In the first year of the EPC’s existence, denominational leaders gathered in Denver to create World Outreach, and invited the foremost Presbyterian missiologist of the time, Ralph Winter, to join them. Dr. Winter’s advice – “The easy places have already been taken; go to the hard places – the places where people don’t yet have any viable churches.”
Those early EPC leaders recognized God’s direction in Dr. Winter’s words, and thus EPC World Outreach was created with the mandate to go to hard places to tell the story of Jesus among a people who have not yet heard. This is the same missionary vision articulated by the Apostle Paul.
“It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” ~Romans 15:20 | New International Version (NIV)
Our desire is to not just go to difficult places, but to see fellowships of believers with qualified leaders sending out their own to start Christ-centered movements within other unreached people groups. The EPC has seen success in this area. In March, I had the privilege to be in Siberia and witness a key moment in the growth of churches planted through EPC World Outreach. The EPC “daughter” churches of Kazakhstan received the EPC “daughter” church in Siberia into their presbytery. And on that same weekend, leaders of World Outreach’s International Theological Education Network (ITEN) were present helping to train future teaching and ruling elders! This is the story of sons and daughters of the EPC who have heard God’s calling to find someplace different to love their neighbor! And this story continues…
In April, five more families were appointed as EPC missionaries. Each family has their story of God cultivating a call to go where Christ is not yet known.
In all their stories we see similar themes: God still calling EPC sons and daughter to go beyond their own US neighborhoods; seeds for mission cultivated along the way by faithful EPC Pastors and the EPC covenant family at large; and a deep love for neighbors that tells them about Jesus and helps them to grow through Bible study in a fellowship of believers. We hope many of you can meet these new appointees soon at General Assembly, at Presbytery meetings, or by inviting them to come to your church. We believe it won’t be long before they are in a very different neighborhood, among many people who have not heard the story and love of Jesus Christ.
What about you? Is God nudging you to find someplace different to love your neighbor?
By Shawn Stewart, EPC World Outreach Mobilization Coordinator