Posts Tagged ‘missional churches’

What are the goals you have for your church?  Aside from the very specific goals of painting the auditorium or getting new elders next year, would any of these be your goals?

  • More of our members get into the Word
  • Greater prayerfulness
  • Increased generosity
  • Greater personal engagement

I can’t imagine any healthy, growing church that is not keenly conscious of the need to grow in these areas almost all of the time!

I know several churches that are doing The Story series this year to encourage serious Bible study. Another church is reading the entire Bible in ninety days together, with Sunday sermons tied into the weekly reading.

Has your church done the forty days of prayer exercise?  We did it for our neighborhood a few years ago. Some do it for special contributions or special outreach events.  Or has your church done a twenty-four hour prayer vigil. Many African churches have these on a monthly basis.

Generosity is tougher on our congregations. You might have done a Dave Ramsey series or Crown Ministry if you are at a larger church.  Smaller churches seem to be limited to the occasional sermon which encourages generosity.

Unfortunately, the 80-20 Rule still prevails at most congregations, no matter what area of body life that we talk about.  Eighty percent of the members do 20% of the work and 20% of the members do 80% of the work.  Giving and praying seem to follow the same 80-20 pattern.  So we hire involvement ministers to motivate us to do what should be the most natural functions of every member of the body, that is, to do actively what we were created in the body to do!

What if you could lead your church into one opportunity, one activity, one exercise, or one ministry that would address all of these critical spiritual needs at once, AND what if you could expect a 70% success rate with the members, AND what if it was something in which virtually ALL of your members could participate regardless of age, Christian experiences, family situations, or most other external factors?

Have you read Dr. Craig Altrock’s book called The Shaping of God’s People:  One Story of How God Is Shaping the North American Church Through Short-Term Missions The Shaping of God’s People:  One Story of How God Is Shaping the North American Church Through Short-Term Missions His book is the result of his dissertation research for some of our finest scholars at Harding School of Theology.

What makes this study so important is that his conclusions are not just anecdotal or random, but rather these results are disciplined, quantitatively verifiable, and peer-reviewed conclusions.

A group of approximately 800 short-term mission workers who had participated in a foreign short-term mission with Let’s Start Talking, including people whose experience was up to twenty years prior to the study, were asked to report in a variety of ways on how their short-term mission experience affected them.  The briefest of summaries is as follows:

  • 77.5% reported that they read Scripture more often and more missionally than they did before their short-term mission trip.
  • 86.1% reported that they pray differently–more intentionally and specifically after their short-term mission.
  • 72.6% reported that they are more generous, that they give more to support the missions of their churches after their short-term mission project.
  • 72.6% reported that they are more involved in their church, especially outreach activities, after their short-term mission project.

What this says to me is that the church that wants to dramatically reverse the 80-20 ratio in their church should make good short-term mission experiences not just one of many opportunities, but rather an expectation for all the members of the body, something that everyone will do.

Good short-term missions experiences will transform first your members, then your congregation! 

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Missional is one of those fuzzy buzz words that one hears at large church gatherings. You think you know what it means, but maybe you don’t—and you can’t ask anyone because everyone else knows what it means except you!

Simple definitions leave a lot of us asking questions, so here is my attempt to give you concrete pegs on which to hang your understanding of missional .

A missional church is

  1. Where YOU show up, not God. A missional church is joining God in His work, not inviting God to be a part of your work!
  2. Where the members know that the Great Commission says GO, not COME!
  3. Where all of the members are missionaries, not just those out of the country.
  4. Where mission contributions are not special contributions.
  5. Where what happens out of the building is equally important—if not more important—than what happens in the building.
  6. Where “going to worship” happens every day, not just on Sundays.
  7. Where church leaders meet to pray for new work, not just to manage and control old work.
  8. Where members know their neighbors.
  9. Where the community would be diminished if the church closed its doors.
  10. Where no borders are recognized except those of the Kingdom of God.
  11. Where members expect to meet new people at church!
  12. Where members expect to have unbelievers at church!
  13. Where the church is God’s church, not “our” church.
  14. Where its children grow up wanting and encouraged to be missionaries.
  15. Where benevolence and evangelism are the same thing.
  16. Where there is no difference between my life and church life, my time and God’s time, or my money and God’s money.
  17. Where members are not afraid of being in the world because they see it as their mission field.
  18. Where members are motivated by love and gratitude.
  19. Where members extend grace and mercy, speaking the truth in love.

