After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9–10
I have to admit, I’m a little biased when it comes to certain stages of The Experience. I love the one-of-a-kind adventure that unfolds when students travel to international locations. Why? Because it’s an honor to watch what happens when students meet a God who reveals Himself to be much larger and greater than most of them have ever known.
The way we come to view God and the world is shaped by a complex and unique web of factors. Our worldview is shaped by our families, experiences, the communities we live in, even the nation we call home. It’s easy to allow all these shaping factors in our lives be the final word of how we ultimately see God, other people (near and far), and even how we view the gospel. Sometimes our worldview is formed in beautiful ways that uniquely align with God’s heart. Other times, we limit our view of just how vast God and His Kingdom is when we don’t experience Him outside our familiar spaces, cultures, and geographical settings.
For example, if you’re reading this blog, most likely you are from the United States. If so, your worldview has been shaped in one way or another by certain “American” values. Some of these values can be helpful in living out the Kingdom life. Others, while commonly held by many in our country, may actually be detrimental and contrary to what scripture teaches and Jesus models. Here’s a few of the country-of-origin values I had to grapple as a U.S. citizen. The more I examined them, the more I came to realize that they didn’t seem to align with the worldview Jesus teaches and demonstrates in the Bible:
- If you can dream it, you can do it … just work hard and anything can be done.
- Time and productivity drive life … “doing” is better than “being.”
- Privacy, personal opinion, and personal rights are paramount and are to be honored and protected at great cost.
- Rugged individualism, self-help, and the “self-made” man or woman are idealized.
- Competition brings out the best … and winning, being #1 is often the goal.
- The pursuit of personal happiness often trumps the collective good of what will benefit the whole, especially when personal sacrifice is involved.
Getting outside of my comfortable spaces, cultural norms, and even out of the familiarity of the country I warmly call “home,” helped me to rethink some of the values that had previously shaped me. I had to re-examine my ways of thinking and seeing the world. I had to ask over and again, “Does the way I view the world align with the way Jesus sees, teaches, and models?”
Regardless of our country of origin, we all have blind spots in seeing the world as God sees it. We all have ways of distorting our view and application of the gospel. Perhaps the question for many of us is: will we own that truth and do the work of aligning our eyes, heart, and mind to more and more see people and things as God sees them?
That’s certainly our hope for The Experience students as they travel to other countries. As they travel on-mission together and engage new people in new towns and villages much different from their own, we desire God to deepen their understanding of who He is and how He relates to all people throughout the world. We pray that God gives the students new pictures of how He sees His creation—how He weaves His grand gospel plan of loving rescue and redemption throughout every town (each complexly different and beautiful) on the globe. We desire for clearer pictures in students’ minds of how God is making all things new as His people from every nation, tribe, and tongue come together to love and serve Him.
That’s our hope for The Experience students this summer. What about you? Are you taking time with God to examine how you see His world? Are you considering the boxes, systems and frameworks that shape the way you see Him and others? Are you courageously putting into practice what many have sung throughout the last few decades on Sunday mornings: “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord”?
We hope that through the opportunity to get up-close to another culture, students will discover new windows into the gospel and God’s heart that stretch places of limited understanding and transform their thinking to see the world a little more like God does.
Will you join them in that adventure?
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