Missions. It’s the lifeblood of our congregation, founded in 1936 by Aimee Semple McPherson in the midst of a healing revival that attracted local media attention.
Yet, when I arrived at Living Way (Seattle Foursquare Church) in 2011, attendance had dwindled below 30. The church wasn’t regularly supporting the couple we sent to the Czech Republic in 1997.
Things have changed dramatically since then. Thanks to an intentional decision to give regularly from church offerings, we now support seven missionaries overseas and Foursquare’s Global Missions Fund. Our once-modest missions gifts now total around $30,000 a year.
I don’t take any credit. We spent considerable time fasting and praying as we developed our revitalized missions emphasis. Many leaders came alongside me to bring us to where we are today: launching a 10-year plan to evangelize at least two unengaged, unreached people groups (UUPG).
We initiated this process in late October, right after deploying our first missionary in 20 years. Karen Grubbs is a retired widow who had been reaching out to eastern Africa for many years.
“I have to get over there,” she said before leaving for Uganda, where she works among South Sudanese refugees in Uganda. Karen’s heart for the Sudanese is just one example of how our congregation loves the world. With members from nearly a dozen different nations, we are attuned to reaching out to others and telling them about Christ.
To build relationships with immigrants and newcomers, we eat their food, learn about their families and value their culture. Some of our dearest friends own an Egyptian restaurant; building that relationship took six years.
Along the way, we have also learned that—in many cultures—birthdays and other celebrations are a big deal. To reflect this love of ceremony, twice a year our church hosts a “Celebrate the Nations” service, where various flags, native dress and cultures are on display. Afterwards, we gather for a meal; the most recent was prepared by Indonesians who meet at our church for Bible study.
Not only do such outreaches build bridges with other ethnic groups, they help reveal future missionaries. Visitors who demonstrate a passion for other nations may be the very ones God can use to spread the gospel there.
Intentionality has been an underpinning of our missions program. We commit to a certain minimum of support for missionaries each month, and then add any earmarked gifts. This encourages generosity and allows members with a heart for a particular nation to direct their giving.
We have some additional help. In 2014, we sold the cell tower on our property to create a “Legacy Fund” that generates $21,000 a year for missions and church planting. The newest planter is starting a suburban church five minutes north of our property.
Though we have grown since 2011, our average weekly attendance is under 100. Size isn’t the determining factor when it comes to reaching your city, state and world for Christ. Faith and obedience are. So, what’s holding you back?
This article was written with Ken Walker, a freelance writer and book editor from Huntington, W.Va.