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September 2010

Worshiping God Across Cultures

Why do we do missions? Why do we participate in overseas missions work?

A month ago, I was in the Philippines for a short-missions trip and brought with me three ladies from Taiwan to visit different Free Methodist ministries in the country. We were there for ten days.  At one time, one of the grandmothers from one of our churches in Manila came to me and asked me this question “Why should we go out to do missions work? There are so many needs around us. We do not have to go very far to help people. We can just stay in our local area and share the Gospel with the people in our vicinity.” My answer to her is very simple. It is because God commanded us to go and preached the Gospel to the whole world and to the “ends of the earth.” We participate in missions work because we want to obey God.

Another answer to this question is found in Revelations 7:9-12. Here, we see a vision of heaven where people from many tribes and languages are worshiping God together with the angels. So, why do we do missions? It is because we want to worship God together with other peoples coming from different tribes and languages. We want to live out this vision of heaven in our lives. We want to experience praising God in another language and standing side by side with a person from another culture. We participate in overseas missions work because we want to bring heaven into earth.

This is our goal: to give glory to God. Our purpose as a local church is to worship our God together with all the peoples of the world. This is our mission statement. Every organization has a mission statement. Mission statements give direction to our plans. They help us focus our resources and give us a reason why we work as an organization or as a group. The mission statement of the Christian church is to give glory to God and to worship God together with people from many cultures and traditions. This mission statement is what I call “Worshiping God Across Cultures” or missional worship. We invite different groups of peoples to our worship gatherings. We go across many cultures and share Jesus’ salvation to the people of that area so that in the end we can worship together with them. We pray for missionaries and send our church members to missions work because these activities fulfill the vision of heaven and bring people closer to God.

The goal of “Worshiping God Across Cultures” is not only a mission statement, but it is also God’s command for every Christian. God commands us to be His witness not only in our own cities, but also across the nation and into “the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8). In Psalms 96:1-3, we read that we are to bring God’s salvation to all the peoples of the world. It is God’s command. We are to obey. The heavenly vision of many people from different cultures and languages is not only a goal, but is an order from God Almighty that we should carry out in our daily life. We need to obey.

Are you ready? Are you ready to obey our God? Are you ready to worship God together with peoples from different tribes and languages?

Let us look at the example of Jesus. He spent most of his time with the Jewish people, and yet he showed a deep appreciation for peoples from different cultures. At one time, Jesus admired the great faith of a Roman military officer (Luke 7:9). At another time, Jesus encouraged his disciples to follow the example of a Greek mother (Matthew 15:28). He reminded his disciples that many non-Jewish people will be there in heaven (Matthew 8:11). At one point, Jesus taught a Samaritan woman to worship God in spirit and in truth. We find this in John 4:23-26. Worshiping God is not in a mountain or any location, but is in the person of Jesus Christ. The truth about worship is that we share God’s salvation found in Jesus to all the people of the world. We share Jesus across many cultures so that peoples from other tribes and languages will also worship the God of the universe. In the end, many more Samaritans received God’s salvation because of the witness of this one woman (John 4:42). People from different cultures are worshiping God because Jesus crossed Jewish boundaries and shared God’s salvation to the foreigners in the local area. Jesus has shown us the way.

Are you ready? Are you ready to follow the example of Jesus? Are you ready to worship God together with peoples from different tribes and languages?

Let me share to you some practical suggestions and some simple ways that you can do right now. These suggestions will help you in your desire to obey God and worship Him across cultures. One is that you look for the foreigners in your area. Talk to them and befriend them. Learn about their ways. Ask them how they do things differently. If they are Christians, listen to their stories and worship God together with them. If they are not Christians, share Jesus to them so that in the end you can worship God with them. Two is that you can pray for your missionaries. Write to them. Encourage them. Share to them what is happening in your life. Tell them the good things that God is doing in your local churches. Through these letters and email, worship God together with them.  Praise God with them, although they are very far and living in another culture. Three is that you can go yourselves. Join a short-missions trip and experience worshiping God across many different cultures. If you cannot go because of health reasons or work schedule, participate in missions work through prayer, giving, and other support. Send some of your children or your young people to join a missions work in another country. Pray with them. Bless their desire to go and cross cultures. Worship with them.

Are you ready? Are you ready to obey our God? Are you ready to worship God together with peoples from different tribes and languages?

Last month, I lead a missions exposure trip to the Philippines. One of the mission team member is Emily Chou. She is only 19 years old. She is now in Taipei studying in a university. When we were in the Philippines, we visited a center that helps children and teenage girls who come from violent homes and have been victims of sexual abuse. We were there for a day. Emily taught the girls some Chinese Christian songs. She also shared her testimony, how Jesus has given her God’s salvation and love. At the end of our visit, many of the girls expressed their gratefulness to Emily. They said to her, “Please come back again. Do not forget us when you are back in Kaohsiung.” These girls saw God’s love in another teenager from Taiwan. They saw that God’s love and salvation is real for them. They are worshiping God together with Emily. Although they are Filipinos, they are praising God using a Chinese song. Both Taiwanese and Filipinos, together, are worshiping God.

May you hear God’s voice and worship our Living God. May you be willing to obey our Lord and start worshipping God across many different cultures and various languages of the world.

On the Road Again, and Again?

We are on our way to Keelung on a bus for a time of relaxation. I am with a group of students and with one other professor of the seminary, Timothy. Sarah and the kids are left behind in Kaohsiung. There are about 20 of us in this bus. Everyone is singing some KTV songs, or sing-along music (or sometimes referred to as Karaoke). I am reading my book. It is hard for me to enjoy the fun knowing that my family is left behind. Toni, one of the students, is really belting out a good tune. He can also sing! Everyone is having a good time.

This is an “informal” school vacation. A few of the students had the great idea of organizing a three day trip to Keelung, Taipei and Hsinchu, right before the semester starts. I am here with them because I want to get to know the students more. An informal time like this usually brings opportunities for fellowship and sharing that I can never have back in the four walls of the classroom. Students are more relaxed. They open up. Even now, I already have had talks with three of the students about ministry and what they would do after graduation. It is amazing how a vacation like this draws them out to share deep from their heart.

Today, we are going to see one of the student’s parents and have dinner with them. They are still not Christian believers. We are praying that our time together will be a time of witness and proclamation of God’s love. Vacation time is never really a “pure” vacation—ministry always happens along the way. We are enjoying the spa, the “Jacuzzi” like hot waters, and other features of this mountain resort. Meanwhile, God is working in our conversations.

Home Again

I am back home here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The Agape Mission Team came back safely yesterday. We had a rough landing on the runway because there was bad weather when we arrived in Taiwan. I did not mind the turbulence. I had been in worse situations before. I was concerned, however, for the three ladies. At the end, they seemed okay. Anyhow, we made it through.

I came home and spent the whole afternoon and evening with my family. Carmen was very expressive about her feelings. She kept telling me how much she missed me. Jacob, on the other hand, was very reserved. But I could tell that he also missed me by the way he hugged me and cuddled with me. Oh well, I have to learn to "go with the flow" and accept the children's personalities and style of expressing their emotions. I am sure many more challenging situations will come in the future. Right now, I am just grateful that I am home with my family.

Today, Sarah is with a group of ladies for a Bible study. In about 15 minutes, I need to go and pick her up and we will go for a nice lunch date, just the two of us. We still haven't decided where, but I am thinking maybe going to TGIF. We have been there before and we really like their food. We will see.