All churches should be growing in their commitment to fulfill the Great Commission, and having a missions-minded church is one way to increase this commitment. Already in this series, we’ve seen that the pastor or lead elder needs to set an example of missions-mindedness. This equips him to lead his church into deeper missionary support relationships. I’ve also offered some suggestions for more effective financial support for missions. But suppose that the pastor has a difficult time raising money for world evangelism. What is his next step? I would like to suggest four ways that a pastor can lead his church to be more conscious of missions. A greater consciousness of missions will generate a greater level of giving. Informing the head stirs the heart, and, as Jesus taught us, the heart and the treasure are often found in the same place.
First, focus on missions in the purpose statement of the church. Why does your church exist? Does it exist to glorify God? If so, by what means? By edifying the saints? How else? It seems to me that any statement of purpose for our churches needs to include something about our part in the global work of God. We are called to be a Great Commission church, so how can we express this to our members and those who may wish to join our assembly?
A simple statement of purpose that includes world missions is a good place to start. “Our church exists to glorify God by teaching believers to love God supremely and love the world redemptively.” It need not be a long, cumbersome statement, but if world evangelism is woven into the church mission statement, then the church will need to consciously and periodically evaluate how well it is advancing that purpose. From the statement should flow a series of objectives that will help the church measure just how they are progressing in meeting their stated purpose.
Second, focus on missions in the church schedule. How often should a church have a missionary into a service? During which service should they present their work? Should the church hold a missions conference? An annual conference? It is not my place to answer these questions for your church, but the amount of missionary face time in the services will say something about the missions emphasis of the church. Some pastors are very generous with their pulpits and have an open door policy to missionaries. Missionaries preach regularly and might fill the pulpit while the pastor is away. While this has value, it can reach a point at which it is actually counterproductive. What does the church accomplish by parading missionaries through its services for brief encounters without apparent rhyme or reason? Using a missionary as a pulpit supply may help the exhausted pastor have a break while doing little to promote missions in the church. It will do still less to encourage the missionary. Of course a missionary who is well-known to the church would make an excellent supply preacher, and few missionaries would object to simply being pulpit supply. But perhaps there is a more strategic way to emphasize missions through their presence.
An annual conference during which several missionaries present their ministries will allow the church to highlight missions in a more focused way than it might during the rest of the year. The conference could be a single week or a series of Sundays. The pastor can bracket the meetings with preaching geared to preparing for or wrapping up the conference. As I mentioned previously, I intentionally took the Sunday after our missions conference to preach on stewardship, suggesting ways we as a church could be more involved in what we had just heard.
Put the missionaries in the main services of the church. Some pastors are reluctant to “surrender” a Sunday morning service to a guest missionary. I have never really understood this thinking. I wanted to expose the largest part of my congregation to missions. Consider giving a missionary the whole Sunday, especially if he is a supported missionary. Have him in multiple times if he is available. If you are careful about not simply flooding the pulpit with missionaries, you should be able to give them better exposure to the congregation.
The church schedule needs to be able to accommodate reports from a supported missionary. If the schedule is so full that you cannot have a supported missionary on short notice, then perhaps the missionary usage in the church needs to be evaluated. In our small church, we tried to have one missionary per quarter. Then if opportunity arose to hear from a missionary we were familiar with, giving them pulpit time was not seen as flooding the church with missionaries merely to lighten my preaching load. By careful screening and thoughtful planning, we found we could do more for the good missionaries we had into our services.
Third, focus on missions in the church bulletin, blog, social media platform, and any other communication tools the church employs. There was a time when the church bulletin or the Sunday announcements were the only way to inform the assembly of happenings in the church. However, most churches today have a significant internet presence. Highlight the church’s Great Commission focus on these public sites. Some missionaries will not want to be put in the public eye, such as those who work in restricted access countries, but many missionaries work in countries where there is no fear of recrimination. The church could highlight its “missionary of the week” on the front page of its website or on its Facebook page. It can certainly promote upcoming speakers or mention particular needs and urgent prayer requests. Keep your missionaries before your people. This will remind them to pray for the needs and warmly greet them when they visit. Nothing encourages a missionary any more than hearing, “My family prays regularly for your ministry,” when they come to visit in your church.
Finally, focus on missions in your church décor. Many churches have a missions board. If you have one, keep it current and looking attractive. Don’t leave missionary letters on the board that are more than a couple of months old. If necessary, ask your missionary for current news and a recent picture. Better no picture than a picture that is out of date. When the missionary family grows, ask for a new picture. Again, modern technology makes the acquisition of the updated pictures easier. Even better, consider hanging a smart television in the church foyer and use that to call attention to your missions family and your global vision. Technology has progressed rapidly in recent years to where churches can have an attractive presentation with only a small investment. World maps, flag displays, the pictures of the missionaries can all be helpful if the displays are current, fresh, and thoughtfully presented. How old is the map that your church has on display? Keep whatever you are using current to show your church and visitors that you are interested in world missions today, not fifteen years ago when the display was first hung.
This essay is by Jeff Straub, Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Not every one of the professors, students, or alumni of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.
Ponder Now the Hanging-Tree
Jesse Van Der Molen (1984–)
Ponder now the hanging-tree:
Blood-strewn beams and nails to pierce.
Perfect hands and feet we see,
Wrath of God so full and fierce.
For His bride this Groom is slain,
Cleansing her from every stain.
Garments white and pure she wears,
By His torment, death, and tears.
Pleased was God to bruise His Son,
Crush Him and put Him to grief.
He the Lord’s anointed One,
Killed between murd’rer and thief.
In His death my death does cease,
Granting me all life and peace.
Carried sorrow all my own,
Reaping, He, what I have sown.
In the rending of this veil,
By the tearing of His flesh,
Finally our prayers avail,
Reaching God in righteousness.
Death of death—for me He died.
Death in life He thus denied.
Walking now in light of light,
Proving what is good and right.
“It is finished,” is His cry.
In the darkness and the gloom,
Quaking earth and blackened sky,
Saints go forth from opened tomb.
Understanding strikes the guard:
“Surely, He’s the Son of God!”
Praise the Father, Son, and Ghost,
Evermore and ever-most.