The church was founded as a missionary sending organization. It was not intended to be a religious organization with missions as only a department within the organization. Its primary purpose was missionary and its members were to be involved in the spreading of the gospel.
Unfortunately, many local churches today are not engaged in missions. Oh, they may send an offering or even pray occasionally for missionaries, but their focus of attention and participation isn’t upon missions. Sadly, many local churches have gone from being the important participant who makes things happen in missions (like in the book of Acts) to being a gentle spectator.
How can the church once again, become the seedbed for mission involvement and engagement?
First of all, we can’t assume someone in the church will automatically lead this effort. If it’s everyone’s responsibility, it quickly becomes no one’s. It’s takes an intentional effort by a specific person or group, and not just the pastor. Having a team or group of people who are tasked with this responsibility is critical to ensuring that missions is focused upon and carried out by the congregation. So, form a team, committee or group of people who will help the church re-establish its rightful place in missions. It’s not important what you call them, but there is something effective about a group of people that work together on how they can engage and help the whole church to focus on missions.
Secondly, specific steps must be taken to restore the local church’s sense of participation and importance in missions. Determining how that will be done is responsibility of the “missions committee” or “Acts 1:8 team”. Here are some role recommendations that will guide this group in leading the church to once again, becoming a missions focused, engaged participant in reaching their community and the world for Christ:
Raise awareness and educate
The first and most basic task of the missions team should be raising awareness and educating the church family about missions. This includes arranging opportunities for members to learn more about the missionaries, the spiritual and physical needs of people living within a region, and how the missionaries are seeking to address those needs. It might be slides or videos in worship or an article in the newsletter, highlighting a missionary the church is partnering with. Consider a digest of missions efforts or missionaries supported by the church with data, pictures and testimonies, outlining ways members can be engaged.
Raise awareness through Sunday School classes, community groups, and children’s ministry. Teach and focus on missions year-round, inviting missionaries to speak or have them Skyped in during a worship service. While some churches feel that an annual missionary conference is enough, it seldom sustains the church for the whole year.
Lead out in prayer
The missions team must lead the way by getting church members involved in missions in practical ways. First, encourage them to pray for missionaries every day.
Show them how to use the monthly prayer guides published by the NAMB or IMB. Praying for one missionary or one locale every day is a great start. Few people can pray for “the whole world,” or “all the missionaries,” in any manageable way.
Highlight prayer for missionaries and missions projects during the worship service and in small groups. How can we expect people to give and go if we aren’t willing to set aside time to pray.
Every church receives many requests from people or organizations asking for money. They are many worthy causes, but no one church can help everyone.
Develop a strategy for how you will allocate funds and support various missionaries or ministries. A strategy will give direction and purpose to the missions committee’s task and to the church’s giving.
The missions team must decide one basic question: How does God want our church to be involved in missions? Consider developing a strategy that simultaneously involves the church in their local community, state, nation and world. This may sound overwhelming, but it is possible for even the smallest of churches to adopt this kind of Acts 1:8 strategy.
The KBC Missions Mobilization Team is equipped to help your missions team in the development of a strategy. They can also help the team to assess the church’s current level of missions engagement through MAP, Missions Assessment Profile. For assistance, contact www.kybaptist.org/missions, [email protected] or 502-489-3530.
Encourage missions giving
One way or another, if God’s missionary mandate is to be fulfilled, missionaries must be supported by local churches. The missions team’s role is crucial, whether the church determines an annual missions dollar amount that is divided between missionaries and projects, raises a challenge goal amount for each of the missions offerings, or takes on the personal support of a number of missionaries.
Ideally, financial support should be determined by the church’s missionary strategies. That strategy guides budget decisions by the church. Without some direction and purpose to the missions program, money is usually spent for the most persuasive speakers and causes. This leaves little opportunity for critical needs that may receive little attention. The committee must guard against this kind of imbalance.
The missions team must also shield the budget from “pet” causes, which often come from influencers within the church. Tough, sometimes unpopular decisions must be made. This is easier to do when the church has agreed on both its missions strategy and its budget in advance.
Provide missionary care
While I’m thankful for missions sending agencies like our IMB and NAMB, I’m afraid the church has relinquished its responsibilities to nurture missionaries who are sent and now serving. In full cooperation with mission boards, churches must take more responsibility for missionaries.
After a missionary begins serving, the missions team should work to ensure they are cared for. Specific suggestions include encouragement visits, communication with them (email, letters, Facetime, etc.) providing supplies and resources, sending care packages and mobilizing short-term teams to assist in the ministry.
Don’t forget to make caring for the children of missionaries part of your focus as well. The church should be aware of cultural adjustments, loneliness, and moral tests that MKs face.
Caring for missionaries while on stateside assignment (or home on furlough) gives the committee many chances to show care in meeting such needs as housing, cars, clothing, vacation retreats, administrative assistance, etc.
Call out the “called”
Many young people receive their “call” to missions in college organizations or at missions conferences. That’s great, but I am saddened that so few of our church’s passionately challenge those God has called to go and then actively send them.
In the book of Acts, the “call” of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13) came to them from the Holy Spirit through the church at Antioch. The missions team should look for people with cross cultural interest and ministry skills, and then challenge them to prayerfully consider serving in missions.
Be missions specialists
Don’t let the word specialist scare you and keep you from assuming this role. The missions team can become missions specialist by familiarizing themselves and learning from many different resources. Resources may be missions books, magazines, newsletters, special seminars, conferences or our mission sending agencies (IMB, NAMB).
Missions team members should specialize to more effectively accomplish their role. Subcommittees (or individual committee members) can be organized by the Acts 1:8 strategy, each having a responsibility for a specific area (local, state, nation and world). Another way to organize for specialization is to assign each subcommittee/individual one of the recommended roles discussed in this article (education, prayer, strategy development, giving, and missionary care).
In closing, a church that chooses to form a missions team that actively functions as outlined above will find itself right in the middle of what God is doing! It will be a seedbed for missions engagement and they will be impacting the world with the gospel as God intended. My prayer is that more of our churches will have a missions or Acts 1:8 team helping them to organize around missions, rather than religion.