Local Church – Global Impact 3: Church Mission Strategy Overview

Well, in part 1, we saw that your church’s culture will determine whether your church’s mission strategy will be accomplished.  We’ll talk more about shaping culture along the way.  We also have seen (part 2) that the key culture-shapers, those who get pulpit time essentially, are indispensable to seeing any church catch God’s heart for the nations and to engage it strategically in a sustained way.  That brings us to the question of Strategy.  Let’s pretend for a minute that our church is already passionate about seeing Jesus made know and cherished among every people group on the planet.  Let’s pretend that we have not only a missional culture, but missional behavior that is just waiting to be pointed in the best direction.  What then?

The process is quite simple.  That doesn’t mean it’s easy, just that it’s simple.  It looks like this: Biblical Convictions shape Biblical Priorities which dictate Biblically informed Policies.  I’ll unpack these in greater detail anon, but for now, let be gift a brief introduction.

BIBLICAL CONVICTIONS – Mission is God’s.  It belongs to the Father, Son, and Spirit.  It’s the Lord’s idea.  He is the only one with the right to define it and to dictate it’s practices and aims.  So, if we miss that, everything else we do is failure.  I don’t remember who said it (maybe Covey), but if you lean your ladder against the wrong building, every step you climb leads you further from your goal.  When’s the last time you wrestled over what a Biblical Missiology looks like?  There is a lot of confusion among Christians about what Mission actually is.  You need clarity, because this must shape all that you do.

BIBLICAL PRIORITIES – Once you understand God’s plan for the world, that is, His Mission, then you’ll be able to have Biblical Priorities as you start to plan for engaging strategically in global mission.  We don’t form priorities by asking what other churches are doing, or what sounds fun or interesting, or even what a missionary we currently support is already doing.  NO!  Our priorities must flow out of our Biblical Convictions.

BIBLICALLY INFORMED POLICIES – most churches start here with their mission program.  They ask “who will we support,” “how much will we give,” “what short-term mission trip will we take,” all before actually understanding God’s Word on Mission.  And of course this leads to catastrophe.  That’s not an overstatement.  It leads to millions of kingdom dollars, hours, and prayers spent on things that are not what God is asking of His Church.  It means the Gospel isn’t getting to the people who most need it.  The Center for the Study of Global Christianity has shown that “Current strategy makes Christians 100 times more effective in splitting existing denominations where Christians already exist than in planting new churches where there are no Christians.”  That’s a catastrophe!

These must all happen.  And they must happen in this order.  Good news: It can be done.  We’ll see how in upcoming posts!

Local Church – Global Impact 2: Where there is no vision

God’s people need Vision.  They need to be called, reminded, exhorted, and cajoled towards God’s view, ways, purposes, and plans.  As we think about providing Vision for a local church, I wanted to share 2 short thoughts:

  1. Your church, no matter how big, is too small to complete the Great Commission on their own.  BUT, they can choose a piece of it, and say, “Lord, in Your grace, would You allow us to see THIS piece of your mission completed?!  Oh Father, have mercy, and give us THIS People Group, or THAT Country, or THIS Tribe.”  Like Rachel, we cry, “give us children (spiritual offspring for us) or we die!”  So, your church needs a Vision for who you are reaching and why.  You can’t reach them all, but you can strategically direct your prayers, efforts, labors, and finances towards reaching part of the remaining unreached world.  Many churches struggle with this, and find themselves supporting a lot of work in a lot of places.  You end up not really sure, after a few years, who all those people are in the pictures on the mission bulletin board.  Folks talk about the Smiths and THEIR mission in country x, y, or z.  They don’t talk about OUR mission…our congregation’s call from God to reach the nations has been lost.  They’ve scattered their efforts, and the results are often confusion, diffusion, and apathy.  There’s actually a really simple process for helping bring a strategic and powerful focus to your church’s mission engagement, and we’ll get there in a couple more posts!
  2. Dear Pastor, it’s been said that if you want your people to bleed, you have to hemorrhage (Hendricks).  Another forgotten sage say it this way: “it won’t burn in them if it doesn’t burn in you!”  So, brothers, if you don’t lead your people to embrace God’s heart for the Unreached, who will?  I’m not saying you have to lead the mission committee, or even be on it, but I am saying that if you don’t champion God’s global purposes in front of your people, they aren’t going to get it.  You are the lead culture shaper of your church!  It’s amazing how a congregation grows to be more and more like their lead teacher.  So, John MacArthur’s congregation all carry study bibles around, digging deep into the word.  Why?  Because their under-shepherd showed them how.  David Platt’s former church was sending missionary after missionary…why?  Because their under-shepherd burned with a burden for those that have never heard the name of Jesus.  The pews become like the pulpit!  You don’t have to do everything yourself, but you do have to lead the way in passion for the nations.  Need help?  Read Let the Nations be Glad (free here!) by John Piper, take the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement Course, and begin praying through Operation World.

