The mission field has shifted so drastically over the last few decades, that many of the places that were once unreached are now a major missionary force. And now that we are living in a post-COVID world, the Church must rethink the way we do missions.
In this episode of Church InTension, TKU President, Dr. Jon Chasteen, talks with Charley Elliott, the executive pastor of Gateway Global. After spending a decade of ministry in Africa and Latin America, Charley joined the staff of Gateway Church, where he has his finger on the pulse of the ever changing mission field.
Dr. Jon Chasteen: Today, I’m excited about our guest. He’s really no guest. I’m going to read you his bio, his professional bio and then I’m gonna give you his bio in my words. Okay, are you ready? His professional bio is his name is Charley Elliott and Charley is an executive pastor of Gateway Global and Gateway Church. After spending a decade of ministry in Africa and Latin America, Charley joined the staff at Gateway Church where he has the opportunity to encourage church leaders around the world. Charley met his wife Kelly on the mission field in Mexico where their four sons, Luke, Sam, Nate and Josh were all born. And so Charley, first off, thanks for coming on the program, man.
Pastor Charley Elliott: Thanks so much. It’s great to be here.
Jon: So, Charley is a really good friend of mine and I love what Charley does for a living. Gateway is a very unique church and what they’re able to do, and even, Charley, really before we jump into this, I want you to describe Gateway Church’s structure. They have Gateway Church and then they have Gateway Global. And as the president of The King’s University, Charley and I serve on the same executive team at Gateway. We serve on a leadership team together under the apostolic side of Gateway. So, describe to our listeners what that looks like. What does that mean?
Charley: Absolutely, yeah, yeah. Yeah, when we say the apostolic side, we’re really saying the outbound side. So, we have a cluster, an umbrella of ministries that are all, in a sense, outward facing, looking not inward at the congregation, but outward to the body of Christ and serving in different areas like business leaders, equipping churches to disciple business leaders, helping churches right here in the US with the church network. And then our piece would be the global piece which is really building partnerships with ministries internationally, churches and ministries around the world. So, that’s the focus.
The vision is it was Pastor Robert’s from the very beginning that, rather than maybe the older traditional model of being a church that maybe focuses on just sending missionaries from our church, just sending people out to live in different places, his burden as he grew up in ministry and began to look at things and read through the Book of Acts was they sent people in the Book of Acts, but it never uses the term missionary. It says they sent apostles. They sent Barnabas and Saul and they were recognized by authority in the church. Their gifts were known and then the fruit was evident in their ministry.
So, Pastor Robert’s vision was really, “I want to build a network of relationships with leaders that are already indigenous to these countries. Let’s go in and find the leader of leaders, who are they’re not just building a ministry that’s inward, but they’re in their country bearing fruit and they have a heart to help other pastors and other ministries and resource people around them, other people look to them. Let’s build relationships with those kinds of leaders and let’s pour in and then let’s take a few people on our staff that have that kind of apostolic gift to go and build those relationships and bring that kind of encouragement and strength to these ministries. And rather than send them out as missionaries, let’s bring them on staff and then we’ll send them to build this kind of network of relationships.” So, that’s the focus.
Jon: That’s so awesome. So, how many people are on your team at Gateway Global?
Charley: We have a team of pastors that oversee basically our relationships, one in Latin America, one in Europe, one in Africa, one in Asia and then we have two that help oversee that, one in the context of leadership development and the other in the context of operations. And then we have a team that also logistically organizes short-term mission trips, which we could talk about where that falls in the scope of the vision. But for all of our Gateway campuses to be able to go and just serve and have a cross-cultural ministry experience. So, there’s all in all about 14 of us.
Wow. That’s so awesome. And I’ve met most of the guys that serve on your team and had been to Africa with Chase and some of these guys. So, these staff members are, I don’t know if you would use the word liaisons, but they’re like these representatives in all these different continents and they’re just out connecting with pastors in organizations, “And how can we resource you? How can we help you?” And what I love about this and I think it’s an important distinctive, and then we’ll get into some of the content here, Gateway’s goal is not to go in and make many Gateways.
Jon: It’s really just to come alongside you and say, “How can we help you?” right?
Charley: Yup. Yeah, we like to say, “We’re happy when our fruits growing on someone else’s tree.”
Charley: And so we don’t want to come in thinking we have the answers. We have the program, run our program, run our play. We really want to say, “What’s God …” If we come into a new country, the logic in our head is, “What has God been doing in this place because we know God is there long before we ever get there?”
Charley: And then, “What has he been doing and what is the new thing he seems to be doing now and who are the people he’s using?” And then it would just be, “Okay, once a relationship develops, what is it that maybe freely I’ve received, freely I can give and share that would help you be more successful, you be more fruitful in the work you’re already doing in this place?”