I feel like there ought to be a #20! What if I leave that open for you to fill in. Leave a comment and share with us what you understand a missional church to be!

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With the exception of the Antioch church sending out Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13), we really have no model of missions being initiated by a local congregation. Persecution drove Christians out of Jerusalem, and certain people moved between early churches, working as evangelists, but even to the very conservative among us, it should be clear that there is no explicitly prescriptive revelation about how congregations should organize, support, or oversee missionaries.

Without crossing the rather artificially determined boundaries of congregational autonomy, and while respecting our historical rejection of missionary societies , I believe we can improve our paradigm for missions considerably.

In light of the selection/support/oversight issues that I have discussed in preceding posts, I would like to suggest the following goals for any new paradigm:

  • A clear and accessible path through selection, first decisions, and training, allowing more people to become missionaries.
  • More Christians involved both relationally and financially in sending more missionaries.
  • Spiritual, personal, and financial oversight of missionaries by those people in the best position to know and understand both them and the work they do.
  • Elimination of control mechanisms used for mission work driven primarily by financial support.

If we can find ways to meet these goals, then I believe we can expect to be a fellowship that is sending many more missionaries better prepared to many more fields, better supported in both visible and invisible ways by many more people who themselves will be blessed richly, all of which will result in the spread of God’s reign on earth.

Improving the Selection Process

As I stated earlier, most potential missionaries self-select based on inspiration! That a person should strongly desire and feel called to missions, I would consider essential. But I do feel that we can do better in both the areas of selection and inspiration.

For decades, the World Mission Workshop for Christian college students has concluded with an invitation to commitment to missions. Literally hundreds of our finest students have responded—although only a handful has actually made it to the field. But what this tells me is that we have hundreds, if not thousands of people in our church buildings right now who have unfulfilled desires to serve as missionaries.

Let’s begin shifting our paradigm by making home congregations—no matter the size—the first place of inspiration and where the first opportunities for selection take place.  What would it look like if it were the norm in our congregations for children to hear missionary stories, for middle schoolers to make short  service mission trips, for high schoolers to move toward faith-sharing mission experiences,–but it didn’t stop there!

What if the college students were encouraged and enabled to do longer summer missions, and young families were encouraged to take their children with them on missions, if parents of teens did mission trips with their teenagers, and grandparents took their grandchildren with them.

What would it take for your congregation to make this kind of involvement the norm at your church (and, by the norm I mean where those who did not participate were in the minority!)?

  • Every church leader (yes, including ministers and elders) would need not only to affirm commitment, but lead from the front by going and supporting those who do!
  • Intentional planning at every age level for inspiration through every avenue at the church’s disposal.
  • Planting the seeds in the hearts of all new members who become a part of the congregation, whether through conversion or transference of membership.
  • Taking this stance as an ongoing way of congregational life, not a new program.

A church—regardless of its size– that created this kind of environment would expect to have many more of its members want to become missionaries! This church is always providing the first seeds of inspiration, and those seeds will be watered and nurtured for years with intentional love.

Now, not only is the pool of potential workers much larger, but the first level of the selection process would also be moved into a much more natural and advantageous position! The leadership of the church, the fellowship of believers, all are more intimately acquainted with those of their own who desire to become missionaries, so they can help them evaluate their own sense of calling and provide spiritual discernment that is often impossible to obtain from professors or missions experts who have little if any personal history with the applicant.

If the vast majority of missionary candidates were selected first by their home congregations, we could end most of the wanderings from church to church by missionary hopefuls who have self-selected.  We would put an end to using the ability to raise support as the primary tool of discernment. 

Wouldn’t that be better?

Some of you are already sweating heavily because you wonder where all the money is going to come from because your church couldn’t support all those who would want to go! Well, I’m going to just postpone that question for a while—but we will get back to it, I promise.

Next we will look at creating a clear path through decisions about which field, what type of work, and how to prepare for the mission. 

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