Publication date: 07/25/23

Assuring the Anxious

I need more assurance that my soul is covered.” “Although I have brothers and sisters, I still feel truly ALONE.” These are the words Troy read from contact Catherine some 12 years ago. Every Online Missionary loves to read such words; they sound like an open door for ministry. She knew what questions to ask, understood that eternity was at stake, and longed for assurance that Jesus would be with her always, never to leave or forsake her.

Although our ministry truly is global, we’ve always reached large numbers of people in the USA. Shortly after moving to Florida, I helped a high school student with several Bible questions church leaders were putting off. Going public with her faith gave her a platform: at the funeral of a popular athlete from her school, she was able to explain to her classmates why she had hope of life beyond the grave.

Visitors find us a convenient and discreet place to ask the questions they’re ashamed to ask their Sunday school teacher or afraid will be known in their community. Davut and Asif, former Muslims, wrote me about their visions of Jesus! In each case, we know it’s God working in their lives before they reach out to us. John 4:38 is a passage we keep in mind, as it sets the stage for us to see each encounter as a divine opportunity:

“I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

So what does an Online Missionary Do? In our last letter, we shared a profile of Cheryl, one of our Online Missionaries. I hope it shed more light on what it means to be an Online Missionary. They really are “laborers together with God,” (1 Cor. 3:9), in the sense that they recognize and take opportunities to join His work.

An OM listens carefully for the best opportunities to “share the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, leaving the results up to God,” as Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright put it. We require that an applicant be able to explain the essential gospel and provide a sound testimony.We must be sure they’re able to perform the primary job of an OM: clarifying the gospel for the seeker; attempting to verify their faith in Christ.

In a secure system, Online Missionaries can use a wide array of resources, from sites like GodLife and Explore God, to the basic GMO follow-ups such as the Look To Jesus or 30 Day Next Steps series, to partner relationships like YouVersion, which makes it easy for us to give away their Bible app to thousands of visitors each year. Our volunteers have also created over 80 Bible studies that can be shared with contacts as a tool for their spiritual growth once they’re ready.

I’m working on a discipleship skill-building program for our Online Missionaries in which we’ll share some stories of what’s possible in this ministry. We hear only the smallest percentage of the stories, because we depend on volunteers to share them back with us. (Ongoing ministry is a whole lot more fun than documenting it.) I know this means we miss a lot!

So I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a great place to learn the blessing of serving in obscurity. OMs care more about our seekers than “atta boys” they might receive. It’s a sign of their love for the contacts. They don’t see them as assignments. Instead, they really “listen” to these individuals, asking for discernment to read between the lines of the personal concerns they express. OMs pray for them and ask probing questions about the true needs of which the contacts themselves may not be fully aware. They patiently persist in speaking to their hopes and fears on their level. They care about their entire spiritual journey enough to look for opportunities to help them take the next step with Jesus.

In an age of deception, they have truth that sets people free, (John 8:32, Col. 2:8). They know the message of the cross is foolishness, (1 Cor. 1:18) and an offense, (Gal. 5:11) to the lost. They have a structure in place to help them: their direct leader is called a “Community Leader.” The person who oversees more than one Community is called a “Community Leader Shepherd.” A large language like English even has several “Community Guardians” who oversee several Shepherds. Leaders coach their volunteers to be patient and gentle, as Paul counseled the Corinthian believers, (1 Cor. 10:32-33), to give no offense. No OM ever wants to “win” an argument at the expense of creating a callous on a visitor’s heart toward God.

The most important dimension of an OM’s ministry is their own ongoing discipleship. We're being called to do something we're not capable of doing in our own strength—to make disciples. (Matt. 28:19) That means we depend on the promise that accompanies this command: He will be with us, (Matt. 28:20), in all His power and authority, (Matt. 28:18), as we're invested in this. It's only as we abide in Him that we produce His fruit, proving to be His disciples, (John 15:3-8). More important than what we do or even how we feel, is who we are. We can only make disciples if we are disciples—but the exciting thing is that it's very possible to make disciples who end up being more effective or strategic than ourselves: we have several OMs who were once Contacts of this ministry!

The COVID pandemic created a number of unique openings for ministries like ours. It also brought a sharp increase in mental disorders, manifested most obviously by depression and anxiety. Online Missionary Troy and his contact Catherine both had family members who were profoundly touched by mental illness, and I can’t imagine her life now if she hadn’t sought help 12 years ago. She still has some hard family situations, but now she has biblical grounds for her confidence in Christ, and a friend to patiently guide her through the Bible and pray for her on a regular basis.

May/June Results

Please pray for our Online Missionaries as we begin the intensive Discipleship course of study with them. We’ll be working through teams of 60-200 at a time over about five weeks, sharing scripture and best practices and answering their questions. (Please also pray for them as they work to patiently serve troubled, angry people who often feel no obligation to be “nice” to those who reach out to them!)

Thank you for your prayers for our family and your faithful support of our work, which has been how God has made it possible for us to serve full-time with Global Media Outreach for all these years! We will be eternally grateful! May He supply all of your needs as He has always done for us!

Love, in Christ,

Mike Skinner Cindy Skinner

One Day Closer!
Romans 13:11