Habits That Change the World
We live in a global world. Students are learning about, interacting with, and seeking to improve the world. Unfortunately, most Christians have no idea what God is doing around the world. We are unaware of the needs of the worldwide church. We are not prepared and do not do a great job of preparing the next generation to live for God’s global mission. How are we to raise up world-changing, Christ-exalting, kingdom-building Christians in our campus ministry?
People who live their lives aimed at Christ’s global purpose are sometimes called World Christians. World Christians pursue God’s purpose as the focal point of their entire lives. They aren’t superior to other believers. They’ve simply decided to allow every decision of their lives to be directed by the magnetic pull of God’s global purpose. They say, “I’ll do whatever it takes to be faithful to Christ and to live strategically for His purpose.”
We used to describe World Christians as either goers or senders. However, today we need to call a new generation of World Christians to think beyond choosing a role and more toward living holistically for the evangelization of all people groups. Most World Christians will find themselves passing through different seasons, enjoying a variety of relationships, working in different vocations, and even moved by different motives. They are sure to learn to excel in one or more of the five practices mentioned below. You may major in one, but remember to minor in the others. You should plan on practicing them all. That is the World Christian’s lifestyle. The five habits are: Going, Praying, Sending, Welcoming, and Mobilizing.
As a leader interested in mobilizing students, try to be familiar with and practicing these habits in your life. If you are convinced getting students on mission with God is critical to your ministry, you should be growing in your ability to equip students to live each one out, in college and beyond.
Tip: A good place to start with a student is by talking through what World Christians would look like on a college campus. Here are some questions that might help you get started: How would World Christians spend their time? With whom? How would they spend their money? What kinds of conversations would they have? What would their prayer life look like?
Start with Heart Change
Sometimes our tendency is to adopt new habits and to skip over a heart change, hoping we will change by osmosis. The reality is that when we value what God values, we will give our lives sacrificially to the cause of God’s global mission. When we desire what God desires, we will pray for the world. When a family member gets cancer, we no longer need a daily calendar or gimmick to remind us to pray. When we see people the way God sees people, we will reach out to international students, recognizing that they are the most strategic opportunity we may have to impact future leaders of restricted-access countries. When God is Lord over our location, we will easily go or stay, depending on what is most strategic. When our heart is engaged with what is on God’s heart, we will naturally mobilize others to His global cause. As leaders of students, our hearts are often callous to the plight of billions who have no access to the gospel. Sometimes as the leader, I can be the obstacle to students. Let us continue to recklessly pursue a heart after God as we raise up World Christians.
Habit 1: Going
This habit is the one most commonly associated with missions. A definition of the goer is the person physically present, laboring on the mission field. Going may mean a short-term trip or an extended one. David Bryant says that, “Five out of six non-Christians in our world have no hope unless missionaries come to them with the gospel.” Although going is not the only way to get involved and shouldn’t be made to be the ultimate sign of obedience—it is still the greatest need. Do not shy away from the reality that five of six lost people will not buy Starbucks next to a Christian or work in an office with a Christian. They have no hope, apart from someone coming and telling them.
As you begin to challenge others to consider going to the least reached, they may not think they can make a real difference. “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor. 1:27–28 NIV). Before Robert Morrison left to be the first Bible translator in China, someone asked if he really thought he could change the two thousand–year problem of idolatry in China. His response: “No I don’t, but I expect God can.”
Tip: A good place to begin cultivating this desire in students’ hearts is to ask them if the Lord has laid a country, people, or religion on their hearts. Would they like to do church planting, medical missions, or community development, to use their degree, or to teach? Help them to get information on all agencies that work with their interests. It will also be helpful to talk to them about potential roadblocks that might distract them from carrying this out (such as parents, support, debt, fear, school, etc.).
Habit 2: Praying
In all of the Scriptures, we see only one time when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them something. The request? “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1 NIV). Isn’t it interesting that after knowing and living with Jesus, their desire was to pattern His prayer life? In Matthew 9:36–38 we see Jesus give the disciples a specific prayer request: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’” (NIV). Jesus saw the vastness of lost souls compared to the scarcity of the laborers, and He looked to the disciples and said, “Ask.” What a powerful image! Not go, or preach, or have a conference, but ask.
I will never forget the impact of my college Bible study leader. At the end of each week’s study, he would inform us of a global issue or country to pray for. Somehow he crammed Thailand, India, and China into my little dorm room each week, and each week my world got a little bigger.
Tip: Teach students how to translate the world news and global events into prayer petitions and vision for what God is doing among the nations. A great site is MissionsCatalyst.net, which has world news briefs by country.