Jon: It’s so good and that’s why I think it’s important for us to talk about this. When people think Gateway Church, they usually think The Blessed Life, they think of Pastor Robert, they think of conferences, Pink Conference, Men’s Conference and all those things they do so well, their worship, but there’s a whole another side to Gateway where there really are extending the reach globally and impacting the global church. And that’s really what I want to pull out of you today. So, did you grow up on the mission field? Tell us about your past a little bit.
Charley: Sure. No, I grew up primarily in Texas. I lived a little bit north of the Red River-
Jon: That’s not the mission field.
Charley: That’s not the mission field. It’s not cross-cultural from Texas to Oklahoma, well-
Jon: It is.
Charley: I spent a few years in Tulsa, but basically, I grew up here and my encounter with God in my teenage years, a lot of it happened on a short-term mission trip and through a ministry that took people on short-term missions. And so that’s a lot of work, God got a hold of my heart, and interestingly, it was unfolding in my family, my parents at the same time. My dad was an attorney. So, God really moved in a season in our family all at the same time. So, when I graduated high school, my parents actually moved to the mission field, but I didn’t grow up there. I went to Bible college and then I went to the mission field about two years later. So, we all moved to the mission field in a two-year window of-
Jon: Where did you go first?
Charley: I went to Zimbabwe.
Charley: So, I worked with an evangelist there and we traveled the southern region of Africa. We would work in a super high-density suburb of a city and do an open air crusade at the end of about three weeks of training and discipleship and Bible teaching, just strengthening churches and then we would end with this big evangelistic outreach, maybe 10,000 to 30,000 people for about five nights on a soccer field.
Jon: Were you there when their currency crashed?
Charley: Yeah, yeah, it was-
Charley: It was fun times-
Jon: Billion dollars for a loaf of bread.
They keep adding zeros after I left, but it was definitely a fun ride, a wild ride.
Jon: And then you went from there to Mexico, is that correct?
Charley: That’s right. Yup. So, I moved to Mexico and began working with a church that was founded by missionaries. They live there and do ministry there today, Bobby, Lynn Crow, that ministry, Palabra de Vida has been there for many years, just strong church in the city where we were, Ciudad Victoria, Mexico but also has a Bible school and poured into a lot of churches, helped start a lot of churches and train a lot of leaders around the country, so we serve closely under them.
Jon: I love talking to you about global missions and just really the global church because of your reach and because of Gateway’s reach across the globe. You always know what move of God is happening where and I love this, because in American culture, in the American church, we can become so are isolated and we live in a bubble. And we don’t really know what’s happening around the world, that God is moving in absolutely amazing ways all over the world and we rarely know about it. So, I love picking your brain in this idea of mission. So, let’s just jump right into some content here. Do you sense that … We’re in this post-COVID. Do you sense a shift taking place on the way the church does missions? We’re talking about this a little bit, but do you think there’s been four shifts, what are those?
Charley: Sure, sure. Yeah, I do. And some of it, I think that some things are probably directly caused by COVID and the season we’ve been in, but I think, in most ways, COVID has accelerated change and disruptions. Things that were already in place, COVID just accelerated a lot of things and outside of just missions, but in so many parts of our life and our world. But I think some things have been happening for quite a while. And really, if we look back and when we talk church, so much in the last generation has changed. We’ve really thought through new ways to do church in every aspect of church. And it seems like almost the last thing to change is the church’s approach to missions.
But that’s natural because missions is really an outworking of what God starts within us and what God does inside a church and inside a congregation. It begins to flow and extend out. So, when we’ve received something from God, we want to begin to take it where others hadn’t received it.
Jon: Right. You want to share it.
Charley: Yeah. But there are, there’s a number of shifts that are taking place. And I think one of the big ones is it’s a geographical shift. There’s a scripture in Galatians where it says that God sent Jesus in the fullness of time. And a lot of scholars would say that, when you look at the conditions of the world, mostly because of the Roman Empire, the world was at a stage in a way it had never been staged before. The Romans built roads that connected the world, so we talk all the time about the Roman roads. Well, you couldn’t travel with the ease you could before Rome. They helped establish a common language. Well, it’s really the Greeks, but that created a common language through the Roman Empire and relative peace.
So, Jesus came at a time when the Gospel was able to travel so much faster and I think we’re living in a time like that, that maybe there’s never been a moment like this. And that plays into multiple shifts maybe that I would talk about, but globalization really is like a Roman road, and because the old model for the last maybe 100 years, the old model of missions that we’ve thought of is we, tongue in cheek, say from the west to the rest. We think about missions as maybe Europeans and Americans going to other countries, taking the Gospel, but taking our way of doing church and going other places.
But the interesting thing is, and even though we all have our imperfections and we’re incomplete and there’s the good, the bad and the ugly mixed in, when we look back over the last generation, God has transformed different parts of the world. And the truth is where the places that were once a mission field are now becoming a mission force and there are more Christians today living south of the equator in the Southern Hemisphere than north of the equator.
