A message from our leaders
March 1, 2019 marked the start of a new chapter for us as we stepped into our roles as President and Co-National Directors with OMF (U.S.). What a joy it has been to connect personally with the U.S. team, our members and many of you. It’s amazing to hear how God is at work in and through the ministries happening here in the U.S. We are grateful to be invited into this team and into what God wants to do in the months and years to come.
In this new season of leadership, we assure you, we will not lose sight of the fact that there are millions of people in East Asia still unreached with the gospel. Even as we answer these important questions for the future, let’s remember that eternity is at stake. This is why your partnership is so important.
As we consider where and how God is moving for the future, this verse is very encouraging: “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). We are fully aware that our plans, programs and strategies are temporary. What matters most is that lives are transformed and people come to know Jesus.
Thank you for being eternally-minded and for choosing to be part of what God is doing to reach East Asia. Your partnership is making a difference.
James and Lisa Dougherty
President and Co-National Directors
HOW CAN WE REMAIN RELEVANT AS WE LOOK TO THE FUTURE
For a community of people committed to reaching East Asia’s peoples with the hope of Christ, how do we invest in things that will create a lasting impact while operating in a world that seems to change every hour? At the very center of OMF’s heart and vision, we believe East Asia still desperately needs to hear the gospel.
In today’s world, everything changes at an incredible rate. Staying relevant or cutting-edge can seem impossible, especially for churches, Christian ministries and mission agencies. Even our latest and greatest innovations will soon be replaced with new iterations and approaches to ministry. While God’s purpose to reach the world with his word will never change—how we walk that out often does. We must strive to hold our plans loosely and allow God to lead and guide us moment by moment (isn’t this true in every area of the Christian life?). Following the Holy Spirit’s guidance will help us respond well to changing trends and the needs we see in East Asia.
What we can hang on to is how we are called to disciple and care for people. Whether we are working with potential field workers, current workers, our colleagues, or the hundreds of people we engage with weekly, our heart is to support, train and release each one into the role God has for them.
INVESTING IN PEOPLE, NOT PROGRAMS
While God’s saving work in people can be immediate and powerful, initial gospel broadcasting or sharing is just the start. The deep work in all of us takes years. We must grow in our gratefulness, be stretched in our generosity, and learn to see things through the lens of God’s sovereign control and his ultimate worth. That’s why OMF is committed to discipling and investing in people, not only developing new programs.
The transforming power of God grows in us through intentional discipleship, through others investing their lives in us. This is what God calls us to do, to introduce people to Jesus and then help them grow in their relationship with him. For OMF, our mission is particularly focused on East Asia’s peoples.
The need for the gospel and discipleship won’t change – investing in people is as critical now as in the days of Hudson Taylor. Programs may change, but what we invest in people will remain.
What can happen when a person hears the gospel? In this story of Mu Ling, we see God transforming the life of a Buddhist as he comes to know the living Christ.
If the gospel and discipleship are key, why did Taylor invest so much time in other ministry innovations? He could have seen the needs of inland China and spent his whole life sharing the gospel there. In many ways his life might have been simpler if he had stuck to that ministry alone.
However, he felt that doing this on his own was not going to be nearly enough to reach everyone who needed to be reached. Instead of serving on his own, Hudson Taylor:
- Founded a whole new missions agency
- Created new approaches to ministry funding
- Found a way to use medicine to serve people
- Partnered in non-traditional ways
- Boldly presented the needs of the Chinese to people around the world
Not only were these methods cutting-edge, he was willing to try new ways of sharing the gospel that many were opposed to at the time. He saw each of these other programs as a way to empower and increase the spread of the gospel. In the same way, OMF must continue to be creative and innovative in our own ministry contexts.
HOW WE PARTNER WITH OTHERS
Today, we find people in the OMF community serving in all kinds of surprising ways. Would it surprise you to know that we:
- Connect with East Asian immigrants living all over the world
- Advocate for the marginalized
- Teach in classrooms across Asia
- Work in clinics and treat medical patients
- Provide alternative jobs for women at risk
- Partner with mission sending movements from Africa and Latin America
- Work with small business owners to provide jobs and economic development?
We don’t believe these programs and opportunities are distractions from our core ministry. In fact, these diverse ministries give us a warm welcome into communities and places that would normally send us away. They allow us to build relationships in real and relevant ways with people we couldn’t reach using more traditional methods.
Our methods have always been built around working with local believers, other agencies and the local church. The question we are grappling with is how to make this more mainstream and seen as a core strategy, not merely a by-product of field work. We want to grow and develop into a flexible, versatile community that is open and enthusiastic to partner wherever and however God leads.
Ten years from now, or maybe sooner than that, things will shift again and many of the programs and ministries we are running right now will come to an end. However, the gospel impact in the lives of people won’t end. The people we invest in will be living changed lives through the power of God’s grace. In fact, many of them will be part of the OMF community seeking God’s direction, developing relevant strategies and asking these same questions in the years to come.
