Earlier this month I had the opportunity to present our burden for Italy to Calvary Bible Baptist Church in Rochester, NY. Pastor Drew Stewart and his family spent six years in Ireland as missionaries before the Lord led them back to the States. Pastor Drew had incredible insight on missions and over the course of the day I was able to glean much from his wisdom. Here are a few thoughts that stand out in my mind from our conversation…
“And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.” (Ex. 4:2) Just as the Lord would use what was in Moses’ hand to lead the children of Israel out from the bondage of Egypt, He will use what’s in your “hand” to accomplish His work. Each person has a different talent or skill set that God has blessed them with for His glory and purpose. What works for one missionary, what’s in his “hand,” may not work for another missionary, we each need to yield our talents to God and use what is in our “hand.”
Pastor Drew found, and it was corroborated by another missionary, for approximately every 1,000 face-to-face contacts a missionary made there was one national led to Christ. However, a saved national would lead another national to Christ after approximately 60 face-to-face contacts. It is so important for a missionary to disciple their converts that they might be grounded in truth and become more effective soul winners to their people than the missionary himself.
A missionary cannot prepare for the culture shock they will face. Many missionaries return home from the field because the culture eats them up. The only way to keep it from doing so is to let go of America and submit to the foreign culture.
The most important lesson Pastor Drew had on being an effective missionary he learned from a 15 minutes conversation with a lost Irish salesman. The Irishman told Drew if he wanted to engage the Irish then he should always be leaving. Asked to clarify, the Irishman explained that his countrymen do not like to be called upon at home unannounced. They do not like to be rude and their minds will be working on how to politely get you off their doorstep. However, if you beat them to the punch and tell them you can’t stay, they put their guard down and are more relaxed knowing you are not there to bother them. They open up and become curious about this strange American at their door. Drew would knock on the door and say something like, “I’m Drew. I really can’t stay, I have a lot of calls to make today. I just wanted to tell you about a Bible study I am having. Here’s some information. Have a nice day. I really must be going.” The curiosity of the Irishman would get the better of him at this point and he would then ask Drew questions about who he was and what he was doing.
The key was learning how the Irish mind works and what will get them engaged in a conversation. That will be the challenge in Italy. We must learn how Italians think, what they find offensive, what is their psychological make-up, obviously not in order to manipulate them but rather to be like the Italians (without compromising) in order to win the Italians.
We’ve always enjoyed our meetings in New York and this church was no exception, perhaps one reason is there are so many Italians in the northeast. After I preached in the evening service Pastor Drew asked all those in the congregation whose parents were Italian to stand. He then asked those who had Italian grandparents to stand. He then asked all that had Italian heritage to stand. Finally, he asked any that were married to someone with Italian heritage to stand. At this point most of the congregation was on their feet. He then quoted Jeremiah 8:7, “Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the LORD.” Pastor Drew addressed those who were standing and said something like, “Your people do not know the judgment of the Lord. This man and his family are willing to go in your place and preach the gospel to your people.” It was one of those special moments of deputation. The church voted that night to support our family financially that we might reach Italian souls for Christ in their behalf. Praise the Lord.
“And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means saved some.” 1 Corinthians 9:20-22