Jon: Are you serious?
Charley: Yeah, so it’s really not the west to the rest. There’s actually the global south, we often call it, is really the strength of the Christian presence in the world.
Jon: Yeah, you think about Brazil and all the radical revival happening down there.
Charley: Absolutely. The last place I was before COVID was in Brazil at an event called The Send. And some of our friends, Andy Byrd was here at TKU this year. And the event that they did three large stadiums on the same day around The Great Commission.
Jon: To hear him tell that story is just mind blowing.
Charley: It’s amazing … It’s one of those that you think we’ll read about this in 50 years.
Jon: I don’t remember which stadium it was, but he said that it broke a record. It’s a huge soccer stadium.
Charley: Largest stadium in Sao Paulo which is the largest city of Brazil like 80,000 seats.
Jon: 80,000-seat and it sold out faster than any event in history.
Charley: Yeah, that the record was U2 and Coldplay concert. So, they said, “The Great Commission sells stadiums out in Brazil faster than U2 and Coldplay.”
Jon: He told the story about how he didn’t have the faith for it and he wanted to get the smallest stadium and how God said, “No, I want you to do the biggest one.” And so he said, “Okay,” and it sold out in six hours or something crazy. And then they said, “Okay, let’s do another one.” It sold out. “So, let’s do another one.” So, it’s unbelievable. Three massive soccer stadiums in the same day packed with young people.
Charley: And that’s our world. This is the global south. This is just one nation, Brazil, saying, “The church …” And really, it’s this younger high school and 20-somethings generation is the bulk of that crowd saying, “We want to carry the Gospel to other parts of the world.”
Charley: So, it’s amazing. So, it’s not from the west of the rest.
Jon: Really, really.
Charley: It’s from everywhere to everywhere.
Jon: It’s so incredible. So, there’s a geographical shift and then what are some other shifts you sense?
Charley: Yeah, so there’s a geographical shift, but then I think there’s also a strategic shift. And that comes right in line with that where it used to be that we just thought in that old model that, “We have the Gospel, we have the light and there’s all these dark places and we’re taking the light to the dark place.” And that was probably God’s method for a time and a season. But in today’s world, I think if that’s our starting place, even though, yes, there are dark places all over the world, and any person who’s lost without Christ, we are bringing light.
However, when we were speaking geographically and we say, “Here in the United States, we have the light. We’re going to take the light of the Gospel to church to another country,” most of the countries in the world today, there is a church. There is a Christian presence.
Charley: And in many places, the church is thriving.
Charley: And so if we look at the metaphor and the new testament of the body, that we’re all members of the Body of Christ, different members and each joint, each part of the body has a different supply. There’s really, I think, this beautiful blend, that what God would want to do in this time is almost like cooking a recipe where you take all these ingredients and you mix it together, “Let’s look at the church and the different parts of the world and look at what’s the grace and the strength of the church in Africa, the grace of the church in Latin America and Europe, in Asia, in different parts and let’s collaborate together. Let’s work together with different strengths, different graces. And if we collaborate, I think we can multiply the impact.”
So, rather than just a conquest where we say, “Look what we went and did,” that we work together and we then honor and celebrate what you, our friend in whatever part of Europe or Asia or Africa, we’re celebrating you and what you’re doing. We’re collaborating together.”
Jon: Wow, and it pulls all of these churches together and it becomes more of a movement than an event.
Jon: That’s big.
Jon: Awesome. What else?
Charley: Yeah, there’s another very interesting thing in the area when we talk about cross cultural missions. 30 years ago, it was not hard to get a religious worker visa to a lot of countries, maybe Russia and India, places like this. In today’s world, it is exceedingly more and more all the time difficult to get a religious worker, a traditional missionary visa. And so one of the things that we think is shifting, and we would say it’s a vocational shift or we could also say it’s a theological shift because I feel like churches are more and more getting … They’re growing in their understanding of the kingdom.
Charley: “What does the kingdom of God mean?” We all know in our heads, but we still find ourselves working out that there’s not this sacred secular divide. It’s not that in the church, we’re doing holy things and everyone else that comes to the church on Sunday and does their job Monday to Friday, you’re doing secular work. You talk about, “This is secular and this is sacred.” No, the kingdom, God is the creator of all of it. And so an area that we think God is going to move like never before in this century is an area of marketplace missions. Because we don’t look at you know, “You’re on the B Team if you’re in the marketplace.” No, “You’re on God’s A team. This is your mountain. This is your calling and you bring the kingdom in your profession.”
