Article about local church involvement in missions

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Ordinary Guy (TM)
Missions - a Sovereign Grace Perspective: Local churches - get active in missions!

This is an article I wrote about getting local churches more involved in missions:

The importance of the local church in missions:

A missionary can be likened to a sailing vessel, the missionary’s journey to a great sea voyage. The sweat of many brows and many calloused hands make the vessel seaworthy. Then, the sails are hoisted, farewells are given, and the vessel debarks, often crossing vast spaces and reaching lands far different from home. Sails which are full and rounded with the wind drive the ship onward towards its destination.

Without a solid launching port, the missionary vessel often founders or is lost at sea. One’s local sending church is such a port, a harbor from which to launch the missionary vessel in zealous obedience to the biblical mandate. Much peril was faced by trading companies reaching precious spices in days of old; how much greater is our charter, how much more regal our sending King, and how much more vital the goal of our journey.

I give some hints on how local churches can be more active:

Best Practices for Missions Engagement

Below are some tips for churches trying to increase missions engagement:

Do you have plan? Is it action-oriented? One of the biggest challenges for many would-be missionaries is translating theoretical missionary aspirations into actionable plans.

Is your church living up to its claims? Every church I know claims to be missions-minded, but the proof is in the pudding. What missions are you financing? How often do you mention the missionary plans of the church from the pulpit or newsletter or elsewhere? Can your church membership name your missionaries and their locations (has missions knowledge disseminated to every person)? What is your commitment beyond money?

Is your missions vision led from the top and supported at all levels?

Is there a route for the implementation of missionary plans? I often read about “why” we should do missions, but less frequently about “how” we should do missions or prepare for missions. What steps of training should missionaries take? Do you have a list of good training centers or schools that are recommendable to interested parties? Can you point the aspiring missionary to helpful courses of study and to missionary organizations that would be acceptable and approved by your church? Can your church leadership meet regularly with the aspiring missionary and will their schedule accommodate such a feat and see it as a priority?

Is missions visible in your church? Advertise missions. Hold a missions conference, create a missions bulletin board, have a “missions moment’ every week from the pulpit, have a missions focus month, devote one sermon in 10 to a missionary theme. Email your missionaries! Ask specifics as to what to pray for.

Does regular prayer and financial support help “fill the sails” of your missionaries?

Doldrums were the fear of sailing men of ages past, being stuck on a still and painted ocean until provisions ran out and the crew slowly succumbed to slow weakening and death.

Own not only your missionary but your missionary’s burden: We must become more missions-focused rather than merely missionary-focused. To be missionary-focused is merely to care for your own personal missionary. A good thing, yes. To become missions-focused is to expand that care beyond just your individually-supported missionary and to embrace the people and the country your missionary serves. If a church is missions-focused rather than merely being missionary-focused, that church has a greater tendency to raise up future teams of multiple people to the same region. Love not only your missionaries, but also love the people they serve.

Be able to distinguish kinds of missionary labor: Types of missionary service differ. From pioneering to pastoral leadership to discipleship, to development and relief, to medical, to leadership training, etc. Become acquainted with each kind of labor and what is needed to be effective in all kinds of work. Don’t needlessly disparage any of these sub-types of missionary labor, but please do familiarize yourself how these labors differ, and what different demands and preparations these types of labors call for.

Re-affirm the missionary call: I have known missionaries who have undergone stress almost to the breaking point. These stressed-out missionaries have then gotten well-intentioned emails from church folks back home suggesting that the missionary come home if things got too bad. Please be careful in this area.

You can love your missionary best by encouraging them to do their best. Love pushes people through the hard times and doesn’t allow people to quit. Be like a supportive but firm coach, “Get back in there, you are doing great. Yes, your opponent is tough, but hang in there.” Affirm your missionary’s sense of call to keep him on the field. Remind him, “We affirmed your call when we commissioned you; we trust that these trials will pass and you will stick by your post and that God will reward your faithfulness.” A church’s firm affirmation through ordination and/or missionary commissioning grounds a missionary with a more firm confidence when all of his own confidence has drained. A solid sense of the missionary call is an anchor in rough seas and comes, in large part, from one’s home church.

Be active, not passive: There is nothing wrong with pastors approaching church members of high potential and asking them to fast and pray specifically about whether the Lord would call them into missions. God works through His Body and one way in which the missionary call may become manifest in a church member is through a pastor or fellow church-member burdening them to pray and seek whether missions might be for them.

Sending your own doesn’t mean denying help from others: Utilize the larger body of Christ for training. Take the Perspectives Course (Perspectives :: Home), utilize missionary prayer letter services, work with a missionary agency to help launch your missionary. The independency of the local church does not mean isolation; we are all interdependent in Christ and can utilize outside resources and band together for the sake of large enterprises such as fulfilling the Great Commission, training future leaders, or publishing Gospel materials.

Be encouraged. It is not our seating capacity but our sending and praying capacity that counts: Some hesitate to act because they fear that they cannot make a difference. However, the majority of the support that we receive comes from small churches, and a great number of missionaries are sent out from small churches. Small churches are disproportionately impacting the world!
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