Doing mission well: Mobilization

Howard Culbertson
Monday, May 12, 2014

Some missionary heroes of the past are notable for more than their cross-cultural ministry.  They have also been good mobilizers of the church back home.

Sadly, I have heard missionaries grumble about having to speak in lots of mission services in churches.  In my opinion, they were thinking far too narrowly about their missions call. World evangelism mobilization should be seen as part and parcel of a missionary call.  Indeed, in the long run, mobilizing the church at home contributes greatly to Great Commission fulfillment.

Indeed, people call William Carey (1761-1834) “the father of the modern missionary movement” in part because he was a terrific mobilizer as well as a pioneer missionary to India.

ImageIn its early decades the Church of the Nazarene was blessed with an effective global missions mobilizer in Susan Norris Fitkin.  Growing up in Canada, Susan felt that God wanted her to be a foreign missionary.  However, serious health issues prevented that (For more: http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/fitkin.htm). 

Rather than turning her attention elsewhere, Susan spent the rest of her life fulfilling that call by mobilizing others.  She infused global passion into her church and mobilized intercessory prayer and resources for world evangelism.

In 1908, Susan’s small denomination merged with two others to form the Church of the Nazarene.  She was disappointed when the new denomination failed to set up a missions mobilization organization such as today’s Nazarene Missions International (NMI).  However, Susan worked behind the scenes for seven years until it happened (and she, by the way, was elected first president of that organization).

Over the 30 years in which Susan Fitkin led what is now NMI, she traveled to mission fields around the globe.  While she reported to the North American church about those visits, her most powerful appeals for world evangelism involvement were grounded in Scripture.

Susan was convinced that ALL of Scripture communicates God’s desire for world evangelism. In her little booklet Holiness and Missions, she quoted 29 of the Bible’s 66 books.  Susan Fitkin could preach on world evangelism from Isaiah and Jeremiah just as powerfully as she could from the Great Commission in Matthew 28 (Read booklet: http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/holiness.htm).

As a volunteer global missions mobilizer for more than four decades, Susan Fitkin may well be the person most responsible for the world missions component of today’s Nazarene ethos.

Susan got the denomination to publish a print magazine that was the forerunner of Engage.  Using a phrase from John 10:16, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen,” she titled that magazine The Other Sheep.  She was also a key player in launching what is now the World Evangelism Fund, which is the funding that operates the Church of the Nazarene and its entire mission effort.  Through the Great Depression, Susan Fitkin kept Nazarenes motivated to give to and pray for world evangelism.

Susan Norris Fitkin stands as an example of how people called to be missionaries can be used by the Holy Spirit to fuel passion for world evangelism involvement in one’s own homeland.

Talk about it

  • Susan Fitkin felt a call to be a missionary, but health problems prevented her from living out her dream. How did she respond?
  • Have you experienced something similar? How did you respond?
  • How is mobilizing people part of participating in the Great Commission?
  • Although she was not a missionary, Susan tirelessly led the entire church to fulfill the Great Commission. How could you or your local church participate in God's mission to the world, even if you don't move to a foreign country to serve as a missionary?