First a quick recap. We believe God has given Northstar Church a distinct mission in His Kingdom: to love Him, grow together, and reach the world. For more than a decade, He has blessed and used our church to share the Gospel and make disciples of Jesus Christ. However, we are convinced that He is calling us to do more. Our deep desire is that we have a bigger impact than ever on those far from God—who have not yet heard or responded to  the life-changing message of the Gospel—both here in Panama City and around the world.

To accomplish that goal, we are embarking on a three-year initiative that we are calling Bold Love. We want to boldly follow God’s call, ready to reach more people who don’t know Jesus. That is the purpose and goal of the three-year challenge. I invite you to join me in praying that God will work in our hearts and that He will lead us to live as never before and to be prepared to give as never before. In this blog post, I will talk about how the Bold Initiative impacts our worldview.

But before I do that, let me say something. This initiative does not mean we are in trouble. Our church does not have financial issues such as falling behind in payments, not meeting payroll, or otherwise coming to you with a crisis. In fact, despite an extremely challenging economic climate in our state and nation—one that has left many in severe financial situations, God has been faithful in providing the resources we need as a church.  So, no, this is not a cry for help or a distress call. Bold Love is an invitation, a challenge to be part of what God is calling us to do as a church: intentionally and strategically taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Research suggests that only 11 of every 100 people in the world claim Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. About 50 percent of the world’s population presently has no realistic opportunity to hear the Gospel and the percentage is growing. Every minute, 120 people are born, likely to live their entire lives and never hear the name of Jesus, not even once. So given those numbers, the mandate for the church seems clear. We need churches to go places they’ve never gone to, talk to people they’ve never talked to, and share Jesus where His name has not yet been spoken.  We, at Northstar, want to be part of that effort and fulfill our mission of HELPING THE WORLD FIND AND FOLLOW JESUS. But how? And when? What impact and role will Bold Love have on reaching the world? Those are excellent questions and I will try to address them the best I can.

To frame the issue, let me remind you of the challenges I had during my school years. As a trembling non-algebraic thinker, I was terrified at even the thought of the words “Algebra.” No matter how the teacher taught the process, and the guideposts to use to ensure you are not getting off track, I had a very hard time following or understanding the problem-solving steps in the right sequence.  It took awhile, but eventually I learned that you never skip a step in problem solving for it actually does make a difference using an “A” and a “C.” Here’s my point. We’ve seen incredible things happen to us and in the world through our commitment to Haiti and to Kenya. We’ve come a long way, but we want to go further. We want to do more.

But, we still have some steps to go through to ensure that what we are doing as a church will be the best use of our resources.  Considerations such as language, security and safety, the presence of healthy national church partners and mission partners, and access (whether a country is “open” to Christians engaging in evangelism and ministry) are just a few of the key issues that need to be addressed before we insert Northstar ministries into a country. To summarize, the issue is not whether we have sufficient people or resources to impact the world. The issue is where we choose to invest them. You can’t solve a problem without going through all the necessary steps. And Bold Love will give us some of the financing we need to take those steps.

While nothing is written in stone,  I see both short-term and long-term steps in our strategy to impact the world.

In the short-term, we will continue our mission trips to Haiti and Kenya. We do so for several good reasons. First, to provide a significant experience for individuals and groups who are interested in short term missions to help them discover/discern their role in global missions.  We do this by providing them cross-cultural exposure, a place of service, and as a result enhance their spiritual growth. Secondly to provide resources of people, material, financial and prayer support to those areas where we have established relationships to enhance efforts in evangelism, church planting, and more practical efforts such as improving the water project in Kenya. And thirdly, to open the door to partner with others in additional mission fields.

In the long-term, I am reminded of the lessons of algebra. I have learned and truly believe that relationships built upon trust and respect are one of the keys to effective missional engagement. Of course, common sense tells us that relationships are best built over time.  This reality points us to the need for Northstar Church to engage consistently over a period of time in order to build those very relationships through which we hope to impact the world for Christ Jesus. To develop those relationships we must choose the areas we want to impact.  With so many possible places for us to get engaged in world missions, one of the first questions we have to ask is, “Where do we go?”  Once we have decided where to go, we then need to know the cultures, the relational connections, and the ministry opportunities available. And once we have decided that, do we want to support, adopt, work through missionaries already working in that field, or place an actual Northstar ministry.

OK Marty, I get the point that we need to look before we leap. But, do we need all the Bold Love money today as we look for opportunities throughout the world tomorrow? The short answer is yes. But first, remember that we want to rock Panama City and Florida as well as the world.  Because as we increase our base in Panama City, we increase our ability to go out into the world. Finances are always a consideration. The Bold Love initiative is designed to provide the funds to continue our vision as a church, here and abroad.

The Apostle Paul boasts about the extraordinary generosity of the Macedonian churches in 2 Corinthians 8:5: “And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.” Given their limited resources, the way the Macedonian Christians gave of their substance was remarkable. In fact, Paul said, “For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own…”

We need your financial support to move forward on the path we believe God has given us. Your Bold Love gift is important, and every gift counts. I would ask that you pray and ask “Lord, what would you do through me, to accomplish your vision for our church?” So please pray for discernment and God’a direction on this matter. We are asking you to step out of your comfort zone and invest in what God is doing and will do through our church.

Next post: Bold Love in Panama City