Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Ryan Shaw’s new book Spiritual Equipping for Mission: Thriving as God’s Message Bearers (IVP Books, 2014).
What do you need most to reach people from another culture with God’s message of salvation? Compassion for people’s needs, knowledge of their culture, and smart mission strategies are all important. But what really determines whether or not you successfully present the Gospel is how well you live a holy, faithful life that shows people how the Holy Spirit is at work in your soul.
No matter how hard you may work in cross-cultural ministry, you won’t be able to succeed unless you’re personally relying on Jesus in the ways that you’re trying to convince others to trust him. The state of your inner spiritual life is critically important when people are watching to see if your faith is truly genuine.
Here are 10 spiritual keys to presenting God’s message effectively in cross-cultural ministry:
Being saturated with the powerful presence of God. Although God has promised to always be with believers, he will bless you with his presence in greater measure when you intentionally welcome him into your life. Ways you can do so include: intercessory prayer (praying for God to intervene in specific situations to help people in need), remembering that it was God who appointed you to the work you’re doing and trusting him to empower you to do it well, living with moral purity by resisting temptations to sin and confessing and repenting quickly of sins you do commit, abiding in a close relationship with Jesus by spending lots of time with him through prayer and Bible reading, and finding joy in God’s presence with you even during mundane moments.
Embracing humility. Surrender yourself and your plans completely to God, inviting him to accomplish his purposes through your life and ministry work. Confess and repent regularly of pride in your life. Study Jesus’ life on Earth for the perfect example of humility at work. Be willing to surrender rights that the world tells you you’re entitled to in order to serve people whom God calls you to serve. Stop trying to impress other people through your busyness or the importance of your work; instead, work only to please God, by simply saying “yes” to however he leads you day by day.
Hungering and thirsting for God. Develop a greater desire to seek God more by reminding yourself often of God’s great love for you and letting that reality inspire you to respond to his love. Reduce distractions to pursuing a closer relationship with God by cutting back on the amount of time you spend on entertainment and social networking so you can spend more time in prayer. Learn to worship God for his characteristics (who he is), rather than what he or isn’t doing for you in your current circumstances. Develop a consistent lifestyle of worship. Seek God in the midst of adversity, relying on him to help you deal with it.
Being clothed with God’s Word. Build a life and ministry that’s informed by the Bible, which it is meant to convey God’s will, impart God’s life, and unveil God’s transforming power. Allow biblical values to shape you personally. Grasp the intent of biblical content so you can apply them to your current ministry situations. Use the Bible in your ministry work to impact others. Keep in mind that God blesses you the most as you do what his Word says, rather than just studying it. Regularly search the Bible, pray about what you read, align your life with it, and teach it to others.
Discerning God’s guidance and revelation. Pay attention to the different ways God speaks, so you can discern his messages to you. Listen for God’s guidance and revelation in ways that include: the Holy Spirit clarifying something you read in the Bible or speaking within your mind as you’re thinking, impressions, circumstances, talking with other believers, visions, dreams, angelic visitations, an audible voice, prophecy, nature, and the media. Expect a sense of peace when you’ve actually heard from God. Obey his guidance and trust him to bring his plans to reality at the right times and in the right ways.
Pursuing a lifestyle of prayer. Incorporate prayer into your life on a regular basis. Spend time in both communion prayer (focusing on God for who he is, telling him how you desire to grow closer to him, and listening to his personal messages to you) and intercessory prayer (prayer on behalf of people, families, cities, nations, and situations in which you contend for God’s will to be done among them). Add fasting to your prayers when you can, because fasting helps you focus more clearly on what God wants to tell you and increases the power of your prayers in the spiritual realm.
Cooperating with God’s twofold purpose. Aim to join God in his work accomplishing his two highest priorities: forming people in the likeness of Jesus, and restoring a broken and hurting world through the ministry work of Christians. Let your work teach you lessons that help you build Christ-like character. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you communicate a healthy balance of God’s love and truth, so the people to whom you minister will get an accurate sense of both God’s mercy and justice.
Understanding the times and seasons of God. During each of the different times and seasons God brings into your life, ask him what he is trying to teach you, and do your best to learn those lessons and apply them to your ministry work. View each season you’re in within the context of the big picture of fulfilling God’s eternal purposes. Ask God to give you his perspective on the crises you go through so you can hold onto hope during them. Cooperate with God as he matures you throughout all of the different times in your ministry work.
Persevering with steadfastness and stability. Once God has revealed your central life’s work, focus on it for as long as possible so your ministry will be as fruitful as God intends it to be. Resist discouragement by managing your emotions rather than letting them manage you, being willing to suffer when necessary to accomplish God’s purposes, and engaging in spiritual warfare prayer to fight evil attacks on your work.
Pursuing a focused life. Order your life around the vision of pleasing God in every sphere of your life and ministry. Write a life purpose statement and develop a time management plan to focus your life as God leads you to do so.
Adapted from Spiritual Equipping for Mission: Thriving as God’s Message Bearers, copyright 2014 by Ryan Shaw. Published by IVP Books, a division of InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., www.ivpress.com.
Ryan Shaw is international lead facilitator and president of Student Volunteer Movement 2. He is the author of Waking the Giant (William Carey Library, 2006) and holds an M.A. in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Seminary. He and his wife, Kelly, currently serve as missionaries in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. She produced a site about angels and miracles for About.com. Now she writes about the power of thoughts on her “Renewing Your Mind” blog.
Publication date: November 6, 2014