Church Engagement Part One

August 14, 2023 David M

Four pastor friends meet up for lunch at their favorite ministry conference. They’re sitting together at the table, enjoying the food, the conference, and freedom from the 24/7 pressure of pastoring their church. Somehow the conversation takes a weird turn. They begin sharing their issues with leading missions in their church.

Alan: “I can’t get involved in leading missions. I’m swamped with study, preaching, and shepherding. There’s a Missions Committee for that.”

Bob: “I don’t even know where to begin. They never taught us anything about that in seminary.”

Carlos: “What’s the big deal about missions, anyway? We’ve got to meet peoples’ needs right in our own communities.”

Dirk: “I’m afraid if we emphasize world missions that it will divert resources and attention away from our local outreach and ministries.”

Strangely, four missionaries were at the same lunch sitting at another table. They commiserated together that the Pastors of their sending church don’t seem to understand missions at all.

Andy: “My Pastor just preached Daniel 6 and didn’t even mention that Daniel’s testimony of faith in the one true God was spread by King Darius to all nations, peoples, and every language on the earth. Why don’t our Pastors see missions throughout the Bible?”

Brent: “My Pastor doesn’t even know who I am, much less anything about our ministry on the mission field.”

Caleb: “My Pastor takes a vacation during our annual missions emphasis. He’s OK with others doing world missions things, but he doesn’t want to be involved.”

Diego: “My Pastor gets excited and involved when someone from the congregation feels called to full-time ministry, but if it is for global missions, he freaks out.”

What’s going on here? All of those statements have some truth to them and have been shared with me in meetings with church leaders and missionaries.

The Pastor’s role in missions leadership is inescapable. It is crucial. It should be an asset and not a liability. The Pastor models and teaches missions, one way or another.

The Missions Committee can maintain missions ministries and interest among those who already know and love missions and missionaries. But missions cannot grow and develop to a level of passion and effectiveness among the whole congregation unless the Pastor plays a leading role. The Pastor is the gatekeeper, the mouthpiece, and the igniter of missions for the local church. If there’s fire in the pulpit, there will be fire in the pews.

Let’s help our Pastors have a profound appreciation and understanding of their role in leading missions in their own local church. We can pray, facilitate, and resource our Pastor to be an effective leader for missions in the church. Consider these truisms and proposed resolutions from the storylines above:

Pastors are swamped.

We need to keep him focused on the right things, including simplifying his important role in leading the church in missions.

Pastors have a knowledge and experience deficit in global missions.

Typically, they have had training in theology, Bible, preaching, general church ministries and management, and shepherding/counseling. They have had little to no training in vision, practice, management, and leadership in missions. We need to graciously, warmly, and encouragingly bridge that deficit.

The priority and continuity of world missions in balance with local outreach seem counterintuitive to our Pastors.

Help your Pastor realize that world missions involvement is:

  1. Being obedient to the Word.
  2. NOT in conflict with local ministries. In fact, local outreach and ministry is a great training ground for sending missionaries from your own local church to meet even greater Gospel needs cross-culturally.
  3. A natural extension of the vibrant local ministry involvement of your people.

Missions does not reduce resources for local outreach and ministries.

Almost without exception, great involvement and awareness in global missions increase attention and resources for local ministry. Pastors who stepped out to encourage and be involved in a stronger missions priority have told me that general giving to the church and local ministries increased! Yes, this also seems counterintuitive. However, there is something dynamically attractive to people and resources when a local church is not all about their program, their growth, their people, or their own stuff. People in your church and community have a God-given yearning to be a part of something much bigger than themselves, a God-sized vision.

Make Let the Nations Be Glad (John Piper) required reading for the Pastor and Elders.

John Piper learned, by being forced to preach missions, that God’s passion for His glory in Christ among all nations is the dominant storyline of the whole Bible. In other words, a Pastor who doesn’t see it in the Bible is missing the whole point.

Pastors must visit the mission field.

Frame it as a shepherding trip. The Pastor does not go to exercise his ministry or be in the limelight. The purpose of the trip is to shadow, get to know, and build a pastoral relationship with the missionary/missionaries the church sends and supports. It will change his life, his vision for missions, his sermon illustrations, and his ownership of missions!

Pastors must teach and preach world missions from the Word.

It’s the Word that has living power and is the final authority for faith and practice. Preach about the “nations” (and equivalent words and phrases) in the Old Testament. Preach through the book of Acts. Do a word study on “propempo” in the New Testament. If the Pastor gets into the Word with an eye to see, he will get it. p.s. – It doesn’t have to be during the missions emphasis event time(s).

Don’t freak out when someone in your congregation wants to become a missionary!

There are lots of resources, including right here on the MissioSERVE website, that can help you. Raising up a missionary is very similar to raising up a pastoral candidate. It takes time, discipleship, and formal and informal training. It requires the whole gamut of character development (being), conviction development (knowing), and competency development (doing). Only it adds extra exposure and development of special skills for a foreign language and culture. It can be done.

We can help!

How does a Pastor lead his local church in missions? By learning and leading his congregation into the grand plan of the greatest purpose of God of all time: to see the glory of God in Christ through the Gospel creating local bodies of believers worshiping Jesus in every language and culture of the entire world.

Read other articles in this series: Church Engagement
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David M
David C. Meade has been the founder, C-level officer, and consultant for a number of non-profit organizations. He has nearly fifty years of experience with church planting, pioneering field ministry among UPGs, and leadership in international and domestic NGOs. He has a strong biblical local-church-centric ministry philosophy and commitments, serving as an international outreach leader, pastor, and elder in local churches throughout his adult life. He loves teaching and mentoring church leaders and global workers preparing for service to meet the greatest need of the neediest places on earth.

David is an international business consultant, NGO executive, and international leadership trainer. He has a weekly podcast and has authored hundreds of insightful and practical blogs, articles, and several books. David is a well-received speaker and teacher. His experience in non-profit leadership and international NGOs informs his counsel for leaders and workers in challenging areas of service, analyzing corporate strategies, conflict resolution, crisis management, and event leadership. David is passionate about core values based on timeless principles, valuing people, and leadership training. He is an avid family man, reader, fisherman, and world traveler.