Life Changing Stat of the Month – April 2017

Hello friends, before jumping back into my series on Local Church mission strategy, I wanted to start a new Monthly-ish series called “Life Changing Stat of the Month” where we simply share a stat and discuss it’s importance for the Church and her mission.

This month’s stat comes from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity.  I want you to read it at least 3 times before moving on.  Ready, here it is:

86% of all Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists do not personally know a Christian

What do you think about that?  That means that the largest blocks of people without the Gospel don’t even know someone that could tell it to them.  What should that mean for the Church?  This SHOULD have seismic shifts in our churches’ mission strategy (we’ll visit this soon), in our short-term mission practices, in our prayers, and in our day to day lives.

Do you see it…the lost are, in many ways, because Christians choose to not live anywhere near them.  Even some residual evangelism might take place if we just lived among them.  Some people ask me why God is allowing the refugee crisis today…I think a major reason is this stat.  I think Paul would agree.  Read Acts 17.26-27

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.

God has, as my friend Cody Lorance says, taken the 10/40 Window and started shaking it upside down over places where Christians do live and churches do exist.  WHY?  So that these poor, lost, miserable masses might seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him!!!!

Well then, besides welcoming the unreached that come to us, what are we to do?  What if we started allowing the Biblical priority that the Gospel should move from where it is to where it is not (see Genesis 12.1-3, Luke 4.43, and Romans 15:18-24 for instance) affect where we send workers.  It may not be enough simply to say, “we’ll send you anywhere God has laid on your heart.”  Maybe we need to help them see God’s heart on this matter.

What if, too, we encouraged our marketplace professionals to find out if their company (or a company like it) might consider transferring them to Unreached places.  I have friends that have been transferred (along with very healthy pay raises) to some of the most unreached Muslim countries in the world.  We must be in contact with the lost.  Even those of us stuck in the West or the “bible belt” need to be asking whether many lost people know us.

I know some of you out their have even better ideas.  Let’s hear them!

Local Church – Global Impact 4: Biblical Convictions

OK, remember, Mission is not my idea.  It’s not John Piper’s idea or Billy Graham’s or the Apostle Paul’s idea.  IT’S GOD’S IDEA!  Which means that He alone has the right to determine what the mission is, how it should be done, who should do it, etc.  And this is SOOO crucial.  Much of mission today is accomplishing a lot of the wrong things.  It’s not only doing damage in many parts of the world, but it’s sapping resources that could have gone towards the Biblical mission we’ve been given.

The next few posts are going to try and help us look at the Word and understand what it is that God is calling us to.  We need clarity.  I’m going to call in a lot of help in these particular posts because we are treading on very hotly debated issues.  So, why don’t we start with this question: what is mission?  I’m going to share a few resources with you that I believe BEST answer this question.  The following posts will show, further, why I think this is the case.  So without further ado, I want to point you to:

What we will see is that the mission of God is a Gospel mission.  And since the Gospel is news (really, really good news!), it must be heralded.  So, proclamation is central.  We will also see that the Church is central.  She, under the leading of the Spirit, commissions the “sent ones” (literally: missionaries), and those who are sent are to plant Kingdom outposts, that is local expressions of the body of Christ, i.e. local churches.  The activities of mission therefore are those that share the Good News, that disciple believers deeper into the Gospel, and that plant Gospel churches among every Ethnicity/People Group (Greek: ETHNE).  I’ll unpack each of these core concepts in posts to come.

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.

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