« Previous   |   Main   |   Next »

“It Isn’t a Class About Missions...”

Finding new vision in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement

For Scott and Crystal Miller, and the church communities of Grantsville, Maryland and Salisbury, Pennsylvania, a life-altering journey started quietly, with a vision of what God could do. More than half-a-decade after he first heard about “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement,” close to five years after he took a course using the Perspectives Reader as a textbook, and a year after he took the “Perspectives” course in an intensive format, one day, as Scott Miller prayed, asking God “What can I do to make you famous among all peoples?” something clicked.

“God gave me a vision” says Scott, “of how impacting this course could be in both my home church and neighboring churches.” As soon as he was given the vision, Scott went to work on finding out if he could make his vision a reality, “I simply got onto the website and started making calls and sending emails.” Soon thereafter, he took a coordinator’s workshop, and started assembling a team and working out the logistics involved with hosting “Perspectives.”

The class, “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement,” or simply “Perspectives” is a ministry of Frontier Ventures, a nondenominational ministry formerly known as the U.S. Center for Global Mission. The course typically lasts for fifteen or sixteen weeks, meeting once a week, for approximately three hours. It is designed to be organized and run by volunteers in local churches, with support from a national office in Pasadena, California, and regional offices throughout the United States. Sessions are taught by instructors from around the country, and vary in format depending on the instructor. Each week, students also have reading assignments from the “Perspectives” Reader, a large collection of essays and articles written by men and women from diverse backgrounds, denominations, callings, and locations around the world. Each speaker and writer speaks or writes from his or her own context, but as the course progresses, this great diversity of voices reveals a unified message, and paints a single picture; a God who has been at work from the dawn of history, winning humanity to himself.

“It isn’t a class about missions, but a course on how every believer can be intimately woven into the story of God using His people to be a blessing to all the peoples of the earth.”Much of what is said in class and written in the reader is about mission work, and ministry, but according to the “Perspectives” website, “It isn’t a class about missions, but a course on how every believer can be intimately woven into the story of God using His people to be a blessing to all the peoples of the earth.” As Scott Miller says, “The goal of the “Perspectives” course is not to send people to overseas mission work. The goal of “Perspectives” is to develop missional living no matter what your geographic location.” For many students, hearing God speak through “Perspectives” is life-changing.

This life-changing experience is facilitated by the hard work of the staff at regional and national offices, by instructors who travel from distance to teach, and by the high-quality course materials themselves. All of these things come at a cost, and for some potential students, the financial burden of enrolling in “Perspectives” becomes a serious obstacle.

At Rosedale Mennonite Missions employees are encouraged to take “Perspectives,” and almost all have. Beyond RMM employees, though, it’s our desire to see as many members of CMC churches as possible go through “Perspectives.” We feel that “Perspectives” helps students understand and share our vision for reaching the least-reached, and develops excitement for missional projects at home and abroad. As CMC’s mission agency, it’s a part of our role to foster energy and vision for missional living throughout CMC. One way to do that is to remove a substantial portion of the financial burden of taking “Perspectives” from the individual student.

In early in 2014, Scott Miller was talking to the regional director of the Mid-Atlantic region about what steps he would have to take to host “Perspectives.” At the same time, RMM introduced a “matching grant” scholarship program designed to ease the financial burden of the class for members of CMC churches who wanted to take “Perspectives.” Any money that a CMC church offers to pay for a student to take “Perspectives,” RMM will match, up to $100. If the church pays $100, and RMM also pays $100, on average, students only pay about $50 out of pocket for “Perspectives.” This matching grant scholarship can be applied to any “Perspectives” course, not just those hosted or coordinated by CMC churches.

Each of the three CMC churches in the Grantsville/Salisbury area took advantage of RMM’s matching grant scholarship program to help students pay for “Perspectives.” Scott says, “The matching grant program was one of the best marketing tools we had.” Of the 112 students who enrolled in the course, hosted at Oak Dale church in Salisbury, 68 were from the CMC churches. After accounting for additional discounts (such as early registration and book-sharing), some students from the CMC churches had out-of-pocket costs as low as $20.

The impact in Grantsville and Salisbury has been profound, both for individuals and the broader church community. One alumnus of the Salisbury course said, “While I have not felt called to go to unreached people groups, I am excited to participate in sending others and looking at my everyday life as a mission to spread the kingdom of God to the unsaved I come in contact with.” Another wrote, “In the beginning session, we talked about having "shriveled vision" and I had written down what I hoped would happen with this 15-week period; ‘...hoping for God to open my eyes and my heart. That I will be changed and will glorify Him with my life.’ That is exactly what happened, is happening and I hope continues throughout my life.”

Students also speak of change in their communities as a whole—of congregants discussing missional issues in social conversations, and of a new focus on praying for unreached people groups. One student said, speaking about changes in his church, ”Some have been called to go. I have also sensed a new desire to reach those in our community where they are, even though this may not always be comfortable to the current church members.“

For Scott, taking the course for a second time has been truly life-changing, for himself, his wife Crystal, and their young son Abiel. They fall into the 21 percent of “Perspectives” alumni who sense a call into long-term cross-cultural outreach. Scott writes, “God has given me an irreducible desire to see Jesus proclaimed among all peoples! God has been developing this desire within me over the last decade, but this class has clarified a lot of things for me! Currently, my wife and I are praying about and planning for a move into cross-culture ministry in the northern region of Thailand.”

Whether it is by going, as God has called Scott and Crystal to go, or by staying, sending, and reaching out to those around us, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement is an invaluable tool for finding and understanding your role in God’s mission. As one student from the Salisbury class wrote, “Sure, it isn't the answer for everything, and doesn't cover it all, but you will not look at the mission of God in His church the same way afterwards.”

For more information on “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement,” or to find a “Perspectives” class in your area, visit www.perspectives.org. For more information about the RMM matching grant scholarship program, email info@rmmoffice.org.