So, here’s the interesting thing because what people used to do is they say, “Well, if I can’t get a missionary visa, then I’ll be a tentmaker like the Apostle Paul.” So, they would set up a business and they would get a visa into the country under the guise of the business, but they’re really not there to do business. They’re really there to do ministry and the business is just a false front. We say it tentmaking, it’s almost tent faking.
That’s right. It’s just a facade.
And I’m not saying God doesn’t move through that. I’m not disrespecting, dishonoring people that that’s how the Lord led them, but what we’re actually saying in a way as well, the ministry side is what sacred and holy and God’s not really into business.
That’s good. Yeah, that’s really good.
But what we see is there are companies that do global studies. There’s like PricewaterhouseCoopers and there’s another group called Manpower that do massive surveys of what they would call global talent scarcity. And you can look across many countries in the world, especially the developing world where they have a shortage of skilled labor in different … They have a shortage of executives. They have a shortage of executive coaches. They have a shortage of doctors, nurses, engineers, architects, different kinds of professions that they need to develop their country. And so many of these countries, they’re willing to invest and pay commensurate salaries to hire skilled labor to come in and help them develop their country.
So, what we would say is, “What if God was putting a nation or a people on your heart and you’re a doctor, you’re a businessman, you’re an engineer, what if you didn’t have to leave your profession and say, “I’m going to leave my career and I’m going to raise support and I’m going to live off of donations and support and I’m going to move to another country,” not that God hasn’t done that, not to dishonor anyone that God’s called to that as a traditional missionary worker, but what if you went into all the world and you took your job with you? And then when you move to another country, and you rent a house and you meet your neighbors and they say, “Well, what do you do,” and they find out that you do religious stuff, they’re thinking, “Is this guy like a cult or CIA?” What is-
Jon: A spy.
Charley: Yeah, right. No.
Jon: You can just say you’re a doctor. It’s like, “Oh, hey, how you doing?”
Jon: And relationships and, yeah.
Charley: Exactly. Exactly and it’s instant credibility, instant influence. And so we’re seeing God to move people in the marketplace and it’s like, “All you have to do is what would you think of going giving a year or two of your life, maybe God would develop it longer, but go and work in your career and you’ll come back. You’ll make a commensurate salary and you’ll come back with something on your resume that stands out, but what if you went and all you had to do is do good work? Let your good works make your light shine and then people that God brings into your circle of trust, pour into them and share Jesus with them and who knows what God can do?” We’re seeing God do this and stuff like this where it’s really remarkable.
Jon: And that’s something that even pastors could encourage people to do in their congregation, a pastor could … Because before, it does seem like it’s as if, “Well, either you’re gonna sign up to be a missionary and burn your plows and leave everything behind. You’re right. It’s such a great alternative so to speak.
Charley: Absolutely. And that’s how … Not to dishonor, there’s a hero, missionary hero book I read of a guy named H.B. Garlock and the book was called Before We Kill You and Eat You.
Jon: Oh, my God.
Charley: And he goes to a tribe in Africa that’s a cannibal tribe and he gets … The main story, there’s all these miracle stories, but there’s a story where he’s traveling at night and he gets apprehended by this tribal group and their custom was they give you your last words, “Anything you want to say before we kill and eat you.” And this guy falls to his knees, crying to God and begins praying in other tongues and it’s like heaven falls, and whenever that prayer lifts, he opens his eyes and there’s tears in the eyes of all these tribal and God was like sharing the Gospel through this guy.
Charley: And it broke in, it broke doors open to bring the Gospel to this tribe. It’s amazing. So, the sacrifice of people that did burn their plows and-
Jon: Absolutely. You’re not saying the vocational missions is the new missions person. It takes both.
Charley: It does. It does.
Jon: It takes both.
Charley: But at the end of this man’s story, this H.B. Garlock, he said, he looked back over all his years on the mission field and he said, “I realized our methods were as primitive as some of the tribes we were trying to reach.”
Charley: “And I think we’re always learning, we’re always growing, we’re always looking at, ‘How is God moving now?'”
Jon: Yeah, so good. Well, there’s one more shift that I know you talked about earlier and it’s the one that I’m the most, really the most interested in chatting about. So, what’s that fourth one?
Charley: Yeah, a technological shift. And I think this is the brand new frontier and we’re leaning in and going, “We don’t know what all the possibilities are.” And this is probably the one that COVID has accelerated the most. It’s almost like the Lord used COVID to stop so many of the things that we normally do to train some new muscles and learn some new things. And I think, in time, he’s going to integrate these back together, but that is … What’s possible today through the internet, through video conferencing and FaceTime and Zoom and these kinds of platforms, that’s how we’ve engaged ministry partners around the world and the season when we couldn’t travel is we’re getting online. And the more we do it, the more we learn different ways to be intentional with how we engage people online.
But what you realize is we can do a video call and have 15-20 nations on one roundtable and we’re all at home. Nobody had to pack a bag, nobody had a buy ticket and there’s all kinds of learning and strength and encouragement that we’re gaining from each other.
