Missions and Transformation: An Interview with Verne Ward

Missions and Transformation: An Interview with Verne Ward

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Verne Ward (VW) is the director of global missions for the Church of the Nazarene and offers a uniquely wide perspective of what is happening in our world.

HT: What are some recent trends in global missions?

VW: We are always prayerfully looking for places where people have not heard the gospel. We ask: Where are the people who don’t have someone representing Christ to them? We want to consistently find creative ways to connect those people with the gospel. This includes sending individuals to where the needs are. It also includes helping raise up indigenous leaders who have experienced the transformation of Christ and have a passion to see people around them experience it as well. It is important for us to recognize that we are a piece of the larger Church of Jesus Christ. We always look for connections and partnerships with individuals and groups that allow us to move into areas that are in need.

Another trend involves the funding of missions. Local churches, districts both inside and outside the USA/Canada Region, and creative employment opportunities abroad (such as teaching or engineering) are ways in which God funds missions. Missionaries cannot be sent in traditional ways to some places in the world, either due to political realties or limited resources within the area itself. Creative ways of funding and of sharing the gospel then become crucial as we devote time, resources, and prayer to these areas.

Many of the results of these kinds of works do not tabulate in our numbers for security reasons, but they are crucial to the ongoing work of world missions.

HT: What new challenges do we face in global missions today?

VW: Because of the creative access areas I mentioned, security creates challenges. We do all we can to assist in the safety of our missionaries. However, many parts of the world remain unsafe. God still calls and equips people to go to these places, so we are challenged to find creative ways to not only send people there but to raise up leaders within these areas who can be pastors and leaders in their communities. This takes patience and prayer. We know from our own history that it can take years, even decades, for consistent gains to be recorded in these areas. Yet, we are called to be faithful witnesses and to trust God’s timing and transforming work along the way.

HT: What has been the impact of new technology in global missions?

VW: Technology has had tremendous impact. For missionaries, it can often mean more contact with family members from the field, and it can provide avenues to connect people with the message of the gospel that we haven’t had before.

On the other hand, it can be a source of security risk for missionaries and for others who are part of a new Christian movement in a country hostile to the gospel. It can also be a distraction if it is not properly used by those on the field, since there is a real temptation to stay connected to those far away at the expense of work on the ground that the missionary is called to do. We take these kinds of conversations seriously in the training process of our missionaries today and we urge them to seek balance.

HT: What signs of hope are you seeing in the work of global missions in the Church of the Nazarene?

VW: I continue to be impressed by the faithfulness of God’s people. That includes those who are called to go and serve in settings far removed from their own culture and those in our local churches who pray, give, and encourage.

All of global missions flows from local churches. Without them, global missions cannot exist.

People of all ages are responding to God’s calling on their lives to become missionaries, and this is the key to the work of the gospel throughout the world. We are seeing breakthroughs in some areas where we have benefitted from years of faithfulness—of people in our history giving years of their lives with little external results. This is a great testimony to God’s faithfulness over the long haul!

HT: Talk more about the changes in the mindset of global missions.

VW: First, our systems of training and funding are become more globalized in response to the ongoing changes we are seeing globally. One of the implications of this is that we are seeing more indigenous work in missions: districts are sending missionaries to other parts of their country or region, for example.

We are embracing the fact that all mission work is local and incarnational. We have deputation services in 59 countries now, and over 40% of our missionaries are non-USA/Canada citizens. This global partnership allows us to work together to make sure the resources we provide are relevant and useful in all contexts.

HT: What can local churches do to further the work of global missions?

VW: It all begins with prayer for the mission of Christ in the world. Global missions really just follows the pattern of the early church. We respond to God as He calls men and women in their communities to further the work of the Kingdom in various ways—often creative ways.

We see God raising up churches as places of worship and equipping the saints for the ongoing work of transformation. As I said earlier, churches should consistently remind themselves that they are the hub of global missions: God calls missionaries through the local church. Churches can also be aware that all ages can participate in missions. We are seeing parents and grandparents called to both short-term and long-term missions assignments. Being aware of this reality can help strengthen missions across the globe.

Finally, I believe that churches can assist in moving away from an “us/them” approach, and recognize that all people are valuable to God. God wants us to present the gospel to every single person. Our prayers, giving, encouragement, and obedient response to this call is key to God’s ongoing work.

Though the world seems chaotic, God can bring about transformation. Keep trusting Him!

Holiness Today, Mar/Apr 2019