Check the news lately? There’s one common theme threaded throughout the news channels of our world: Issues. Some of these issues have proposed solutions and some of them have yet to receive solutions. When it comes to humanitarian crisis, I believe that the gospel message is at the root of the answer to every great humanitarian crisis on the planet.
Here’s an excerpt from my latest book titled Gospelize that explains why and offers up some practical things we can do:
The issues of human trafficking, social inequities and extreme poverty are close to the heart of God. Even a casual reading of Scripture makes it clear that issues of justice are key issues with God. Check these verses out:
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing (Deuteronomy 10:18).
“Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan,
I will now arise,” says the Lord.
“I will protect them from those who malign them” (Psalm 12:5).
Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked (Psalm 82:3-4).
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27).
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty (James 5:1-4).
It should be in our DNA to help the helpless, serve the broken and feed the hungry. Justice and Jesus go together.
And that’s the problem. Too often they’ve been separated.
Yet the gospel message is at the root of the answer to every great humanitarian crisis on the planet. The poverty, trafficking and sickening of the human soul should be every believer’s top priority, because itw as Jesus’ top priority (Luke 19:10)…
Of course, none of this negates our responsibility on a physical level to feed the poor, rescue the trafficked and help the sick. It actually deepens and sanctifies it. That’s why over the last few hundred years, the greatest missions efforts have birthed the greatest humanitarian efforts. Why do you think so many hospitals start with an abbreviation for “Saint”—St. Anthony’s, St. Joe’s, St. Jude, St. Francis, and so on? It’s because these hospitals were birthed out of gospel advancing missions movements led by missionaries who sought to save the soul and heal the body.
But when the healing of the body eclipses the saving of the soul, it’s a dark day indeed. That’s one reason I’m convinced it’s time to bring missions back to youth ministry. It’s time to “re-heroize” missions work for the next generation. Let’s make becoming a fulltime, gospel advancing missionary in an unreached people group a high calling again.
How do you do that? Here are some ideas:
- Take your teenagers on a short term mission trip. Get them to feed the poor with bread AND the Bread of Life. Have them pass out water for the body AND Living Water for the soul. Get your teenagers to build houses for the poor on earth AND ones in heaven
- Share stories of missionaries, both past and present, who have and are powerfully advancing the good news of Jesus in other countries. Use Google and Bing as your allies to find stories and show videos that will inspire teenagers to have a global perspective when it comes to the good news of Jesus.
- Bring missionaries into your youth group to share stories and do a Q&A time with your teenagers so that they get a real sense of the power and impact of missions work. If your church is bringing in a missionary to speak in church, ask that same missionary to speak in youth group.
- Help teenagers gospelize their humanitarian aspirations. Whether it’s stopping human trafficking or serving the poor, encourage your teenagers who feel genuinely called to humanitarian service to remember the importance of reaching the souls of those they serve with the hope that only Jesus can offer.
- Raise ongoing money to support missions.
- Do a yearly youth group series on global evangelism.
- Bring your teenagers out to Lead THE Cause. This week-long intensive is a crash course in evangelism, intercessory prayer and leadership training. In a very real sense, Lead THE Cause is a short-term urban missions week on steroids. And the teens who attend will get a heart for reaching the lost “across the street, across the tracks and around the world.” At our last Lead THE Cause event fourteen teenagers committed themselves to full-time overseas missions. We now have 14 more teenagers to conquer the 14er of global evangelism!
These are just a few ideas that can help you elevate the temperature of missions work with your teenagers and make Jesus loving, gospel advancing, people serving missionaries heroes again! (Stier, 2014, p. 180 - 183).
What ideas would you add to this list, or which ones will you take away and encourage your students in?