Jon: And stewardship. You can talk for a second about what you guys are doing, you do these, what do you call them learning type, learning-
Charley: Learning communities.
Jon: Learning communities where they go to Europe or wherever and you’ll have all these pastors come together and you do these trainings. And in the past, you would just fly people over there and there’s flights and hotels and expenses. And COVID has forced you to rethink that.
Jon: So, tell us about how you’re doing that now.
Charley: Yeah, back into Gateway Global world, there’s partnering with ministries, but then we do a lot of just leadership development and equipping. And that’s where that led us to do these learning communities. Obviously, what we’ve pivoted to do now is, “How can we do this online?” So, we’re even working to partner with ChurchEd to build these learning communities, are not focused on an individual leader learning and growing and taking a course, but guiding a leadership team. So, it’s really trying to work with church teams in different parts of the world and help them on their ministry model help, help them develop a leadership development culture where they just begin to bear more fruit, get more work done, more ministry done. And so yeah, we’re beginning to do these online and build out these courses and then bring in cohorts and-
Jon: I love that.
Charley: You learn as a team and then you process with other people online-
Jon: So, shameless plug, ChurchEd, for those of you, our listeners, that don’t know, here at the King’s University, obviously, we have fully accredited bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees, but there’s something that we’ve launched recently called ChurchEd. And if you want to know more information about it, you go to churched.com. And these are basically certificates for pastors or laypeople or leaders who need practical training for ministry, but you don’t necessarily want to go back to college and spend four years of your life because you don’t need that or you don’t pursue that, but you want to be trained. And so we have partnered with Gateway Global and we’re developing some courses that they’re going to use all over the world through this ChurchEd platform. So, quick, shameless plug, if you’re a pastor out there and you need to train your kids pastor or a youth pastor or worship pastor or care pastor, executive pastor, we have certificates for all those things at churched.com. So, that was a super shameless commercial right in the middle of our podcasts.
Charley: Well, no apology needed. There’s so much fantastic content on that platform and we’re just excited for what the potential is for God to just equip and develop leaders in so many practical ways through this platform. So, we’re part of it.
Jon: Yeah, we’ve got some data back the other day on this podcast and we have listeners that are … Daniel, you’re here with us, right? I’m trying to remember it’s over 50 countries that we have listeners to this podcast, but …
Jon: … the majority of our listeners are probably in America, would be my guess. Help the average American understand what’s happening around the world. What is God doing? What is drawing your attention for somebody who has feelers out all over the world? I don’t know how many countries you guys are involved with, but where does your head continually turn to in awe of what God is doing?
Charley: Well, a couple of directions. It’s a great question, Jon. I think one of the most amazing things is the way there’s no force that can stop Jesus from building his church. He said, “You’re the Christ, the son of the living God, and on this rock, I will build my church.” And Jesus said, “The gates of hell will not prevail against it.” And that’s true from the time Christ spoke it to now, every government, every movement, every maybe demonic pattern of thought, whatever kind of strongholds you want to name has ever been able to truly completely stop and extinguish the work of the Gospel.
So, when we look at some of the, what we call closed access places, some of the communist nations that have tried to eliminate Christianity and thought that all we have to do is educate a generation and communism, and within a generation, it will be gone. When they fast forward a generation and they look around, there’s more Christians than ever, from the early 1900s to the close of last century, that the Christian presence in China absolutely exploded. And on a micro level, the same thing happened in Cuba. So, places like that, but then places like Iran, places like Arab nations, there’s something unprecedented happening in this century and in among Muslim peoples. The testimonies of Jesus appearing to people in dreams and visions, like the way he did that to the Apostle Paul when he was Saul of Tarsus.
Jon: Yes, I think that’s fascinating because Michelle, my wife, is obsessed with studying what’s happening in Iran and through Muslims. And like you’re saying, there are thousands upon thousands of Muslims that are having dreams and visions of Jesus visiting them in a dream. And the reason that’s so impactful and important is because their belief in dreams, you know more about that than I do, but when they have a dream of something supernatural, it is divine. It’s not like they ate pizza the night before. And so Jesus knows where to meet us. That’s what’s so cool, is Jesus knows where to grab them and it’s through dreams and visions and he’s doing that. So, I just think that’s amazing how God knows where to meet us no matter where we’re at.
