Fomenter of Revolutions
by Scott Dreyer and John Hoizmam
You might call it a revolution. A spiritual revolution. The opening volley was fired back in the spring of 1987. St. Giles' Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Richmond, Virginia, may never be the same.
"Since we first offered Perspectives here in the spring of 1987, our church's Missions Action Committee has doubled in number and quadrupled in activity," said Tom Parsons, associate pastor of St. Giles'. In 1987 the committee had about ten active members, he said; now there are between 25 and 30 ... and the missions program at St. Giles' has never been healthier.
Prayer is on the increase. This past spring, following the annual missions conference, several members of the church formed a new fellowship group. One of their main purposes: to pray for missions. This fall the group plans to meet at least twice a month and possibly weekly.
Every now and then, mission committee members lead a Sunday morning "Minute for Missions"÷they inform the congregation about a mission need, perhaps an unreached people, and then the congregation prays for that concern.
Adult Sunday school classes at St. Giles' now include mission issues. At the beginning of class someone will read from the Global Prayer Digest about an ethnic group without the gospel.
In fact, said Parsons, this month, August, "all the adult Sunday school classes are focused on missions instead of the more traditional Sunday school curriculum." He called it a "kind of new and different" emphasis.
Last summer, immediately following their first Perspectives course, the congregation sent its first youth team abroad. Fifteen teenagers did construction work and evangelism in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.
This summer the kids evangelized in New York City's Times Square, an experience that was "almost more cross-cultural than Mexico!" Next year they plan to return once more to the Yucatan.
"This vision to send our young people out for cross-cultural experience was fostered by Perspectives," Parsons said. Indeed, he said, short-term mission endeavors may represent one of Perspectives' most valuable contributions to the church. Church members who have gone overseas have come back with a greater commitment to and enthusiasm for missions.
Presently, five young adults from the church are excited enough about missions that they're preparing for long-term service.
In the future, St. Giles plans to "adopt" a hidden people group, said Parsons. The church cooperates closely with the Mayan Presbyterian church in the Yucatan, but now the members look forward to initiating work among an ethnic group without the gospel. They want to team up with a mission agency and, by contributing money and people, help establish a church, possibly among a Muslim people.
Perspectives, said Parsons, was the launch-point lor this church-planting vision as well. "We wouldn't have that vision if it weren't for the class."
Parsons said all the new mission activities÷ the prayer, the new Sunday school emphases, the weekly fellowship meetings÷ all of them trace right back to Perspectives. All five of the young people working toward going overseas long-term took the Perspectives course in 1987. About half the current missions committee members have taken the course. The class is "the stream from which it all flowed."
Boyd Morris, Northwest representative for Student Foreign Mission Fellowship, said he believes Perspectives can make such a radical impact because it's a "big-picture" course. Perspectives helps students to view the Bible and their Christian faith as something more than a collection of unrelated causes. They are taught that God's love for all peoples is the underlying, unifying, motivating reason and purpose for their faith. It "brings the pieces together into a whole."
Maybe you'd like to see the pieces put together? If so, contact the Perspectives coordinator nearest you÷or contact Perspectives at the U.S. Center for World Mission.