WHAT IS OUR STRATEGY IN RESPONDING TO THE TASK UNFINISHED?
As we consider East Asia’s peoples, our goal—and our prayer—is always to see a gospel movement for every people group. Some of these groups are easy to identify by their distinct language, culture, clothing or lifestyles. Other people groups aren’t as obvious, yet they are distinct from others by social convention, geography, economics, education or working situations.
As we have worked with many peoples over the years, we have seen a pattern of how God grows these gospel movements. The following sections highlight these steps.
IT STARTS WITH PRAYER
As God directs us to a specific people group, wherever that may be, he compels us to start praying for them. As we pray, we begin to desire to learn more about them.
This prayer-birthed desire inspires us to research and learn more about this group. What is their history like and what are the barriers to them hearing and receiving the good news about Jesus? Are there other churches or communities already praying for this people too?
Click through the slides above for more information about the Task Unfinished.
ENGAGING THE PEOPLE GROUP
Prayer and learning are just the beginning! Eventually God leads us to take steps to engage a people group. We begin to see ways we could share life with people, often moving to live among them if we can or finding remote ways to build relationships and make inroads among the people.
This step of engagement can often be the most challenging, take the longest and have the most significant setbacks. This isn’t just about finding the right routes into hard-to-reach places; it’s learning enough language, culture and worldview to be accepted as part of the community. Think of how exciting and perilous this stage of ministry can be as Jesus is entering a community for the first time through his people!
THE WORD BEGINS TO TAKE ROOT AND GROW
Building on trust and established relationships, the Holy Spirit gets to work through his word and through his people. People respond and begin to grow. Communities are formed. Churches are planted. Church movements turn into mission movements … and the cycle begins again with a new people. This process takes many years of prayer, learning and then time spent actually living among the people.
WHY IS IT TAKING SO LONG?
The challenges for this kind of pioneering work are intense. Many of the unreached are the hardest to identify or most resistant to the gospel. Sometimes workers spend many years engaging with a people and then suddenly, the political situation changes and they have to leave. Often, those teams going into the most strategic situations are most vulnerable and suffer intensely from health and physical challenges, discouragement, family issues and other struggles.
However, there’s another reason we still aren’t getting the good news to those who need to hear. We just don’t have enough people involved. Despite all of the great missions stories you hear happening today, in reality, we (God’s global church) aren’t giving, praying and investing our time and resources enough to see the good news shared with everyone. We need to raise up and send out more of God’s people towards this incredible task unfinished.
Think of what could happen if we had hundreds of workers like Nathan Martin…
IT’S ALWAYS ONE LIFE, ONE COMMUNITY, ONE MOVEMENT AT A TIME
Often, when we think of the “task unfinished” we focus on the huge numbers, the growing populations in East Asia, the undiscovered people or languages. Yet, the truth is, the way we actually do missions is a “one at a time” approach.
Our approach has been a humble “one at a time,” one-on-one, relational and personal approach. It has proven effective for over 150 years. While the “task unfinished” seems daunting, we approach it the way we have always approached ministry: one life at a time.
We truly believe one person responding to the call to engage, whether overseas, on a short-term missions team, praying, sending or supporting, can have a real and lasting impact. Building the kingdom of God one person at a time. That’s why we are so excited each time we release one more worker to the field or bring on one more ministry partner, prayer partner, team member or volunteer. We know the impact each one will have. We know the impact YOU are having as a ministry partner in this Great Commission.
HOW CAN BELIEVERS AND CHURCHES BE MORE ENGAGED IN MISSIONS?
This question has so many answers! The bottom line is every believer and church in the U.S. can—and needs to—be involved in global missions. We believe this is part of the Great Commission given to all followers of Jesus. If we can get our heads and our hearts around this, the “how” becomes easier to answer.
We’ve identified seven key mindsets that help us grow in our understanding, our willingness and our desire to be more engaged in missions. It’s our hope and prayer that we all continue to grow in the following areas.
1. A grateful heart. God has given us so much as his sons and daughters. He speaks hope into all of the broken pieces in our lives. Can you imagine facing everything life sends to crush us without the power and grace Jesus offers us through his death and resurrection? We must be overwhelmed with gratefulness for all he’s given us. We should be compelled to huge generosity – to share with others the transforming power he’s given us.
2. A global perspective. We can’t ignore what’s happening to people in other parts of the world. When we drive past five churches in ten minutes to get to the one we have chosen, it’s hard to imagine places where you can drive for hours without seeing a single church. But they exist.
The traditional mindset that sees the U.S. as the center of the universe needs to be challenged. Especially as believers, we must expand our thinking. We must see, live and pray beyond our own borders. God’s call is to “the ends of the earth.” And yet some of us never look beyond our own neighborhoods or cities. Do we feel compassion, concern, even outrage at the injustice of people around the globe missing out on the good news about Jesus? What would it look like if we each developed a more global mindset?