Charley: And it’s not in the hundreds or even the thousands. It’s in the tens upon tens of thousands. We have a partner in Cairo, Egypt and they’re the largest church in the Middle East. And so they have sent missionaries all over the Arab world. And so from all across the coast of Northern Africa and then up through the Middle East and into the Gulf, Arab states, they have the same kind of testimonies of Jesus or a man in white appearing to people …
Charley: … either go to a church or, “I am Jesus Christ,” or something about a Bible and leading them to seek, to find a Bible to read it. Just there is an unprecedented hunger. And even that church, they created a course, an online course that was around the person of Jesus and it starts from a Muslim perspective and it leads …
Charley: … into a Christian perspective. And they thought, “It’d be great if we could get a few thousand people online to sign up for this course.” Once they loaded it online, they’ve had, I think, over 2 million signups.
Charley: So, there is this hunger to know Jesus, that God has awakened the Arab and the Muslim people and there is an unprecedented harvest taking place.
Jon: I had a guy … I’m sorry, listeners, there’s something in my throat today. I had a guy coming to meet with me at The King’s University that is from China, and obviously, I can’t say his name, but he has this network of churches, underground churches in China, over 200 underground churches in China.
Jon: And I’m sitting here as the president of a university, but also a pastor, a pastor of a church at the same time. And I think what it has done for me is given me such a broader perspective. And I think that’s what’s important for us as Americans to understand is that God is so much bigger than we think he is. And to listen to this gentleman and the passion and the dedication to the kingdom of God that this man has to support all of these underground churches and do it in a way that if he ever were to get caught, it’s convicting in a sense, but it’s also just challenging. It’s inspiring. He was meeting with me because it’s illegal to homeschool in China and some of these individuals …
Well, they don’t want to put their children in the school systems there for obvious reasons and they’ll get caught somehow. And so now not only can they not homeschool, but because they got caught, they’re not allowed to put their kids in school and so their kids are just growing up uneducated. And so he’s trying to come to America and find partners to help educate these children. And it’s just … I say that quick story just to say, I want to segue into this for the pastors out there that have a burning desire of like, “I got to do something in my church.” There’s a tension there. There’s something … “I don’t know what to do, but I need to do something. I need to get my church involved in missions.
To be thinking outside the bubble of the western church mindset, how do I get my church outside the bubble?” What would you say to a pastor or even a layperson who just says, “Man, I need to do something, but I don’t know what to do”? How do you start that journey?
Charley: Yeah, I think it’s so good. So, good. First of all, I just would say if that notion is intimidating, if you haven’t ever been out of the country, you haven’t been involved in missions, let me just encourage you and tell you that the world is so much smaller than it used to be. There’s more people in it, but it is smaller than it has ever been. And the question that Jesus gave in his time to wrestle with was they asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” And so that’s where Jesus brought the story of The Good Samaritan. And so it was a cross cultural thing of when somebody’s hurting, it doesn’t matter culture, it doesn’t matter customs, it doesn’t matter religion. Here’s this Jew who’s broken and hurting and his own people. They made their cultural excuses of why not to help that person. And it was the Samaritan that they looked down that really showed the love and the mercy of God to him.
And so what does it mean to love your neighbor in 21st century world where we’re in a globalized culture, where you can pick up your phone and you can talk face to face with someone in Thailand, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, wherever? So, what does it mean to love your neighbor? And let me just encourage you and say you have access to the whole world and you have gifts and you have resources that, if you make yourself available, God will lead and guide you to places where they there is need. And that’s the fact. There are people hurting, there are people in need, just like this situation you’re describing. That’s like that marketplace missions thing. Somebody has the skillset and the technological savvy, the educational savvy to creatively meet that need.
And that’s what I love is I would never sit in a church boardroom, conference room and come up with that strategy, but God takes people through their experiences. And so what I just always encourage people, number one, is just the first thing to do when you step into missions is seek relationships over results. This is not about like …
Jon: That’s good.
Charley: … scalps on our belt. It’s not like-
Jon: It’s not so you can do a promotional video at church and show how awesome your church is.
Charley: Yes, how many nations-
Jon: Where can we help?
Charley: And so we still have a lot of that notion of world-changing …
Jon: That’s really good.
Charley: … conquest and it’s a bravado and really to realize, “No, we’re a connected body and what the richest thing God gives us is not what we get to go do and say we did, it’s who we get to meet …”
Jon: That’s so good.
Charley: “… and walk with and really have a ministry covenant relationship with that we give of the grace that we have and they give us the grace we have.” I have a good dear friend who’s a pastor in Nairobi, Kenya and the discipleship model that he built in his church, it reached the ears of a large church in California on the West Coast. About a decade ago, their leadership team went and spent two weeks in Kenya studying this model.
Charley: They decided it was so great. They came back to America, deconstructed entirely the way they did church-
Jon: An American church learning from a Kenyan church.
Jon: That’s awesome.
Charley: But not only that, once they figured it out and made it work here, they’ve trained over a thousand churches …
… in this discipleship model. I’ve been right here in Dallas, Fort Worth in a Starbucks early one morning and heard a guy having a coffee with another guy, discipling him and telling him to get into this program and I’m hearing him promote this program. And it’s the American version of the program my friend at Kenya wrote. And I thought, “I can’t believe.”
