I didn’t really want to go.
In 2008, my wife volunteered with the Going Global team as they put on our annual missions conference. She brought me with her to an event at the downtown library. I’ve got the t-shirt to prove it. The next day, there was a churchwide lunch in the CLC and over a dozen missionaries to talk to.
I went because there was lunch.
Andy Mahoney, who led the Going Global team, told me of a group that was going to share the Gospel in East Asia and they were going to do it by playing basketball. Andy knew how much I loved playing basketball and suggested that I go talk to the ministry director.
I went because there was basketball.
Following a very brief conversation, I left lunch early to get on a plane for a business trip. Two days later my wife and I agreed to go on the trip. Two days after that, a husband and wife who didn’t really have $2000 to give away, gave us $2000 toward our trip. Four weeks after that, I sat on the basketball court in a megacity in East Asia and shared the Gospel with Joe and Zhang who had never heard it before.
I’m about to take my 11th trip back to that city.
That missions conference changed my life. The Lord used my interest in basketball to get me to a place where He knew I wouldn’t go on my own. I’d never shared the Gospel with anyone before and, frankly, I really didn’t even know my own testimony. That moment with Joe and Zhang changed everything. It ignited a fire in me for the nations that I didn’t know was there. And that flame grew more each year. My wife and I gave up our vacations for mission trips. Then, we left behind a corporate job with a corporate ladder and a nice corporate paycheck to become your missions pastor. We wouldn’t trade this job for the world. In fact, we traded away our old job for the sake of the world that is lost and desperately needs the Gospel.
And it all started with a free lunch. That I didn’t even want to go to.
This year, our annual missions conference will be March 2-4th. It’s called “You Are Here.” I want you to picture yourself at the outlet mall, or airport, or maybe at Disney World. You know there’s a store or a gate or an attraction you want to go to, but you’re not really sure where it is. So, you find the nearest map. It’s oversized, color-coded and has these three huge words next to a big, red dot that reads, “You Are Here.”
In order to get where you want to go, you’ve got to know where you are. Acts 1:8 was very intentional. We are called to be witnesses “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” That geography started right where the apostles were and spread out from there. If Paul was looking at a map, it would have the big, red dot right over Jerusalem, where they were instructed to stay until the Holy Spirit came.
If we are going to be effective taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth, I think we need to be intentional with taking it to our community in the Upstate. This year, our conference is all about serving and loving our city. I’ve found that the best disciples at home make the best missionaries afar. We’ve got to approach Spartanburg with the same zeal in the 50 weeks we’re here each year just as we approach an international mission trip during the two weeks we’re engaged there.
My goal for our conference is for every individual, family and small group to find a place where they want to serve in Spartanburg. We will have over two dozen ministries here for you to connect with, learn from and work beside. On March 2nd, there will be a dynamic worship time starting at 6pm. On the morning of Saturday, March 3rd, we will have several local opportunities for you to be a part of. You can sign up on the missions page of our website. On Saturday evening, we’ll have a great event for you and your small group called “Speed Dating” where you will hear from several different ministries. On Sunday, we’ll have a missions fair in the CLC where you can sign up to serve and meet all our ministry guests.
And, there will be a free lunch. You should go.