One of the big-picture goals of every church is to see their people interdependently engaged in ministry. The most obvious expression of this is the recurring urgency of finding teachers and nursery workers, youth sponsors and choir members, VBS staff and kitchen helpers. Efforts to fill the slots needed to operate local ministry needs eclipse the bigger vision for the Great Commission. Too many of our churches easily slip into a fortress mentality, out of touch with the rest of the world. The Missions Team needs to work hard to raise the bar of expectations that every member can grow to become a “World Christian”.

So, what is a “world Christian”? The first use of the term was in a book entitled, Marks of a World Christian, by Daniel Johson Fleming, in 1925 (c) The International YMCA. It is written in a devotional style and presents the concept that every Christian, not just missionaries, should be gripped by a passion for and consecration to God’s transforming glory to be displayed around the world. While we might quibble with his doctrinal framework and expectations, the concept itself is very useful. It has been adopted and used extensively over the past thirty years. Here are some more contemporary definitions of “world Christian”:

Definitions of a World Christian

“A World Christian is a disciple for whom Christ’s global cause has become the integrating overarching standard, affecting his/her values, perspectives, and life decisions.” Taken from World Christian Fellowship,
Gailyn Van Rheenen’s glossary, in the text book Missions: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Strategies — World Christian: “a day-to-day disciple for whom Christ’s global cause has become the integrating, overriding priority for all that He is for him. He actively investigates all that his Master’s Great Commission means…[and] then he acts on what he learns. A World Christian is a Christian whose life-direction has been solidly transformed by a world vision” (adapted from Bryant 1999, 703; this article is an excerpt from Bryant’s 1979 book, In the Gap).

In an appendix of the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement reader/book, an article entitled, “What it means to be a World Christian”, from an article by David Bryant, “In the Gap”, originally published for Inter-Varsity Missions, 1979: What shall we call this distinct group of Christians who have taken a stand that says: We want to accept personal responsibility for reaching some of earth’s unreached, especially from among the billions at the widest end of the Gap who can only be reached through major new efforts by God’s people. Among every people group where there is no vital, evangelizing Christian community there should be one, there must be one, there shall be one. Together we want to help make this happen. For a moment, let’s call them WORLD CHRISTIANS.

World Christians are day-to-day disciples for whom Christ’s global cause has become the integrating, overriding priority for all that He is for them.
From Perspectives appendix, an article by Steven Hawthorne entitled, “Serving As Senders”: … the “World Christian” decision [is] to take on personal responsibility for reaching the unreached, orienting one’s entire life around his global purpose.

You get the idea. If we could even aspire to train everyone in our congregation to become a world Christian, …

  • we would never lack for volunteers for ministry
  • we would not lack for funds for missions
  • we could have a steady stream of candidates for cross-cultural service
  • everyone would attend to world news with a sharper Gospel-oriented perspective
  • supporting and caring for our missionaries would be a competition among the people
  • active evangelism across every by way of life would be second-nature to all involved

So, how do we train people to become world Christians?

  • Pray with expectation that they will.
  • Faithful teach the overarching purpose of God to display and proclaim His glory in the person and work of Jesus Christ among all nations throughout all the Scriptures.
  • Get them in personal, visual, relational contact with the Gospel needs of the world.
  • Make opportunities for special exposure and teaching through every avenue of church ministry, but especially in some missions-focused event annually.
  • Bring in the best speakers and missionaries possible to present God’s work around the world.
  • Give opportunities for people to be involved in the ministry and lives of those serving in Gospel ministry around the world.
  • Give feature pieces of literature, video, weblinks, etc. through every means of communication with some frequency.
  • Allow testimonies from your people of how their lives were impacted by connecting with world Christian ideals, personal service, spiritual fruit, Short Term Missions, relationships with internationals, witnessing opportunities, enriching relationships with missionaries, field visits, etc.
  • Encourage missionaries to challenge and relate to people just how wonderful, encouraging, and helpful are the efforts of world Christians among the congregation to sustain their efforts around the world.
  • Pray publicly for these goals.