Charley: “I can’t … It’s just amazing.” So, realizing that the richness is the relationship, we’re going to learn and receive as much as we give.
Jon: Wow. That’s really good.
Charley: But the second thing is just know who you are, know the grace that you have built a relationship and then give … You don’t have to be all things to all people. You don’t have to have all the answers and all … Take the grace God has given you freely you’ve received, freely share it. And if you open your hand up, God’s going to lead and guide you to where he can plant it and make it bear fruit.
Jon: It does seem like that’s been almost the perspective or innocently enough, many churches or pastors or leaders, when we think missions, we think it’s about, “I’m going to go help someone else. I’m going to go feed him. I’m going to build something. I’m going to build a house. I’m going to build a church.” And I love what you’re saying. It’s, “Yeah, we’ll help some people, but let’s develop an ongoing relationship.” It’s not a notch in the belt and I think it can be overwhelming as a pastor because you see the magnitude of what needs to be done or you’re like, “I don’t know where to start.” I think it was Andy Stanley that says, “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.”
Charley: I love that. I love that thought.
Jon: Isn’t that good? And so I think that’s a great way to step into it as a pastor to say, “You know what? I can’t be everything to everybody, but I can be one thing to one ministry or one person.” So, that’s so good. I love that relational component.
Charley: Yeah, and just take what you have and pour in, build that relationship and then you just build from strength to strength. I think if we start taking the loaves and fishes God has given us and breaking them open and sharing them, God will keep multiplying the resources and the capacity to do it more and more and more and we just … So, the last thing is you just figure out that grace you have and just begin to give yourself a way to others and do it with … I would say do it with a humble confidence. And sometimes I’ll speak for a moment just because I know a lot of listeners are in the United States and we just speak to Americans about cross-cultural ministry because there’s a couple of ideas that get in our mind that maybe just the enemy wants to try to discourage or intimidate us.
And one is sometimes we think, “Well, everybody hates Americans.” Sometimes the media and everything would paint the picture that we’re just hated in the world. And the truth is, more often than not, I find warmth and love in any region, any culture, I find people really open and receptive. And so don’t even believe that notion, but what there is the stereotype of is Americans think they have all the answers. And so if you want, as you’re stepping out and you’re connecting with people and ministering cross culturally, if you’ll do it from the posture of a learner and if you’ll do it from the posture of an encourager, that spirit of Barnabas that just, “Go and see what God is doing and encourage it,” that means so much because people do know the influence of the United States, the resources, the wealth and all of that.
And when they see someone from that culture coming and bringing honor and saying, “Oh, you don’t need me. You’re amazing,” and you begin to affirm and honor the work God is doing and even take the posture of a learner, their hearts open up …
Jon: That’s so good.
Charley: … and you build trust that then, “Okay, well, share with me what it is God’s done.”
Jon: You don’t come in as the hero. “I’m not here to save the day.”
Jon: Wow, so one thing I want to … We’ll wrap this up in a second, but one thing I want our listeners to learn that I think Gateway does so well, another thing that pastors face, but also just individuals on a daily basis when it comes to generosity. As a pastor, we’re approached all the time by ministries wanting help or missionaries or whoever. And Gateway gives away so much money and we believe that it’s one of the reasons why it’s so blessed. I was with a gateway group, I went with Chase to Rwanda back in December of ’19 and we go to this largest church in Rwanda. And the pastor gets up and starts talking and he begins to thank Gateway for their generosity and helping replace their roof like a six-figure US dollar gift. And I just sit there in awe going, “I didn’t even know that.”
And so Gateway is helping ministries and churches all over the world, millions and millions and millions of dollars. And so you guys have to have a, I hesitate to say the word policy, but you have to have a value. And how do we decide who to give to and when you’re asked so often, you have to come with values and principles that you do that? So, to the listeners out there who maybe ask for money, ask for help, help us understand some of those principles that you guys have in place that helps you discern whether or not the Lord is telling you to speak or to give to these organizations?
Charley: Yeah, that’s a great topic and it’s an important thing, because sharing resources and giving, it’s not just a transaction, it’s ministry. And Acts 11, Antioch has received the word of God. As people left Jerusalem, they carry the word of God to Antioch. So, there was the season where Jerusalem blessed Antioch. But then over time, Barnabas and Saul are there and it’s in Antioch, where they’re first called Christians. So, what does that mean? They had an identity shift and they went from being the people that just received help from someone else to having their own identity of who they are in Christ to the point where that’s where they first called themselves Christians, a name we still use today.
