Category Archives: Our Vision & Mission

I love hearing this

I am participating in a process on hearing the stories of those whom God has brought to the USA from other countries.  Below is a sample of answers from a Korean who found Christ while a student in New York City. He now lives and ministers in a Latin American country.

Notice these answers, and what they reveal….

I love the….

  • passion to see lives changed
  • honesty about loneliness as immigrants, and desire for community
  • attraction of belonging with other Jesus followers
  • desire to be fed spiritually so as to have something to give others

God is calling, raising up, and sending workers from everywhere, to everywhere. What an amazing time to be participants in God’s mission!

This is why, in Near Frontiers, we “exist to partner within the diverse body of Christ to stimulate intercultural unity and gospel transformation among diaspora and under-served peoples.”

Thanks for sharing in our vision! You might like to read this post on “Our Mission.”

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With Jesus into the fray

There’s nothing better than getting spiritually jazzed when speaking with your board chair person. But I just got off Skype with Ray Sanford and have a few thoughts from our conversation to share with you.

Near Frontiers is a group of bridge-builders, connecting our good news Savior with needy people in the cities where God has placed us. There are areas of American cities where you don’t see banks or grocery stores. Police rarely venture into those neighborhoods. Instead you see potholed streets, boarded up shops, and schools so poor the parents don’t see the value of sending their kids.

Yet there are Jesus followers who move into the fray and represent Him in these places. Ray shared about his adult children, Ray and Mel, who live in West Philly. They invited students from Mel’s university cohort for Thanksgiving, and had Chinese, Indonesians, and an African for dinner.

There is a current in America (in fact globally) that is isolationist.  It would pull up the bridge to keep newcomers out. It would send immigrants back “home.”  That current will kill churches, and stifle Christian maturity.  That is the wrong response to the unprecedented scattering (diaspora) of our time.  Jesus said that it is unwise to pay more attention to the weather forecast than to understand the signs of the times.  Look at what God is doing among the nations and be amazed at the Great Commission mandate.

The Kingdom of God is going to advance by moving into the fray, not by avoiding it. Christ came for the sick not the healthy. In Near Frontiers we are bridge-builders, but we also call on believers everywhere to join the project and build with us. Don’t miss out on this gloriously messy time.




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“Play” – Jump cultural hurdles for Christ


So, would you care to know how the Antioch church hit the “Play” button?

Acts 11:20 says, “But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus.”

Who were these “men from Cyprus and Cyrene”? They were (likely) Jews who had come to believe in the Messiah; they were on the move, scattered. Members of the huge Christian diaspora of those days. And they had courage to speak to people who were different…specifically the Hellenists.

Who were the “Hellenists” (or in the NIV, “Greeks”)? Before the Roman Empire, there was the Greek Empire which, thanks to the exploits of Alexander the Great, spread from Italy to present-day Iran. With the kingdom came a Greek, or Hellenistic culture and language that tied the people together (hence the NT is written in Greek).

There were certain cities that were chosen as colonies, or strongholds of Greek culture and learning. Antioch was one of those cities. To the Jews, Hellenists were those people who were hard to figure out.

Language – Jews spoke an eastern language that flowed from the back of the book to the front, from the right side of the page to the left. Hellenists spoke a western language that flowed from the front of the book to the back, from the left side of the page to the right.

Beliefs – Jews believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Hellenists believed in Zeus, Hermes, and Artemis. Jews believed in one God.  Hellenists had a “coatrack” of gods; always room for one more mythological character with wings.

Worldviews – Jews thought in cyclical, existential terms; they sought after signs, the “Wow factor.” Hellenists thought in linear terms; they sought after wisdom, the “Sensible factor.”

Authority – The Jews were the refugees on the run; everything they owned was portable. The Hellenists were settled, comfortable in their culture. But both were under the rule of the Romans, so they had that in common.

It was only a matter of time before they would get into a tussle of confusion over customs, beliefs, and words. In other words, this was a huge hurdle to cross. This would be like me trying to preach Jesus to a Buddhist King from Cambodia who happened to know some English.

But something impelled a few courageous believers to jump the cultural and class hurdle; something empowered them to keep the story unfolding such that an intercultural church with a mission-vision could sprout up in the heart of that Greek colonial city ruled by Romans.

home groupWhat gave them the initiative to do that? Or to relate it practically, what could motivate and strengthen us to do the same? I mean, we are wired to prefer our own kind of music, food and dress. We like our schedules, our politics, our entertainment. And we prefer being around people who share our likes and dislike our dislikes! What reasons could be strong enough to push “Play” in our lives, and in our church, to keep the story rolling?

 Up next:   Rewind – Transformation of mind and heart

Read the full story here.

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A church that only the Spirit could imagine

Interesting thing about the elder board at Antioch church: it was ethnically and economically diverse.

  • Barnabas; (Acts 4:36) “son of encouragement”; priestly tribe,  Cyprus; landowner
  • Simeon who was called Niger; Jewish name, apparently with nickname (Latin) meaning “black.” Child of mixed marriage? (Jewish father, African mother?)
  • Lucius of Cyrene; Roman name (upbringing) from city in Libya (No.African)
  • Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch; possibly foster-brother; Jewish name; associated with a despised, despotic ruling family; exposed to wealth.
  • Saul; well educated Jewish lawyer. Vicious persecutor of the church; excellent teacher

In other words, the Antioch church became a church that only the Spirit of God could have imagined!  For the whole story and what we can learn from it, click here.

