The first time I was invited to go to China, I politely told the missionary I would pray about it. But, to be honest, I didn’t consider it to be a real possibility. Sure, I loved the idea of going to China, but I was comfortable keeping that as a distant thought, not an immediate reality.
Nonetheless, I did pray, and the Lord made it clear I was supposed to go. As a sophomore in college, I didn’t know what I was doing; all I knew is that God had called me to go. I was young and naïve, but, more importantly, God was gracious and faithful.
When I arrived in China, I was immediately captivated by the new experience. I was stunned by the number of cranes that littered the skyline and the chaotic traffic flow that mysteriously syncretized.
I found beauty not only in the ancient architecture, but in the hospitable spirit of many, many people. It was mesmerizing. But equally shocking was the overt poverty, the demonic strongholds, and the clear spiritual wandering of the people. Hope was nowhere to be found.
During the next three weeks I participated in Christmas parties, trekked through rural villages, shared the gospel, and saw the Lord work in incredible ways. God awed me with what he was doing in China.
“I simply shared the gospel the only way I knew how, and by God’s gracious intervention, people responded.”
I had no idea what an honor/shame cultural paradigm was, how to share a culturally relevant gospel presentation, or how to contextualize spiritual principles. I simply shared the gospel the only way I knew how, and by God’s gracious intervention, people responded. It was an amazing experience.
After three weeks of serving in a cross-cultural context, I was ready to go home. God taught me a lot during my time in China, but there was one last lesson he had for me. It was something I knew but never fully embraced.
It’s a Command, Not a Request
The night before I went home, I reread the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18–20). I don’t know how many times I had previously read that passage, but for whatever reason, on this specific occasion, my eyes were fully opened. I understood this passage like I never had before: Jesus expected his disciples to go to the nations with the intentionality of discipling others to be followers of him too.
It was not a suggestion. It was a command without an expiration date. Up to that point, I knew missions was important, but I thought it was reserved for some—not the collective purpose of all. In the same way, God expected each New Testament disciple to actively participate in world missions, he holds the same expectation for his followers today, which includes me.
This “light bulb” moment changed my life. It changed the way I viewed the world, approached school, and saw the church. Missions is not meant to be relegated to a committee in the church. And some are not “called” while others are.
“Missions is not meant to be relegated to a committee in the church. And some are not ‘called’ while others are.”
Missions should be fused to the soul of every church, meaning it should be a defining purpose and an integral part of every church’s DNA. Not everyone is called to be a long-term, international missionary, but every believer is called to actively participate in missions by praying, giving, hosting, and, when called, going.
An Open Invitation for College Students
When I experienced all of this personally, I was in college. So, I’d like to end by specifically addressing college students. You are at the time of your life when going anywhere and doing anything is actually plausible.
You have amazing opportunities to utilize that time to go to the four corners of the earth and proclaim the name of Jesus. Fall, winter, spring, and summer breaks provide God-given opportunities to do just that.
There are many opportunities for cross-cultural missions during these breaks. For example, Christmas (the consumerist and materialistic side of the holiday here, not the celebration of Christ’s birth) is becoming more widely acknowledged in China. Although the majority don’t acknowledge Christmas’s true meaning, the season provides a unique opportunity to share the gospel.
The Chinese want to know the meaning behind the lights, trees, and presents. The most common theme that is routinely acknowledged by students who spend their Christmas break in China is how easy it is to share the gospel message because of the intrigue and excitement surrounding the season.
Winter break is upon us and college students from all over the United States will embark on the adventure of a lifetime, traveling with one unified and resounding purpose: to name Christ where he has not been named.
Can you commit to pray for students who will spending this winter break sharing the gospel overseas? Will you prayerfully consider surrendering next year’s Christmas break to the Lord, to be used for his glory among the nations?
Don’t squander the opportunity. Resist the temptation to make light of your responsibility. Don’t waste this season.
To find out more about an opportunity to serve in China next year, visit imb.org/cic.
Daniel Slott is an IMB training strategist in East Asia where he serves on the student strategies team developing training for student and young adult missionaries. He is the author of The Christ-Centered Life: 31 Discipleship Letters Explaining How the Gospel Shapes Foundational Christian Practices, Values, and Beliefs to Be Centered in Christ. You can find him on Twitter @DanielSlott and the East Asia student team @Eastudent.