Global activist Jeff Lewis urged Samford University students to expand their thinking and praying to include global concerns, but to first acknowledge God.
"If you want to develop a heart for the nations, first develop an insatiable hunger and thirst for Him," said Lewis, who spoke Sept. 27-29 as Global Missions Week speaker at the school.
Noting that a global perspective runs throughout scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, Lewis encouraged students to "seamlessly integrate" a world awareness into their lives "so that it becomes who you are."
Lewis, author of God's Heart for the Nations, teaches intercultural studies and is director of the Global Center at California Baptist University.
He cautioned against too much emphasis on Jesus as a personal savior, referencing the account in Luke that details Jesus' encounter with the people of Nazareth who expected him to be the Messiah. When they interpreted that Jesus the Messiah would be supportive of Gentiles also, they turned on him. "Israel's ethno-centric bias hindered them in relating to Christ."
People have gravitated too much to the idea of a personal savior in the sense that "personal connotes possession," he said. "We use Jesus in the way we want to use Him and not regarding what He wants for our hearts. We get so self-absorbed in the personal benefit of things that we forget that God is sovereign," he said, urging students to give up ethno-centric biases and be concerned about the world as well as their local communities.
"It's called balance," said Lewis, who addressed three student convocations and lectured in some classes.
To fully develop a feel for global missions, he advised students to become globally aware of what's happening and what God is doing in the world. The fact that the world population is growing quickly with a definite demographic shift from rural to city life demands strategic decisions. "God is bringing people to the cities, and that is where His people need to respond."
"Be proactive," he urged. "Be a generation that breaks out of the slavery of the generation that asks God to bless them only, and to not address the needs of the world."
Lewis' background includes working as a consultant with the U.S. Center for World Missions and assisting with mobilization and field strategies in 22 countries.