Barnabas into the field.

We are all called to carry out the great commission. Paul was specifically charged by God to carry it out among Gentiles. This is clearly a “call” into cross-cultural ministry. Paul was obediently preaching the gospel before he hit the mission field. God used the leaders of the church to help send the qualified and “called” Paul into the world. Just like pastors and evangelist are called to carry out God’s work locally, missionaries are called to carry out God’s work cross-culturally.

The reason many oppose the belief that a special call is needed is because they feel it has prevented many capable Christians from entering missions because they expected a crystal clear calling about cross-cultural ministry. Many expect the missionary call to include answers to questions such as: “What country am I called to?” or “How long will I stay?” Herbert Kane said “The term missionary call should never have been coined. It is not Scriptural and therefore can be harmful. Thousands of youth desiring to serve the Lord have waited and waited for some mysterious “missionary call” that never came.”[4] I agree with Kane’s statement regarding the term “missionary call”, but only when it is used out of context.

The harm occurs when Christians believe that the missionary call is a packet of complete orders that will reveal the exact timeline and details of cross-cultural ministry. This is one of the reasons many never go to seek the lost in other nations. If we study the great missionaries of the church we will often discover that they did not end up where they had originally intended. David Livingstone originally wanted to go to China but was hindered due to an Opium War and instead went into Africa.[5]

I believe that materialism in the American church is another reason that the workers are few in world missions. The prosperity gospel supports the comfort of American culture. Why would a believer consider a lower and potentially dangerous life across borders when health and wealth is a promise to all Christians for here and now? This is a false gospel and Scripture is absolutely clear that we should avoid preaching godliness as a means to gain.[6]

Those that are called should be willing to go wherever God is sending them, even if the first step is the only clear one. God produces the desire for seeking the lost in other nations and our desire should be to find and serve them no matter how much detail we have in front of us. When Christians are willing to submit their entire life for the sake of missions, no matter what that means, they will focus on being led by the Holy Spirit. They will explore any doors our heavenly Father opens–And He will open them! Francis Chan writes, “There’s nothing wrong with pursuing what God would have you do with your life, but sometimes we get so scared about missing our calling for the future that we become paralyzed in the present. God does have a plan for each of our lives, but He has never promised to reveal that plan to us in advance.”[7]

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Bibliography

Olson, Gordon C., What In The World Is God Doing? Essentials of Global Missions: An Introductory Guide. 5 ed. Cedar Knolls: Global Gospel Publishers, 2003.

Chan, Francis; Danae Yankoski. Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit.  Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2009.

End Notes 


[1] Gordon C., Olson. What In The World Is God Doing? Essentials of Global Missions: An Introductory Guide. 5 ed. (Cedar Knolls: Global Gospel Publishers, 2003), pp.13-14.  [2] Matthew 28:16-20  [3] Gordon C., Olson. What In The World Is God Doing? Essentials of Global Missions: An Introductory Guide. 5 ed. (Cedar Knolls: Global Gospel Publishers, 2003), pp.13  [4] Gordon C., Olson. What In The World Is God Doing? Essentials of Global Missions: An Introductory Guide. 5 ed. (Cedar Knolls: Global Gospel Publishers, 2003), pp.82  [5] Gordon C., Olson. What In The World Is God Doing? Essentials of Global Missions: An Introductory Guide. 5 ed. (Cedar Knolls: Global Gospel Publishers, 2003), pp.83  [6] 1 Timothy 6:3-12 ESV  [7] Chan, Francis; Danae Yankoski. Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit. (David C. Cook, 2009).