In Acts 16, Paul did not end up in Troas because he planned to be in Troas. Paul found himself there because he was sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading. “The Spirit prevents a journey to Asia and guides Paul on to Troas. Paul’s destination was not to be determined by Paul, his team or the circumstances of the day. His destination was to be determined by God,” said Chuck Register, executive leader for church planting and missions development for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
Register shared with a group of missions leaders gathered at Crossover Community Church in High Point about how Paul immediately turned his attention to Macedonia, and as a result of his obedience, the gospel spread all across Europe.
Register’s message set the stage for the Impact Your World: Team Leader Training event. If team leaders are not sensitive to God’s leading, all the planning in the world will not make a difference when it comes to engaging 3,800 unreached, unengaged people groups with the gospel.
Two one-day Impact Your World events were held in High Point and in Brevard at Brevard Community Church. The event, sponsored by the BSC Office of Great Commission Partnerships and the International Mission Board (IMB), helped equip pastors, missions pastors and mission team leaders to lead international mission teams. The training helped leaders understand how to prepare – from the initial stages of planning an international trip to the evaluation/follow up after the trip – and how to seek the Holy Spirit’s leading.
Team leader basics
Although logistics are important, team leaders cannot become so focused on the planning that they forget the mission. “This is serious work God has called us to. You have a serious calling. People all over the world will be born, wake up every day, and then die without ever hearing about Jesus Christ unless we go and tell them,” said Mike Sowers, BSC senior consultant for Great Commission Partnerships (GCP).
Sowers began leading the GCP Office one year ago on Sept. 15, 2010. The Office was created to help local churches develop a missions strategy that connects them locally and globally for effective, long-term impact ministry. Through his work with GCP, Sowers helps create global impact networks, develops young leaders and equips pastors as missions strategists.
Sowers reminded those in attendance that their calling to international missions is not an easy one, and team leaders must communicate that to their team. “We have to stop making missions engagement easy. If the selling point is that it’s easy, you probably aren’t engaging unreached people,” he said. “Taking up your cross has consequences.”
The task is not easy, but God is the one who calls, and He is the one who sustains. “We’re going to serve with God’s protection,” Sowers said. “God has chosen you to be a leader. No matter where God has called us to go, He will be with us.”
Sowers walked through qualities essential in every team leader, such as spiritual maturity, emotional stability, relational sensitivity, organizational ability, personal integrity and practical flexibility. The ability to identify other leaders is also an important quality.
“We’re hoping your church will engage instead of just participating in a one-time mission trip. To do that, you have to identify other leaders,” Sowers said.
Sowers stressed the importance of team leaders, and members, having a desire to witness while on the mission field. “If you’re going to a people group who has never heard the gospel, your actions will not be enough. You have to tell them the Good News,” he said.
Prayer as central
Joe Dillon, missional church strategist for the International Mission Board, spoke on the importance of team leaders spending time in prayer. Churches that are most effective in mobilizing for missions are those that recognize spiritual warfare and are committed to praying for God to have the victory. He said prayer should be the central focus in a church, not just done before the offering.
“When it comes to engaging lostness, prayer needs to be everything,” he said. “When we are driven to our knees in desperation is when God shows up. When people employ the Word of God in praying, we’ve seen supernatural walls fall supernaturally.”
Prayer is about trusting God to cast vision and to fulfill His purposes. With 96 percent of U.S. mission teams going to two percent of the world’s lostness, prayer is needed to get the gospel to a dying world. For all the planning, something usually fails to go according to plan during the mission trip. When that happens, prayer is crucial. “Give your people opportunity to see God work out stressful situations that you can’t,” he said.
American traditions won’t work
Dillon also spoke on team leaders understanding the context in which they are going to serve. “We naturally tend to reproduce the patterns we are most comfortable with. People do what they have always done, even if it hasn’t worked,” he said.
Team leaders must shift their perspective and focus not on changing the message they share with those who are lost, but the way in which they present it. One example Dillon shared is how mission teams often go overseas and build a building for a church planter. While well intended, in some cultures that does more harm than good, as it creates a dependency on a physical structure instead of on God.
The “attractional model” of church that may work well in a predominantly Christian culture is failing us, Dillon said. “The model is based on, ‘here we are, let us entertain you.’”
The health club model – when a church tries to have the best facilities and programs – is no better.
“God’s Word transcends any culture you will be planting a church in,” he said. “Our job is to empower these people to be a disciple-making congregation. One-on-one discipleship is how we’ll saturate the culture with the gospel.”
Terry Sharp, IMB’s director/lead strategist for state and association relations & urban strategies, shared helpful tips for mission team leaders.
From team health/safety and security to working with field personnel and communicating in a different culture, Sharp encouraged leaders to be prepared and to help their team members be prepared.
Mission team leaders interested in learning more about these helpful tips, or how to get started in leading a team, should email [email protected] or call (800) 395-5012, ext. 5654.