A friend pastored a church for several years.  He caught a heart for mission.  He preached God’s heart for mission.  He had folks leave his church from time to time saying, “you preach too much about mission.”  He said, as they left, “you can put that on my tombstone!”  After preaching about our beautiful, global God for a decade, he moved to the Muslim world as a missionary, to practice what he’d been preaching.  There is amazing, global fruit that has come out of that little church in rural Oklahoma all because the under-shepherd helped his flock catch the vision!  If you need help, do not hesitate to let us know.  We are passionate about local churches finding their role in the Great Commission.

Steven’s Study

Resources collected from my personal study, suggested for your personal study.

Every week I bring you a list of articles, podcasts, and sermons that I found helpful for my own edification. My hope is that you also will find these useful in your personal growth in the Christ.

Don’t Go Until you’re Sent

Let me just say a huge, AMEN!, to this article! I have lived this to a certain extent and would beg my brothers and sisters in Christ to NEVER send yourself to do a new work (frontier missions, church planting, ect.). It is not biblical, increases the suffering, and wrecks individuals, families, and communities. I know that sounds dramatic, but as a man who was once very prideful about such things I am telling you, “Have a healthy church send you into the work!”

Three Lies We Might Easily Believe

READ THIS!!!! Seriously, if you have 1 minute and 23 seconds to spare you should read this super short article (1 minute and 22 second long). We are all tempted daily to believe the lies of our enemy Satan. Which means we must daily preach the gospel to ourselves and be reminded of who we are in Christ.

The End, As Best As We Can See It With Earth Encrusted Eyes

I’ve been exploring some new blog here lately and I ran across this blog and article. I don’t know the full story here, but I love this article. It feels wounded to me. Like someone who knows where I have been, and in the midst of it reminds me of the goodness of God. Makes me feel like less of an alien when that happens.

Gospel Worship: Holy Ambition for All the Peoples to Praise Christ

A grandview of the glory of God in missions as only John Piper can say it. This one is also super accessible. You can watch it, listen to it, or read it! DesiringGod.org, what a gift to the church!

How the Gospel Upsets Business as Usual

I actually listened to this week before last, but was having trouble finding the link since I was using iTunes. I can be a bit of a technology noob sometimes! Anyway…This is a great workshop talk on how the church (individually and corporately) should expect the gospel to change the way we live in our communities. I will warn you it is a bit long (55 mins), but do like I do and break it up. In a few 15 minute drives, walks, or sittings you can receive some great, hopefully life giving/changing, knowledge.

Ask Pastor John

Speaking of DesiringGod.org, have you hear of the podcast “Ask Pastor John”? If you have not let me encourage you to give it a try. Each episode is fairly short (usually under 10 mins). It is easy to listen to and can answer questions that you might have or perhaps cause you to think on subjects you have not yet considered. It is a mainstay of my personal study every week.

As ever, may the Lord bless you and keep you! – Steven

Local Church – Global Impact : Culture

Hey all, I am starting a series called “Local Church – Global Impact,” in which I’ll tackle the issue of how a church can move from unengaged and on the sidelines to strategically and energetically on mission.  I’m in North America, so some of what I write will be most helpful in the Western context; however, I’ve seen these same principles play out around the world with wonderful fruit.

So, let me start with sharing something that I’ll reiterate again and again.  Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  That means that no matter how good your church’s mission plan may be, it will never be accomplished without your church embracing a missional culture.  We can plan to reach 5 Unreached People groups, but if we don’t delight in the sending God or care about the lost, then we will accomplish nothing.  Richard Sibbes, English Puritan pastor put it this way:

Does Christ come to us empty? Our duty is to accept of Christ’s inviting of us. What will we do for him, if we will not feast with him? We will not suffer with him, if we will not feast with him; if we will not joy with him, and in him…That which we should labour to bring with us is a taste of these dainties, and an appetite to them…The chief thing that Christ requires is a good stomach to these dainties…Let us open our mouth wide, since Christ is so ready to fill it.

Yes! We will talk more about motivations for mission, but this is the fountainhead; namely, delighting in the overflowing love of the Triune God!  Without that, we would be bad missionaries.  Without that, the church turns in on herself and atrophies.

Our hearts have to change before we can do anything.  We, also, have to be willing to let go of distractions and other pet projects if we want to move in new directions.  It’s hard for a ship to go anywhere when some of the rowers are rowing in the wrong direction.  We’ll find out that articulating a strategic mission focus is fairly simple.  But to see a church go from disinterested to passionate and engaged is a MIRACLE of God.  So, we start with prayer.  Who do you need to pray for daily in your church if you’re going to see mission gain traction there?

UP NEXT: Culture-Shapers at the Table

Steven’s Study

Resources collected from my personal study, suggested for your personal study.

Every week I will be bringing you a list of articles, podcasts, and sermons that I found helpful for my own edification. My hope is that you also will find these useful in your personal growth in the Christ.

The Many and the Few

An older article that I ran across on challies.com last week. It’s a great reminder of the importance of gospel clarity, and how we are prone to stray.

How to Defend the Gospel from Its Enemies – and Friends

Another great article by Ray Ortlund. It ends with a great observation, “Ugliness can’t defend beauty.”