Habit 3: Sending
Paul the apostle has an interesting observation: “And how can they preach unless they are sent?” (Rom. 10:15 HCSB). The unreached do not have a chance at hearing the gospel if there are not people on the home front funding and praying for those that are going. It is like asking, “Which is more important—the rescuer who goes down into the well to save a life or the man at the top holding the rope?” You can’t have one without the other.
The most obvious aspect of sending is giving of one’s financial resources to support a missionary. This is a seemingly difficult habit for college students to develop because they always feel broke! The point is not the amount that is given. The point is that they are building habits of sacrificial giving to send others. This is certainly not the only facet of sending. A sender may work in one or all the following specialized roles: logistics, prayer coordination, training, communications, research, support development, missionary care, and many others.
Tip: No matter their income, help them to diligently set aside a portion to invest in missions. Challenge them to use their degrees to help send others. Students can send!
Habit 4: Welcoming
America is host to the largest number of international students of any country in the world. The nations are at our doorstep! Over 750,000 international students and scholars are studying here from 188 countries of the world. What a perfect opportunity to share God’s grace and love with the world. Over forty times in the Old Testament alone, we are commanded to care for the foreigner in our land (see Lev 19:34, Deut. 10:18–20).
Sadly, as available as this ministry is to college students, it is greatly overlooked. Ninety percent of the internationals on your campus will never be invited into an American home. Everyone can be a welcomer. All it takes is a little time, energy, and a willingness to say hello. At the college I attended, there were eighty students from Saudi Arabia who hung out in their corner of the student center. I can remember the first time I took two guys from my Bible study to meet and get to know them. It’s amazing to think of the hardship I would face should I go to Saudi Arabia and try to do the same thing.
Tip: Help students to brainstorm ideas to show God’s love to internationals. Here are some ideas: run errands together, invite them over for holidays, practice English with them, invite them to read the Bible (what they perceive as our most important religious book), or just invite them to hang out with you and your friends.
Find many other free resources, ideas, and tools at www.isionline.org.
Habit 5: Mobilizing
A.T. Pierson, one of the fathers of mobilization, said, “Christians need to be converted to missions as much as the lost need to be converted to Christ.” Many Christians are unaware of or unconcerned with their role in reaching “all nations.” A mobilizer is a normal, everyday Christian who has a global perspective and seeks to awaken and move others to action. Mobilizers are looking for others to enlist in God’s global agenda. Mobilizing involves educating, equipping, coaching, and challenging students to live out their most strategic role in fulfilling the command to take the gospel to all peoples.
Every disciple-maker should be training up others to make disciples “of all nations” (Matt. 28:19–20). If your disciple-making doesn’t have a global focus to it, you are not making disciples like Jesus commanded. You need to be able to coach and direct students to help them take their next step in discipling the nations. (See Top 10 Mobilization Tools for ideas.)
In order for God’s mission to permeate your entire ministry, you will need to get beyond sending a few students on a mission trip. It is about creating a vision for the unreached that becomes the goal of all your students’ lives no matter their future location. God has always been about redeeming all peoples, and we should reflect that through going ourselves, sending others, welcoming, praying for the world, and mobilizing Christians to go. You have an extremely strategic role: to help raise up the next generation of students who will take the gospel where it is not, who will lead around the world, and who will see the Great Commission fulfilled in our lifetime. By God’s grace and the church’s obedience, it can happen!
Questions for Discussion
What habit do you need to develop?
What does your ministry need to work on?
What would be a good next step to make you a better mobilizer?
What habit will you introduce and practice with your students? How will you do it?
Are there other habits that could connect you to God’s global harvest?
Tools to Cultivate World Christian Habits:
The Traveling Team: A website packed with articles and tools for mobilizing students.
World Christian Discipleship Study: The Traveling Team’s online follow up. Great one-to-one mentoring program for your students. Sixteen total modules to take a student from zero to a mobilizing machine.
In This Generation (Todd Ahrend): Learn from the greatest mission mobilization movement in history.
God’s Heart for the Nations (Jeff Lewis): Very simple and easy-to-lead six-week booklet study on God’s mission.
Xplore Study (EveryEthne): A great Bible study booklet for missions vision.
Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: Fifteen-week course that will be a game changer.
Top 25 Books: A great list from the Traveling Team of more resources for mobilization.
Global Mission Handbook (Hoke and Taylor): Workbook with 150+ articles and evaluations on the A to Z of helping prepare someone to go cross-cultural.
The I.T. Project: Send us a few students, and we will send them back equipped to cast vision for the world in a humble and compelling way.
6 Ways Videos (OMF): Free online and DVD on the habits. It is available for purchase through OMF.
Claude Hickman is the Executive Director for The Traveling Team. Meet Claude and all our CMJ authors here.