Just this week a good friend of mine, Will, who serves with a large missionary sending agency came to speak at our church. He and his family are on furlough, and we invited him to share his experience as a missionary. I’m very glad he was able to work a visit to Wilkesboro Baptist Church into his schedule as we were equally challenged and blessed.
As a pastor and former missions pastor, I’m beginning to grasp the tension of ministry and missions. By that tension, I mean the busyness of daily ministry (study and preparation, prayer and counsel, pastoral care and visitation, meetings, etc.) and the importance of mission (mission trips, evangelism, mission emphases). It is often so easy for mission to be lost in the swirl of the daily ministry activity. Before you criticize my recognition of this tension, I already know that much of our ministry can include and connect to our mission. But oftentimes we are not that intentional. Here are four recommendations that will help keep the biblical mission in front of your congregation.
- Invite a missionary to speak/preach at your church. Having Will at Wilkesboro Baptist put a face and a family on the impersonal giving that we do so often. I’m blessed to be a part of a church that gives to missions (20% of our church budget), but we don’t always see the end result of that giving. Hearing Will share his experiences, ministry, and the results puts a face and a focus to our giving. His stories also challenged us in our missional living. Will told a story (from the country where he serves) about believers gathered in a room reporting on the number of evangelistic encounters they had in the past week. Upon getting to one lady, she began weeping inconsolably. She then asked her fellow believers to forgive her because she only shared the gospel 18x that week. Some in the room had shared the gospel more than 70x in the previous week. I’m confident many in our congregation were as convicted as I was upon hearing that story.
- Pray regularly for missionaries and mission partners. As a church we partner with local and global missionaries and organizations. Every week in our worship service we pray for one of those partners—seeking to keep the importance of mission in front of our congregation.
- Use mission stories and statistics to illustrate your preaching. Take time to read mission stories and books that will enliven your sermons with mission illustrations. There’s an adage I’ve learned as a pastor, “If it’s not said from the pulpit it must not be important.” If we never illustrate, encourage, or talk about missions in our sermons and illustrations, then do we really value missions?
- Lead by example. Your church will not be any more focused and involved in mission than you are as their leader. It is clear from Jesus’ commission in Matthew 28:19-20 that we have a disciple-making mission. But are you making disciples? Are you leading the effort to take the gospel to the nations? When you encourage others to pray, give, and go, are you praying, giving, and going on mission? To refocus on mission in our churches and produce missionaries we must step out in front and lead.
These recommendations don’t mean that everyone in our churches will go on a mission trip or give more to missions. But if we’re not keeping the mission in front of our congregations, then I can guarantee we won’t have mission sending and mission going churches.