This article is part of a series on missions and the local church. We trust that this series will encourage both faithfulness to Christ’s bride and obedience to the bride’s mission.
When Christ commanded us to “make disciples of all nations,” he was not commissioning a select few, but all of his followers, to be engaged in the task of making him known among all peoples. Yet today, some churches remain inactive with little or nor missions activity. Others are fully active, supporting and engaging directly in worldwide missions. Most are likely somewhere in between. In a world where millions remain unreached or undiscipled, every church should ask how it can be more engaged in the missionary task.
How can you lead your church (as a pastor) or support your church (as a church member) in becoming more engaged in global missions?
Commit to Prayer
This probably seems like a no-brainer since most of us recognize there is always room for more prayer in our lives. But this is not a throw-away point. Scripture is full of promises that God’s saving power will be known among all peoples (Psalm 67:2). What greater prayers could we pray than ones that God has already promised to answer? Consider other passages like Psalm 96, Psalm 113:3, Malachi 1:11, Isaiah 45, and Matthew 28:18-21.
Many churches have weekly meetings committed to prayer or parts of their worship gatherings committed to prayer. Use these times to pray for missions causes. Consider utilizing resources to guide your prayer like Operation World or Joshua Project or prayer updates sent from your denomination missions agency. Of course, if your church has a personal connection to missionaries on the field (more on that below), use their most recent newsletter as a prayer guide.
Not only will God use these prayers to reveal the needs of the world to your church, he may also use these prayers to call people to the mission field long-term. The elders of the church that I helped plant several years ago began praying early on that God would send a family from our church to the mission field. Little did I know that in just a few years, that family would be my family!
We serve a sovereign God who chooses to hear and respond to our prayers. Let us not neglect this great gift.
Preach the Word
Again, this may seem an obvious point, but faithful expositional preaching will regularly remind your congregation of God’s mission to gather a people from every tribe, tongue, and language to praise his name (Revelation 7). Pastor, you need not guilt your people into missions involvement. Prayerfully preach God’s Word and allow the Spirit to work.
Before we left for the mission field, our pastor was preaching through the Gospel of John. Many times the point of the text or a point of application was directly linked to the task of world evangelization. There is no need to force it, because God’s Word and will are clear.
In addition to regular and faithful expositional preaching, consider an annual missions emphasis. Whether a month or just one Sunday, use that time to display God’s passion for the nations through his Word.
Engage with Real Life Missionaries
The first church I pastored had never hosted missionaries to speak or share about their work. This is not a unique situation. After inviting a missionary family on furlough to come and speak, our congregation responded very well. They were eager to pray and follow along as this family made their way back to the field. Before, missions had mostly been a line item in the budget. Now, it was an integral part of the mission of our local church. Simply knowing a missionary family personally made a huge difference.
If your church has sent out a missionary family or currently supports one, that’s the place to start. Make sure the missionaries are sending you regular updates that you can share with the entire church. Host them for a weekend while they are on furlough. Ask them to record a video update you can share during your weekly worship gathering or interview them via Skype. If you don’t already have a relationship with a missionary family, I assure you there are many who would love to be ‘adopted’ by your church. Contact Reaching & Teaching or your denominational missions agency and ask about missionaries who could share their ministry at your church.
Educate about Global Missions
There are a number of ways to do this. It can be as simple as providing simple resources for people to learn about missions history and the current state of missions. Missionary biographies are a great introduction. Through Gates of Splendor about the life of Jim Elliot or To the Golden Shore about the life of Adoniram Judson are great places to start. One church I know provides brief sketches of missionary heroes in their children’s ministry to encourage engagement early on.
Consider offering a Sunday school class or small group on the biblical theology of world missions or something similar. You could use an introduction to missions book as a guide. Similarly, encouraging your church members to take a course like Perspectives on the World Christian Movement or even providing scholarships for them to attend can be great avenue to expose them to the world of missions.
Go to the Field
Much has been written on the good, bad, and ugly of short-term missions. Nevertheless, it remains an effective way to mobilize your church for missions. Countless field missionaries can point to a short-term trip early in their life that God used to call them to long-term work. Others can recall how a short-term trip experience led them to give more or to pray more for missions causes.
One thing is for certain, if you want your church’s short-term mission trip to be most effective and beneficial, make sure it is connected to long-term missionary work. Serve alongside of a career missionary who has invested in long-term ministry in that area. Consider a trip through Reaching & Teaching. If you have sent out missionaries or otherwise are connected to them, ask them about possible short-term trips to assist in their ministry. Serving alongside people for whom you’ve been praying can be a huge blessing for all involved.
These are only a few suggestions, and there are likely many more that could be added. The real need is for each of us to ask humbly how we might be more involved and more strategic in the task of making Christ known among all peoples.