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Pastors who become missionaries

I just spent a couple hours with a missionary who, like me, served for many years as a pastor. It dawned on me that God often births in the heart of pastors the desire to move into the mission world.

city burbsMany pastors stay in the pastorate while serving actively and regularly in overseas ministry. They will travel once or twice a year to do training, visit missionaries, or even start ministries in partnership with national believers. When I was pastoring, I participated in trips to Native American reservations in Arizona, and went with one of our missionaries to a remote tribe in Mexico where he had been working on a translation of the gospel of Luke. I always returned with a fresh view of the congregation I was shepherding.

At times God leads a pastor to leave the shepherding role and launch out on mission, fueled by an apostolic passion to bring the kingdom to new areas. There are many ways that the pastorate helps prepare one for doing so. In my case, I felt my experience as a pastor for eight years was a good foundation for providing training for East African pastors. Since returning to the States, I have become acquainted with an excellent organization called Global Training Network, which consists primarily of experienced pastors who now travel to different countries to offer Biblical and practical training.

Making the change from the pastorate to mission work has its challenges. Perhaps the one I felt most keenly at first was role deprivation. As a pastor I was the center of the congregation (well, other than Jesus). Decisions, ideas, even criticism all came my way!  When I moved into missions, it required that I start from scratch and learn about culture and language. Learning a new language means feeling inept and childish. It is humbling. You have to do it out of obedience to God and love for the people you have come to serve.

villageBut on the positive side, having one or more congregations that love you as their pastor becomes a solid foundation for prayer and financial support. It was easier for me to resign from the congregation I loved because I was answering a call to a different kind of ministry rather than leaving them for another church. Many of my church members are still partners in my mission work now.

If you are a pastor who wonders if God wants to use you in missions (or if you are a church member who wants to offer your pastor for an exotic post far away!), here are a few suggestions:

  1. If you are married, it is essential that your spouse shares the mission journey with you. Discuss and pray together about how God may be leading. In my case, our two daughters were three and five years old when my wife and I began praying about a transition, so clearly the change was going to impact my wife in a big way. To her credit, she came to Kenya with me having never traveled further than Tijuana.
  2. Consider the kind of ministry you could see yourself doing. Prayerfully discern how God has wired you. Are you a teacher, or administrator. Are you a writer, or hands-on discipler. Begin praying about organizations that might be a good fit for you. Chances are you will find yourself fitting in with an organization you already know about. But there is also a chance that God will ask you to do something you would never have dreamed.
  3. Make an honest assessment of your aptitude as an individual and as a family. In my case, I did not feel the best place for us would be in an extremely remote village, nor in a restricted access country. I felt we would be better where there was a local school, medical help, and colleagues we could team up with. A genuine call of God will not split a family apart. If God has not outfitted your family for the rigors of mission, you need to find ways to participate individually while keeping your home base in the pastorate.
  4. Further assess the degree to which you are able to say goodbye to the lifestyle you have now. All disciples are called to deny self for Christ, and missions offers the opportunity to do so many times over. There are a lot of goodbyes in mission work, not just when you first leave. You will make friends in your host country, some of whom will leave, and some of whom you will leave behind. God gives grace for these departures, but they are tough. Your kids will be enriched by the life, but they will have to say goodbye to their friends at regular intervals.
  5. Are you a learner? This is difficult after many years of being a leader and teacher. But to be an effective missionary who connects with the people of your host nation you must take the role of the servant. I have seen some pastors-turned-missionaries who should have stayed home, because they came with a haughty attitude. Do you love cultures, appreciate different foods and smells? Can you live in housing that is unusual to you? In other words, do you see this as adventure?

I leave you with this. All the epistles of Paul were missionary letters, so the connection between pastoring and missions is the DNA embedded in the New Testament. So prayerfully consider how (not if) God wants you to be involved. If you know what Near Frontiers is about, you know that there is plenty of mission to do right here in our country. The diaspora makes it natural, and in my view imperative, that pastors be mission-minded and mission-engaged. But we need workers who will pray about pulling up stakes and moving to unresourced areas. Let’s get out there!

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Our Mission

Mission of Near Frontiers

Allow me to concisely clarify some of the key ideas in our Mission statement:
–Bob Rasmussen

“partner within the diverse body of Christ”

We desire to play our part in working together with many others. We do not see ourselves as separate from the church, but a mission-stimulating arm of the church.

We love the diversity of the family of God, and desire to partner as servants and mutual learners. Tweet This

“stimulate intercultural unity”

We long to see followers of Jesus leading the way in breaking down dividing walls through reconciling love.Tweet This

“gospel transformation”

We are convinced that the good news of Jesus’ abundant life radically changes people, families, and society.Tweet This


We are especially gripped by what God is doing to scatter the peoples of the world to bring those who were far away close where they can experience the love of Jesus.

We believe the USA is a most profound place to share Christ with the nations who are gathering here.Tweet This

“underserved peoples”

Just as Jesus came to serve and not be served, our mission is to come alongside those in need and be Jesus to them.Tweet This

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