Immediately after that identity shift happens, there’s some prophets that come and prophesied there’s going to be a famine all over the world and so the church in Antioch says, “Well, if there’s going to be a famine, we’re going to take up an offering and we’re going to send it to Jerusalem because they’ve given the Gospel to us. We’re going to provide for them through a hard time.” So, there was a season where Jerusalem blessed Antioch, but then there was a season where Antioch blessed Jerusalem. And it says they sent that offering to Jerusalem at the hands of Barnabas and Saul. And I liked that phrase because I just think of when it comes to giving and giving like missions dollars, the hands of … They’re not …
Our team and we help steward some of those donations as a team, but those donations come from the generosity of the faithful members of Gateway Church. And so we’re just … They gave. We’re just in the hands of Barnabas and Saul. We’re just-
Jon: Yeah, that’s good.
Charley: But it is a ministry and so that is partly what has led to us having … You asked earlier about the structure that we have. We could write checks with your staff, but we couldn’t have the depth of relationship. And it’s not just dollars and bottom lines. It’s a ministry. So, we had a church in Europe recently that we are going to give, well that we decided to give a gift to. They’re raising money to buy a building and they’re in this country. When they get the property built, that will be the largest Evangelical Church in that nation and we knew they were doing it. They didn’t ask us for anything. We’ve been walking with them for years back and forth in all kinds of ways. And we heard about it and we just decided to do a gift.
And we called him up and said, “Hey, we approved a gift that we’re going to send for you, this project you’re doing.” And the pastor got so deeply … First, he’s freaking out, thinking excited, but then he just said, “Let me just tell you.” He said, “Next week, we’re supposed to go,” and I don’t remember if he was meeting with a bank or a foundation. I don’t remember if it was a grant or a loan situation, but he said, “We’re going to make this appeal for funding and we needed a certain amount of money within a certain range to substantiate credibility to receive the funding we want to receive. And so we’ve been asking God for that initial down payment, not down payment, but money in our bank.” And the amount we gave without them asking was exactly right in the middle of that range.
Charley: And so that it’s not saying, “Well look what we did. We’re so awesome.” It’s that in the context of relationship and trying to hear God, not even knowing, God used the gift to … God could have given money to this pastor, so many different ways …
Charley: … but God used the gift to speak to the pastor and say …
Jon: That’s good. That’s good.
Charley: “You’re stepping into waters that no church in your country has stepped into. You don’t know how it’s going to happen, but I’m with you.”
Jon: It’s like confirmation. Yeah.
Charley: “I see you.” And so there are ways that God can minister and speak to people through gifts if we endeavor to steward them well and hear the Lord and be obedient.
Jon: So, you’re saying that you guys, you’re giving is led by relationship first …
Jon: … contribution second?
Charley: We slow down. We don’t jump into a giving relationship too quickly because let’s build the relationship first because relationships can be funny if you start them with money.
Jon: That’s really good. That’s really good. Somebody need to hear that. That’s really good.
Charley: And then also understanding we’re not the source, God is the source. So, we don’t put on us, “Yes, we’re gonna feel the need,” but that when we feel the burden to need, we still need to take it to God and say, “Lord, what do you want me to do because I’m just supposed to obey.”
Jon: That’s really good.
Charley: And I think that one of the most important principles and there’s books written on it, you could say a lot, this is really important, but you don’t want to create situations where you create a dependency because you’re not strengthening the people of God in a particular place if you create a dependency upon you and it’s very easy to do in some places in the world. The scale of economy is so different that you can buy allegiance, you can buy your brand name on a building, you can buy whatever essentially. I know of a poor country where a large Christian country, churches came in and they asked pastors from a denomination, “How much do you make?” “Well, we make about $40 a month.”
Charley: “Well, we’ll pay you $90 a month. Join us.”
Charley: So, now they had their branch and their network in this country, but then the economy and the big country crashed, and all those people that left their denomination, they were cut dry.
Charley: And so, it’s establishing relationships. And so we don’t want to create things that we have to prop up and sustain. We want to look at, “What is the capacity of a church or a ministry? And if there’s a project that they’re doing and they’re trusting God, let’s come in and be a part of it. Let’s help make it happen if we know they can carry it forward.”
Charley: So, that’s, I think, the most important thing.
Jon: That’s so good. Charley, thanks for being on the show, man. If people have questions about ministries they could get involved with globally, if they have any sort of questions about their own church’s programs and ways that they’re needing help, can they contact your office somehow?
Jon: What’s the best way to do that?
Charley: Absolutely, two places, contact us at email, firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s email@example.com. And then gateway also has a Gateway resource library where we have a few resources. You can do a free account download, resources on some of how we do our global ministry. You can download that free at gatewayresourcelibrary.com
Jon: Awesome. Thanks so much for being on the show, man.
Charley: Such a pleasure.
Jon: Thanks for being my friend.
Charley: Always a pleasure to hang out. It’s a greater honor to be your friend than to be on the show, but it’s awesome to be here.
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