Have you ever heard about Perspectives? Before attending the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement class this spring I hadn’t. I learned about this class in a roundabout way. I’m a member of the Branson camp of Gideons International and I invited one of my fellow members, Peter Westrum, and his wife, Sue, over for dinner in November 2013. As they walked in, we shook hands and said our hellos as Sue quickly looked around my apartment. Before I could do much else, Sue handed me a flyer on Perspectives and in a direct manner said, “You need to come to this class.”
That was my first real interaction with Sue Westrum. She was all business and clearly had no doubts about my need to attend the class. I asked her what it was about and she said, “It’s about missions and will change your perspective on the world.” That seemed kind of vague to me, but I told her I would consider it and we went on to have a very enjoyable dinner.
Shortly after that my parents came to see me and I showed them the flyer. I told dad about how Peter and Sue Westrum served as Bible translators in New Guinea with Wycliffe. Dad (Bill Jetton) told me it would probably be a very good program for me to attend and that I should go. About this same time I kept feeling that I needed to do more to advance the Kingdom of God but I didn’t know what that was.
With Sue’s urging and Dad’s recommendation I decided that I should attend. Now, I’ve been invited to a lot of religious classes or Christian training programs over the years and they are almost always free. Guess what? Perspectives isn’t free, it cost $250 to attend. I was shocked. I mean, it’s hard enough to get people to come to church, but who would pay $250 to spend 3 hours for 17 weeks to learn more about missions?
Evidently quite a few. I found out there would be about 35 people attending the Branson class and that there would be over 200 classes being held January through April in 2014. I wondered how any organization could get that many people to pay $250 to attend a religious class.
Here’s how the Perspectives website explains the class, “Perspectives is much more than a Bible study or a “missions” class. In fact, it isn’t a class about missions, but Perspectives IS a COURSE OF STUDY 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 a believer, no matter your walk of life, Perspectives will help you see how YOU can get threaded into God’s story of redeeming people from EVERY tribe, tongue, and nation to Himself.”
Since 1974 over 100,000 people in the USA have attended a Perspectives course. Each course is broken into fifteen lessons, with fifteen different instructors, teaching students about God’s purpose, passion and mandate for His people to have a significant role in spreading the Good News of His Kingdom. In our class the instructors were either professors, pastors or experienced missionaries. They had all been on the front line in some capacity and they each did a wonderful job of weaving their testimonies into each lesson. Along with their instruction we had a weekly reading assignment from the two textbooks we were provided.
This was a lot like a college class. Three course levels are offered: college credit level, certificate level and key reading level. The undergrad and graduate level credit is given by Trinity International University. While I didn’t need any college credit, we had one student sign up for that level in our Branson class. I took the certificate level, which required a large amount of weekly reading, weekly graded reviews after each class, and an eight page term paper about an unreached people group. Several Branson participants picked the key reading level that didn’t require as much reading, the weekly graded reviews or the term paper.
I must say it was an amazing class. Missionary Todd Ahrend taught the first session and I remember walking into class wondering if the money and time for this course would be worth it. That first class blew my mind. Starting with Abraham, Todd took us though the Bible and showed verse after verse where God promised to bless all nations, and that each of us had a role in carrying out God’s plan. I had been in church my whole life and felt I understood Jesus’s great commission in Matthew, but I never clearly saw this theme running so strongly throughout the whole Bible.
Needless to say I was impressed with the first class and as hard as it may be to believe, they kept getting better. I started the class thinking Christianity was on the downhill slide and there was not much I could do about it. With each class, each instructor, and each testimony my faith increased. I learned that God had put a detailed plan in motion centuries before and He wants me to be involved in finishing the job. It was unbelievably encouraging to learn about the history of missions and the sacrifice others had made to see the gospel expand.
Another key point I picked up from hearing the missionaries testimonies was how long it could take to understand and learn a foreign language or culture. They explained how reaching anti-Christian nations or unreached people groups takes time. It also takes a learning attitude. After hearing their stories it was easy to see how an American like me could cause more harm than good if I barged into a village with a know-it-all attitude. Most of our speakers worked for years with specific people learning their culture, customs and language as well as helping the people with physical needs before they were able to effectively share the gospel.
The course also showed the many different ways a person could impact the sharing of the good news. They listed praying, learning, giving, welcoming, sending, going, and mobilizing as the main ways to help. All these are required to help spread the Gospel to all people groups around the world. We were challenged to pray about what role or roles God would have us consider joining in.
The website says, “Through this 15-week journey your view of the world, the Church, God, and yourself as a disciple of Jesus Christ will be changed forever!” After completing the course I have to agree, but it was not an easy task. I looked forward to each week’s class, but with my work schedule I struggled to finish the weekly reading and reviews on time. The term paper was an easy task, but the time required for reading, class and review made for some hectic weeks.
Over the last several months I have become good friends with Sue Westrum and I’m so thankful God led her to invite me to Perspectives. Just as she promised it has changed my “perspective” on the world. The course gave me a much better understanding of the roles I can play in advancing God’s Kingdom, but I also learned about so many organizations that need workers as well as new friends who have a plethora of opportunities for service.
I hope to use my new “perspective” and new friends to find way to do more than I have ever done before to share the Good News with those close to home and far away. I also will continue to recommend Perspectives to my family and friends.