AUSTIN?When Muslim-born Afshin Ziafat of Houston asks youth camp crowds whether they know how to share the gospel with their friends, only a few dozen hands are raised. Meanwhile, halfway around the world, younger children in the Middle East are schooled in memorizing the Koran, spreading the message of a false religion, he said. As the two cultures are integrating, Ziafat questioned whether Christians are prepared to share their faith.
“What’s going to happen when the Eastern world grows up memorizing their Koran and our kids grow up really good at Halo?” he asked the crowd of 250 people gathered at Great Hills Baptist Church of Austin for this year’s Acts 1:8 SENT Conference, a missions mobilization event sponsored by the SBTC. “What do we do in our youth groups? We’ve got the Xbox games and we smear peanut butter on their faces and throw stuff to see if it sticks.”
Ziafat challenged missions leaders from churches and parachurch ministries to more adequately prepare themselves and their students “to give a defense to anyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is within you,” quoting from I Peter 3:15.
Reminding the audience that they were called to be ambassadors of Christ sent forth with a message, he warned that Christians too often become comfortable in the land to which they were sent out to deliver the King’s message.
“You are first a Christian whose citizenship is in heaven. Even in America you are a foreigner and you are to be an ambassador.
SBTC Senior Missions Associate Terry Coy used Acts 10 to show the influence of one’s nationality, family, experiences and other factors to form a worldview.
“Every worldview comes under the scrutiny, correction and judgment of Scripture,” he reminded, noting Peter’s willingness to hear from God about his elitist and legalistic Judaism so that he might confront Cornelius with his inadequate worldview.
“The Word is inerrant and infallible. I am not. I get messed up when I pay too much attention to my background and experiences,” he said, adding that history, tradition, family and experiences can get in the way of what the Bible says.
“The Word steps on our toes, gets into our comfort zone, makes us queasy and uncomfortable. But the Word has the final word,” Coy said. “So although I hold to the core?like Peter?I still need to have much of my personal and cultural baggage examined and corrected.”
He warned against either the extreme of arrogance that confuses the message with a cultural way of life, a cultural or political ideology or a personal preference or experience and the relativistic tendency to give every worldview equal value.
When encountering an unbiblical, biblically incomplete or even an opposing worldview, Christians should speak the truth in love, showing respect and humility, he urged. Correcting an errant worldview often leads to misunderstanding or confrontation, Coy acknowledged. From Acts 11 he pointed to the necessity of Peter’s explanation.
“He did it well and verse 18 says they had ‘no further objections and praised God,'” Coy concluded, calling on Christians engaged in missions to examine their own worldview against the standard of Scripture.
Through nearly 30 breakout sessions, mission leaders from all over the nation challenged participants, ranging in age from 15 to 72. Representatives of the North American Mission Board, International Mission Board, SBTC and partnering groups were among those leading the sessions.
“This conference is designed for all of those who want to sharpen their skills in engaging the culture around them?from their local communities to the ends of the earth,” said Tiffany Smith, SBTC missions mobilization associate.
Several sessions addressed the preparation phase through prayer walking, living cross culturally, faith and finances, vocational calling, and missions and trip planning. Developing a vision for missions was the focus of sessions describing God’s heart for the nations and reaching a lost world.