3. A personal response to the Great Commission. We also need to understand that this powerful work is not just a side project for a few people the church sends out. Everyone can participate in what God is doing.
For some people and churches, this happens through sharing the good news with immigrants in your city. As global migration continues to increase rapidly we find many of the people who most need to hear the good news are moving into our neighborhoods.
For some it is supporting an overseas worker or launching a prayer group. For others it is through investing time and energy volunteering. There are many ways to respond to the gospel need around the world. It begins with a surrendered heart and a prayerful attitude.
4. A renewed commitment to pray for the nations. Every great mission movement we have seen began first with a prayer movement. Don’t underestimate the value of your prayers for the unreached! Our prayer partners are touching every corner of East Asia interceding for the lost. Every Christian in America has the same opportunity.
We are convinced that gospel work is a spiritual battle. We ask God to transform the hearts of people through our work and to sustain and protect the lives and ministry of our co-workers.
5. A willingness to advocate. For some, this is an opportunity to mobilize. Maybe you have already found your part in sharing the good news with people around the world, but what about your friends, family and church community? Has God placed you in their lives to help activate them to get involved too?
6. An equipping strategy. Many people have heard God’s challenge to go, but they are still many years away from launching out to another country. Before they can go, they need training, encouragement and missions discipleship to prepare them for the challenges ahead.”
7. A partnering spirit. For some, this is an opportunity to support those who are serving through giving, encouragement and advocating for them. Ministry partners are often more than financial supporters; they are pray-ers, encouragers, letter-writers, volunteers, hosts and the list goes on.
The work of missions has never been something we do alone—it has always been done in the context of community. That’s why ministry partners are so valued and so appreciated!
We believe Christians in the U.S. and the global church have a huge part to play in the Great Commission. With the wealth and resources God has given us, and the opportunity and freedom to share, serve and give, we can do great things together. We can see the unreached people of East Asia reached with the gospel.
Our encouragement is for God’s church and every believer to examine these mindsets and ask how God might be calling them to get involved.
THE IMPACT OF MOBILIZING FOR MISSIONS
“A mission mobilizer is someone who understands the gravity and importance of what is at stake in the Great Commission and has embraced a vital role in the sending out of laborers.” Denny Spitters and Matthew Ellison, When Everything is Missions
This quote so accurately describes a mobilizer’s dynamic role in missions. This is why the OMF (U.S.) Mobilization Department serves in such a holistic way; from coaching churches looking to get involved in missions, providing prayer support (online resources, virtual groups, etc.), offering opportunities and training for short-term trips, mentoring potential long-term workers, advocacy efforts throughout the U.S. and connecting people with field workers to hear about ways of involvement. We want to see the American church fully engaged in missions and equipped to serve East Asia’s people.
We believe these strategies are working! For the past three years we have seen our numbers increase in each of our key areas: workers to the field, short-term workers, prayer groups and prayer partners, volunteers and partnering churches. We are thankful for the direction God has given us the past several years and are blessed to see continued team growth and new opportunities for mobilization.
Vice President for Mobilization
DEVELOPING A CULTURE OF GENEROSITY AND STEWARDSHIP
2018 brought some exciting changes in our vision, philosophy and strategy for connecting with ministry partners. Dave Sherman has been our Partnership Development coach for the past several years. Under his leadership, members are spending less time support raising and are getting to the field faster.
In 2018, Dave came on as our Interim Development Director turning his attention to our stewardship efforts. With input from the National Leadership Team, he is helping to develop a solid strategy and team to improve ministry partner relationships and share OMF’s mission, vision and values with believers across the U.S.
It has been a joy to meet with many of our partners through several local events in California and Colorado. We are looking forward to more events like these and other opportunities to connect with you and share together God’s vision for East Asia.
It is our hope that every ministry partner will be affirmed and encouraged under this new leadership and structure. As we embrace a new season of ministry, we believe the changes God has been bringing in this area will provide a firm financial foundation for years to come.
Vice President for Communications and Development
Please pray with us for the Mobilization and Development teams that we may continue to grow for the purpose of reaching East Asians for Christ and that we would continue to be generous with the people, resources and team God has given us.
The following graphic details how God provided for OMF (U.S.) in 2018. Thank you to each one of our ministry partners! Your support, prayer and financial giving mean that we can continue doing the work God has called us to do. Because of you, we are able to mobilize the American church, raise up workers, resources and prayer to reach East Asia with the hope of Christ.
HUGE THANK YOU
As we look to the future we are committed to investing in people, continuing our work with the Task Unfinished and helping churches and believers be more engaged in missions.
To each of our ministry partners, we say a HUGE Thank You for your faithful support and persistent prayers. We appreciate your commitment to the Great Commission and seeing East Asia reached with the hope of Christ. We can’t do this without you.