How to Live in the Tension of Gospel and Social Justice

There have been many discussions about the tension between the message of the gospel and the acts of mercy that accompany the gospel. If you have the time (~45 min) this a great message by Matt Carter about that subject.

Be Patient, Missions Is Urgent

You may have heard that gospel ministry is a marathon, not a sprint. That is true! However, it is very urgent also. So how do these two fit together?

Then and Now: How our Perspectives Have Changed throughout our First Term

Always good to read about the lives of foreign missionaries. Especially when it can open our eyes to the reality of a life spent spreading the gospel. Since that is our goal!

Resources to Help Understand the State of the World

One of the things I’m often called upon to do is to help Christians understand the “State of the World.”  Sometimes this includes talking about trends related to urbanization, globalization, technology, etc.  Always it includes helping people understand where the Gospel is available in the world and where it has never been made available.  I wanted to share some of my favorite resources to help people and churches be well educated on this.  If you know of great resources for this that I haven’t mentioned, please add them in the comments section (this is just a shortlist, but I hope to gather a more complete list).

  1. Operation World – This book (and the website based on it & the soon to be launched app) highlights every country on the planet, provides basic demographics of the country, and attempts to help you understand the progress of the Gospel in that country.  It does this so that you can begin to pray strategic prayers.  Such a great resource!
  2. State of the World – The current editors of Operation World, Jason Mandryk and Molly Wall, gave a wonderful presentation on the global trends that are affecting/will affect global mission in the years ahead at Lausanne’s Third Younger Leaders Gathering this year.  Prepare to be challenged, sobered, and encouraged!
  3. Justin Long’s Fine Print Friday Roundup (that’s a mouthful!) – No one does a better job than Justin at curating global news that could strategically inform our mission.  He does so much awesome heavy lifting for the global church, helping us understand the context in which we minister.  Subscribe to the Friday Roundup!
  4. The Future of the Global Church (book) by Patrick Johnstone, former editor of Operation World, is a beautiful book, unpacking the history, trends, and possibilities of global mission.  I just got mine in the mail and can’t wait to dig in deeper.
  5. Center for the Study of Global Christianity is perhaps the world’s leading research organization on religious demography, especially Christian demography.  They are regularly interviewed/consulted by diverse media groups like Christianity Today, World Economic Forum, Washington Times, NPR, BBC, the Guardian…you get the idea.

Well, this is not an exhaustive list, by any means, but it will get you going!  And remember why this is so important.  If the task given to us is to make disciples of all people groups, that means we need to know who they are, which ones have the Gospel and which ones don’t, what forces are shaping them, what barriers exist to reach them, etc.  This is crucial work!

An Opening Prayer

Our Loving and Lovely Father, thank you for your Word.  Without it, we would not know You.  We would not know Your Gospel.  We would not know about the Church – or be called into Your Church.  We would not know about Your mission, or that you are a missionary God.  Thank you for Your Word.  May it be the bedrock of truth for this site.

Oh Father, Son, and Spirit, we love you.  We delight in you.  We thank you for the Gospel.  Father, that you called us, you chose us before the foundation of the world, you set your love on us though we did not deserve it and could not commend ourselves to you.  Jesus, thank you that you came to do the Father’s will in saving us.  That the love you shared with the Father before creation, you were willing to bring it to us for our redemption.  Spirit, thank you for uniting us with Christ through faith, for making the Gospel good news for us, opening our eyes and convicting us of sin.  We praise you, Triune God, that all the promises of the Father are “YES AND AMEN” in Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.  From start to finish, our salvation rests on the beautiful partnership of the Trinity!

And oh how your beauty and wisdom is portrayed in the Church!  Thank you, Father, Son, and Spirit, that the love you shared before creation – that communal, overflowing, outward moving love – has not only been poured out on us, but has swept us up into fellowship with you and your people!  Thank you, Father, that you call us as a people to be wed to your Son!  That we can say, “I am my beloved’s and He is mine!”  That everything that would divide your people has been done away with to show that there is not contrariness in the Godhead.  Father, by your Spirit, cause your Church to reflect the one heart, one mind that you share with the Son.

And finally, thank you for your Mission!  Though we were far from you, you brought us near.  Not only that, but you’ve invited us into your Kingdom expansion work.  Just as your perfect love, Father and Son, for each other overflowed into Creation, Jesus you are the perfect picture of that love flowing over into the world for our redemption.  And now that we belong to you, we are swept up into the fellowship of the Trinity, and we overflow into the world with the love of God in the Gospel.  We recognize that Mission is from you because it is simply an overflow of the love of God flowing from the Father to the Son to His People to the World.  Father, let your love be in us, so that we might rightly join you in rescuing the perishing.

We pray that you will use the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts, as they please you, to strengthen your people in all wisdom and knowledge as we speak about the Gospel, the Church, and Mission.  We pray all of these things for your glory, for our joy, and for the good of the nations of the earth!  We pray them in the name of Jesus and for the name of Jesus.

Amen