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“I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Romans 1:11-12
When we engage in outreach or evangelism, whether it is across the street or across an ocean, we often think in terms of what message or gift I have to offer. What testimony might I share? What food or tangible gift might I distribute? What service project might I complete? The hope is that what we offer might lead someone to fullness of life in Christ, that they might be drawn closer to the Kingdom of God.
But the New Testament church leaders discovered something remarkable about mission engagement in their early experiences especially among the Gentiles. They learned that mission is not just about what we give, but what we learn and receive. Think of Peter’s experience in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10-11) or Paul’s experience Thyatira being received in Lydia’s home (Acts 16).
It’s true for us today, as well. If you ask anyone who has traveled on a short-term mission trip, they can confirm that they feel like they received so much more than they gave. When we step out into God’s Kingdom mission, we are bound to be recipients of hospitality and learn something new of God’s heart for people who don’t share our culture.
Because being sent into the world to make disciples is foundational for life in Christ (John 20:21, Matthew 28:18-20), engaging in mission is life-giving and transformational for individuals and churches. We find our life in Christ stretched and energized and multiplied when we extend ourselves into God’s Kingdom work in the world.
And yet, we find ourselves and our churches are hunkered down and not fully living into the work of making disciples in the world. We don’t feel ready or adequate to engage in mission or evangelism or church planting. We grow weary. Or, we are simply to pre-occupied with our concerns to see the needs beyond ourselves. How do we get beyond these all-too-common maladies that lead to apathy and decline?
When I need a kick-in-the pants for evangelism, I see no better remedy than spending some time with my friends in the UAE or Southeast Asia. When I need my heart turned towards the needs of others, I know I should take the time to hear from my friends at Pars about the needs of the Farsi-speaking church. When I need fresh perspective on church revitalization, I find courage from my brothers and sisters in Egypt.
My life of faith and my community of faith are postured toward transformation in Christ when I am engaging in the global Christian community. The courage and passion of the non-Western church help us find synergy for the transformation God wants to do in our life. Though we can’t meet in person or travel together to visit our global partners for the time being, I long to see our ECO churches connecting with one another and the global church in ways that synergize our mutual transformation.
I have been working to identify and pilot a strategy for ECO Global Engagement that leans into this reality. How can we as the ECO denomination cultivate transformative mission engagement among ECO churches that lead to making disciples of all nations? How can we be a “Covenanted Order” that is together on God’s mission? How can ECO have a “bottom-up” approach to global mission that is deeper than just the sum total of each churches’ mission engagement?
Here’s the basic idea: Communities of Global Engagement will serve as a space of collaborative mission between ECO church leaders and an identified global partner. The community will seek to mobilize engagement of ECO Churches and encourage best practices in mutual mission partnership. It’s a simple idea to get churches connected around shared mission partners. But, there are so many questions to consider: How do we do this well? How does it fit within ECO’s structure and vision? How and who initiates, facilitates, and resources a Community of Global Engagement?
In the coming months, we’ll be launching two pilot Communities of Global Engagement with virtual events: The Pars Community of Global Engagement and The Egypt Community of Global Engagement. These two are now are in the planning phase, and I’d love to see new communities form in the coming year. If you’d like to learn more, get involved, or help pilot a new Community of Global Engagement, please reach out and let me know. I would love to hear from you.
Jen Haddox, ECO Director of Global Engagement (firstname.lastname@example.org)