By Lori McDaniel
It was nothing I expected, but it was everything I needed. Sitting on a dirt floor with makeshift coverings of miscellaneous fabrics, I listened as members of the small, South Asian village church gave testimony to how God had been working.
In a prior gathering, these new believers had been challenged to share the gospel with 30 people in one month.
They held each other accountable to this task and shared personal stories with varying results, but all sounded something like, “I shared the gospel with 18 people, seven became Christ-followers, four were baptized, one was healed of demon possession, and now five are meeting every night in my home for prayer.”
I sat in awe. This small group of 15 believers shared the gospel in one month with over 300 people.
I admired the tenacity of their obedience in making Christ’s name known. They believed God had given the Great Commission to the church. As believers in Christ they were part of the church, therefore, it informed their daily lives.
God’s mission was their mission. They owned it.
The flood of admiration I felt for them capsized leaving me drowning in personal conviction. While their obedience seemed radical, it was simply normal, New Testament behavior for believers.
But it wasn’t my church’s normal. It wasn’t my normal. But why not? Why shouldn’t it be?
I knew something needed to shift. My church needed to shift. We needed to identify areas where we were stuck concerning our missions involvement. Consider these five shifts we made from being stuck to taking next steps in participating in God’s global mission.
1. Identify and disrupt the “someday” mindset regarding missions.
A church that finds it difficult to take a next step in mission involvement may be stuck in the sludge of “someday” thinking. A “someday” mindset impedes movement and ultimately alignment with God’s mission.
Dangerously, this “someday” thinking morphs into a “someday theology” that sucks you into believing that God can only use you if some perceived limitation is removed.
We believe God will use our church to engage in global missions someday when our church is bigger, or someday when we have more staff, or someday when we have a bigger budget, or someday after the building is complete—and so it continues until it becomes a habit.
“Someday” thinking is a delusion; a slippery slope to no day at all.
The consequences of “someday” thinking is that it affects more than just the collective mindset of your church, its result is evident in how individuals integrate the Great Commission, or rather don’t integrate it, into their daily life.
A church that thinks with a someday mindset shapes individuals who model the same kind of thinking—“someday when I get older, someday when I’m not so busy, someday when I get married, someday when our kids move out of the house, or someday when I make more money.”
Disrupting this pattern of thinking requires shifting to the reality that the Great Commission isn’t on pause until someday. The invitation to make Christ’s name known in all the earth is active today, regardless.
2. Shift from a one-off-mission-project approach to strategic mission partnerships.
Our portable, new church plant was three years old when we were asked to partner with a missionary in West Africa to plant churches among 4 billion Muslims.
We were still wiping dried milk and bread crumbs out of the plastic chairs each Sunday to set up for worship in the school cafeteria. How in the world could we be an ongoing partner in missions?
It’s not that we weren’t involved in missions. We were. Our missions involvement consisted of short-term projects with no cohesive direction. Our missions approach was scattered rather than strategic.
Without a global missions strategy, there is no identifiable objective, which means the church doesn’t have a clear vision for what it’s accomplishing.
Shifting to a strategic mission partnership didn’t mean we stopped taking mission trips or contributing generously to projects. Creating a mission strategy simply tethered our short-term involvement to a long-term aim.
Developing a long-term mission strategy clarified where our church placed priority, cultivated a unified urgency to get the gospel to unreached places, and concentrated our collective effort in praying, giving, and going for the purpose of seeing churches planted among unreached people.
3. Amplify the missions conversation into more than a special announcement or sermon.
Missions isn’t a special announcement and it’s not a message dusted off and preached behind the podium once a year. The Great Commission is the engine that drives forward everywhere the church goes and everything the church does.
We need to level set the conversation regarding missions by teaching people not only to love the Word of God, but also to understand His love for the world that compels us to participate in His mission to the world.
Jesus’ command to go into the world wasn’t a special sermon or an announcement about a mission team the disciples were invited to sign up for. Jesus integrated the missions conversation into their entire understanding of the Scriptures by opening their eyes to the whole narrative of God’s Word.
He opened the Old Testament—the law, the Prophets, and the Psalms—and He helped them see that from the beginning God had been on mission to make His name known and that this gospel would be preached to all nations beginning right where they were sitting (Luke 24:44-47).
They were invited to be part of something historical, something biblical, and something eternal.
4. Identify and leverage your church’s unique global mission contribution.
Your church has its own unique shape and personality informed by the demographic of its people. Most certainly we can learn best practices from the church down the street that is strategically mobilizing its members to participate in God’s global mission.
But let us also recognize that in order to activate people to leverage their lives for God’s glory, we need to help them understand their skills, their education, their careers, and the resources God has purposefully given to them.
He has “blessed them” so that His “way may be known on earth, [His] saving power among all nations” (Psalm 67:1-2).
What your church can contribute to missions with its tech-savvy-entrepreneurs (or its retirees or its construction workers or its educators, etc.) will be different from the city church packed with college students.
Assess your church’s unique mission contribution and then equip them to think like missionaries. Don’t dumb down global missions or dismiss their participation in it.
Rather, challenge their thinking concerning their careers or season of life and lead them to consider where in the world they could live and use their career or season of life to further God’s kingdom.
5. Shift the gathering on Sunday morning to a launch pad for going.
Sunday morning church services aren’t the final destination. Sunday morning is the launching pad.
Did you know that once a rocket is launched it takes eight minutes for it to reach orbit? Consider, however, how much time and effort goes into inventing, building, training, equipping, and prepping for that launch day.
Yes, there’s a lot of work and effort that go into Sunday church services. But gathering isn’t intended to be the end result. Peter and John, after being arrested and released, returned to a gathering of believers.
In that gathering, their prayer revealed their intention to continually go: “And now, Lord, … grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29).
Shift the intended purpose of your gatherings to launch people to go.
Is your church stuck in your global missions involvement? What needs to shift?
Jesus is always reshaping our misguided notions, challenging our assumptions, disrupting our thinking, and interrupting our plans, but it’s always for one reason—so we experience Him and His glory which fuels a passion to participate in His mission.
Dare to imagine today how God may want to lead you beyond what you’re already doing today.
LORI MCDANIEL (@LoriMMcDaniel) worked as a leader in mobilization with the International Mission Board for six years. She and her husband, Mike, and their three children served as missionaries in Zambia, Africa, before returning to plant Grace Point Church in Bentonville, Arkansas, where Mike is senior pastor. Lori is a starter and builder of several ministries locally and globally.