John Paton risked life and limb in the 19th century to preach the Gospel to cannibals on the South Pacific islands of the New Hebrides. Despite the deaths of his wife and four children, not to mention more than one attempt on his own life, Paton persevered. In the end, he created a written language for the native peoples, translating the New Testament into it, and saw many conversions, founding a church and training other evangelists and leaders to extend the work.
Much of his zeal for the work of the Gospel Paton attributed to a simple source – the influence of his father during his years growing up in Scotland. In his Autobiography, Paton gives us a snapshot of what that meant:
How much my father’s prayers at this time impressed me I can never explain, nor could any stranger understand. When, on his knees and all of us kneeling around him in Family Worship, he poured out his whole soul with tears for the conversion of the Heathen world to the service of Jesus, and for every personal and domestic need, we all felt as if in the presence of the living Savior, and learned to know and love him as our Divine friend.
On the Lord’s Day, I was enabled to preach from Romans 15:18-24, Will We Finish the Gospel? And from that text, we observe that the Gospel is fulfilled (Rom 15:19) by our efforts in establishing and strengthening local churches around the world. Thisis the Great Commission we’ve been given, making disciples who publicly identify with Christ in baptism and submit to everything He’s taught in His Word (Matt 28:19-20).
Certainly, John Piper’s admonition is apt: “There are three possibilities with the Great Commission. You can go. You can send. Or you can be disobedient. Ignoring the cause is not a Christian option” (fromBrothers, We Are Not Professionals, p. 187). But we may add a fourth possibility. We can go, we can send… and we can raise a generation to send!
How do we give the next generation in our homes a biblical mindset for missions? Here are six simple suggestions that any Christian family could incorporate.
1. Give them a global mindset.
When you’re under four feet tall and live your life in a 20 mile radius, thinking globally takes some assistance. A great way to begin is by having an actual globe – Google Earth will not help much here. Give your children some perception of the depth and widths of the world by talking over the globe. Be sure to discuss how the entire thing is actually in God’s hands and how people from all of it must belong to Christ (Rev 5:9; 7:9). In the same vein, you can redeem family TV time by watching travel shows or documentaries to discuss together all the regions and peoples of the world who are yet without hope or our God (Eph 2:12).
2. Visit the world next door.
We’re an immigrant nation, so the world has conveniently located itself nearby – with restaurants to boot! On family outings, incorporate the experience of different cultures and regions of the world through restaurants, museums, and purposeful visits with neighbors and friends. Plan different crafts and games with your kids, using resources like Fun Around the World. By experiencing new things, learning basic words and phrases in different languages, and even tasting “funny food,” we help raise their awareness of the world around us and those “who have never heard” (Rom 15:21).
3. Pray together for the nations.
Incorporate simple discussions and prayer for various people groups around the world during family worship. You can keep a copy of Operation World next to your Bibles or use websites like joshuaproject.net (which has a helpfully updated site). Or just follow along with the Prayer Focus in your church’s weekly newsletter and Prayer Bulletin.
4. Pray for missionaries.
During family prayers, adopt a simple method to focus on a particular missionary and/or missionary family. In our home, it has helped to put cards and pictures of missionary families on a ring next to our family worship books. That way we remember to pray for a different missionary family, regularly. Before praying, talk with your kids about where they live (point it out on that globe!) and what life is like for them there. Encourage your children to personally pray for any missionary children.
5. Give to missions.
Incorporate giving to Gospel work as you instruct your children in stewardship. Teach them about setting aside monies to contribute to partnerships or special projects. Why not even save up for a gift for the missionary’s children for whom you’re praying?
6. Discuss missions as a great ambition.
I saved this for last, because it is the hardest. Are you willing to surrender your most precious gifts for the Gospel and God’s glory among the nations – you definitely can’t fake it. Being a missionary is not glamorous nor is it easy, stable, or safe, but itisa great ambition (Rom 15:20)! Do you believe that – even for yourchildren?
When you talk with them about their future, do they hear an emphasis on security, financial stability, and something that you’d be proud to tell your friends? Or do they get a note of service, sacrifice, and self-denial for the glory of Christ? Truth be told, among the greatest hindrances to young people who desire a life on the mission field are the expectations of the very people who first taught them the Gospel – their Christian parents. Do your children know that you’d be grateful if they spent their lives in Gospel work – even if that meant your grandchildren were raised 5,000 miles away? Can you deny your own expectations for your own children for the sake of Christ and the gospel’s (Mark 8:35)? We all want our children to have a better life than we have. And they can, they could be missionaries!
One pastor has wisely remarked: “What you do for God beyond your home will not typically be greater than what you practice with God within your home.” This is true even for the great cause of the Gospel around our world. And it ought to be a great encouragement to every parent.
We may not be the next Jon Paton or William Carey or Andrew Fuller… but we could be raising them. May the Lord grant us such a privilege and give us the grace to establish His name among the nations through the little ones in our home.