One of the great joys of my life is encouraging and working with churches who are seeking to take their mission efforts to a higher level. As a starting point to assess where they are, I usually ask them to tell me about their church’s mission work. And one response I hear quite often is, “We are very missions-minded.” I love that because it shows they are thinking about missions and not ignoring it altogether.
But digging a little deeper, I frequently find that mission mindedness does not always translate into mission activity among the congregation. It’s not that they don’t like missions, but they’re just not participating in missions directly. Instead, they’re outsourcing their mission efforts to someone else – perhaps a denominational agency or a parachurch organization. They love missions, but they haven’t yet discovered how to take personal ownership of God’s global mission at the local church level.
This is when the conversation gets really exciting. Not only do I get to teach what the Bible says about God’s heart for global missions and the centrality of the local church’s role in that, but I’m also able to share the blessings and benefits that come when a local church begins owning Christ’s command to make disciples of all nations.
Here are just four of the benefits we have seen in our church as we joined Jesus in his mission to bring the good news to every tongue, tribe, and people on earth.
1. Renewed spiritual vitality
Simply put, obeying a command of Christ will renew your people’s hunger for spiritual things. As we began to line up our church missions plan with God’s heart for the nations, we saw him do amazing things in the lives of our people. Christians who had, for years, allowed their journeys with God to become stagnant began experiencing new vitality as they embraced their role in God’s global mission. People gained a better perspective of the world. They grew in their empathy for and understanding of unbelieving people. And they prayed like never before prior to going overseas on a mission trip.
2. Strategy Development
Reaching the nations requires training. While learning international missions strategies, we discovered something wonderful. The methods we learned to reach people cross-culturally overseas helped us to reach people in our own backyards.
For instance, when working among people who prefer to learn by hearing rather than reading, we had to learn oral evangelism strategies such as storying the Bible. After returning home, we discovered that a huge percentage of the people where we live also prefer to learn by oral methods instead of reading. Our international mission teams thought they were training to reach people overseas but soon found out that those skills were just as useful back home in America.
Working overseas also taught us to watch and observe the culture to understand effective ways to share the gospel with people. In doing so, we became aware that, at home, we had taken for granted that we understood Americans when that was not the case. Learning to watch and listen to people overseas helped us do the same things at home to better reach people of different generations and ethnicities.
3. Focused resource management
The saying is true: you have to say no to many good things in order to be able to do the best things. I’ve seen this to be especially true in missions work. There are so many good organizations out there seeking money, people and volunteers to help them carry out their tasks – noble and worthy tasks to be sure. But the church has been charged by Christ himself to advance the most important task in the universe. Saying yes to lesser causes effectively says no to Jesus.
When the reality of this fact dawned on our church, we began to focus our efforts and fine-tune our allocation of resources to intentional missions partnerships and projects. As a result, more people within our congregation began engaging in missions, and we saw greater success in the mission projects we undertook. In a short period of time, we went from a shotgun-type approach where we were throwing money, people, and resources at many organizations to a rifle approach, focusing our efforts on fewer targets but with greater impact.
4. Growth in boldness
As a part of our focused mission efforts, we started partnering with IMB missionaries who had been sent to some of the world’s most difficult to reach places. These are places where Christians were being beaten, sent to jail, and sometimes even executed for their faith.
At first, our teams were skeptical about going to such difficult places. But a great benefit we discovered through this experience was that upon return our church members showed a greater passion to share Jesus right in their own communities like never before. Carrying out the Great Commission in tough places fostered a boldness we could have never imagined.
Christ’s commission to the church to go into all the world and make disciples simply cannot be outsourced without a great loss of blessings and benefits. May your church be one that embraces its responsibility and role in God’s global mission and knows the priceless joy of being aligned with the heart of our missional God!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ken McLemore has served as the missions pastor at Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton Roads, Va., for the past nineteen years. This article was originally published at IMB.org. Used by permission.)