This article was originally published in The Lookout. You can view the article here.
Dr. Chip Anderson moved to Costa Rica to work with Latin America Mission (LAM) in 1982. Ten years later, LAM began an urban outreach called Christ for the City. By 1995, Christ for the City had grown so much that LAM decided to spin it off as its own missions agency, Christ For the City International (CFCI).
Chip now works in Omaha, Nebraska, as the CEO and President of CFCI. In this role, he serves as the organization’s spiritual leader, coordinates its executive functions, and is the spokesperson for the organization. According to Dr. Anderson, his biggest struggle is raising finances to help their programs and ministries succeed, but his favorite thing about the work is helping people find their niche in ministry and “seeing lives transformed by Jesus Christ.” It seems he does well with that; CFCI works in 16 different countries and 23 cities and is involved in over 90 projects and ministries around the world. They have more than 500 workers, and over 60 percent of those workers are non-North Americans.
CFCI’s mission is to mobilize people to serve Jesus by serving their city. Says Dr. Anderson, “I have seen how so many churches, especially small churches, want to be relevant to their communities but have no way to do it. They lack staff resources and know-how to get their people mobilized to serve their communities.”
One way CFCI accomplishes its goal of mobilizing Christians involves the Urban Plunge program. Urban Plunge is designed so that churches in the United States can do weekend outreaches in seven cities: Omaha, Lincoln, Des Moines, Sioux City, Dallas, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. In each city, they volunteer in different kinds of ministries. They help with feeding programs, homeless outreach, or youth events. In Omaha alone CFCI has mobilized over 5,000 people in over 330 groups.
In a time when some people have become skeptical of the value of short-term mission trips, Dr. Anderson advocates for them. In fact, one of his favorite stories involves a short-term team he took to Costa Rica to work with an established rural church there. They went door-to-door gathering prayer requests; they prayed for the people every evening and later in the week went back to see how the prayers were being answered. They also did service projects to improve the community’s perception of the church.
Dr. Anderson loved seeing the two cultures come together and do something wonderful for the kingdom of God. “We had Presbyterians working with Pentecostals and Pentecostals working with Baptists; it was wonderful to see all of these people grow in their faith and maturity in the Lord through this,” he says. He cites Luke 10:1-23 as a model for this type of ministry. Jesus sent out the 72 two by two, exemplifying the use of short-term teams as a discipling tool.
Dr. Anderson believes that involvement with a short-term mission team or going overseas short-term as an individual is a good way to be personally involved in missions. He recommends that people adopt a missionary, program, or project for 3-5 years to see real transformation take place. Then they can participate in a short-term trip to work with that ministry—a practice which allows people to serve the missionaries well and get to know and invest in work that they have been a part of.
CFCI encourages people to partner with nationals who already work in thriving indigenous ministries. This focus on investing in healthy established ministries and building relationships with them helps the ministry and prevents people from just doing Christian tourism, which can contribute to unhealthy relationships and hinder the work of full-time missionaries in the field.
After years of working in cross-cultural ministry, Dr. Anderson has some advice for those considering ministry. “Be really sure of your call—the mission field is no picnic, and there are lots of stresses and attacks you will have to stand up to. If you’re just playing missions or have a romantic view of the mission field, you should beware of self-delusion. Ministering to people is hard work and often disappointing. This is true in the United States and is even truer in foreign countries.” Great advice from a veteran cross-cultural worker!