missions


JD Grear is advertising a missions conference at Northwood Church, in Keller, TX called Global Faith Forum.

Pastor Bob Roberts has a number of WORLD leaders… Prince Turki of Saudi Arabia, representatives of the State Departments and Muslim republics around the world, etc at his church to talk about the needs of people around the world and how the church can be instrumental in meeting them.

The speakers include Prince Turki of Saudi Arabia, representatives of the State Departments and Muslim republics around the world.  To be an effective witness to the world, we need to know what matters to them.

What caught my eye was the strategy for reaching out:

rather than start with the head, and try to get to the  heart, we should start with the hand (serving together with Muslims, etc to meet needs of Muslims), which will win us into their heart, which will allow us the opportunity to discuss things with the head (about issues of disagreement in faith, etc).

What can your congregation do to reach the hands of your target group, in a way that you can engage their mind and turn their heart.

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What does it mean to  be ‘missional’?  Is that different from being ‘mission-focused’? Does it matter what you call it?  Does it matter if you do it?

I’m not sure the difference between being missional and being mission-focused.  I suspect they are at least close to one another.  Both move a congregation to being aware of missions, and into actually participating in missions.

I know from experience it starts with being aware of the need.  It means going deeper than just ‘bless all the missionaries over there’ to knowing about what a specific missionary does day to day in relationship with a specific people group.  The congregation begins to pray for and to give  donations to that specific missionary over and above the generalized denominational offerings.  Finally someone breaks out and goes somewhere.  Over time, if nurtured properly, the whole congregation gets behind the movement and a sizeable portion of the congregation gets involved.

It’s transformative.

In almost every case, it pulls the members closer to one another and closer to God.  They get a sense that what they are doing is important, and if they didn’t do their part, people would starve or die from disease, and people would go to hell without Jesus.

Perhaps the difference I’ve seen are those that focus their attention on the unreached peoples elsewhere in the world, and those that serve the forgotten, abandoned and estranged people in their local community.  Both are important.  Both should be celebrated.  And people need training in how to be ‘on mission’ in both locations.

Enter Church Publishing Incorporated (CPI), a publishing source for Episcopal support materials.  The story I get from the CPI press release is that their initial offering is five books of practical wisdom.

  • Starting from Zero with $0: Building Mission-shaped Ministries on a Shoestring, By Becky Garrison
  • Mission-shaped Church: Church Planting and Fresh Expressions in a Changing Context
  • Mission-shaped Parish: Traditional Church in a Changing Context, by Paul Bayes, Tim Sledge, John Holbrook, Mark Rylands, and Martin Seeley
  • Mission-shaped Spirituality: The Transforming Power of Mission, by Susan Hope
  • Mission-shaped Questions: Defining Issues for Today’s Church, by Steven Croft

I haven’t read them, but the titles seem interesting.  (I just received Becky’s in the mail this weekend.)  If you’ve read one or all, let me know what you think.  If you want to get a copy, they are available from the CPI Bookstore.

One way to get a church moving is to be involved in the lives of people outside your congregation.  Mission trips are great, but for those that aren’t ready to go, you can “spiritually adopt” someone who  has gone.  Like Radical John:

 

Dr Avery Willis, one of the undisputed heroes of Baptist Missions, is again championing the campaign called Great Commission Resurgence (GCR).  GCR is a reminder that 90% of the world is lost in sin, and 1.5 Billion people have little or no access to the Gospel. 

Dr Willis has himself been a missionary, to Thailand, and the head of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board (IMB).  It was his compilation of disciplemaking materials “MasterLife” that had such a tremendous impact on my spiritual growth.  So when he reminds us that “less than one tenth of one percent of Southern Baptists become missionaries,” we listen.  And when he says that “97.5% of the money in the offering plates stays at home and only 2½ % gets to the rest of the world,” it gets our attention.

The GCR Task Force is due to report out what the Southern Baptists ought to do to reach our world.  It worries him when he thinks what he’ll hear.  I think Dr Willis is worried that we will create another program, but not really motivate anyone to do anything about it. 

I ‘ve been addressing this as a common theme for some time.  On Dec 4, I told you about the 7 Deadly Sins of a Dying Church – number 4 is an inward focus.  Unless a church is focused outside its walls, it is in danger of dying as a congregation.

My recommendation is to start with prayer for an unreached people group.  Pray that God will send missionaries there, and then pray for those missionaries.  Take up special offerings for them.  Treat them as if you are their home church.  Treat them better than their home church.  Take part of the church budget and send someone to that unreached place to gain first-hand knowledge of what to pray for.  Train every member of the church to share their faith and to become mighty in prayer.  Instill a desire in every one to pick up and move to the mission field.  (If they do, God will bring replacements or take you with them!)

The surest way to build a church is through prayer for missions.  It will grow the kingdom and grow the people.  And it will change your giving priorities.

Everyone wants the secret to keeping their church vibrant and growing.  What one thing to add to their program that will amp up the return on time investment and send visitors crowding into the sanctuary?

Those whose congregations are dwindling will settle for a moment of triage to stop the bleeding, to stabilize the outflow of members and attract fresh members.

For both cases, one simple answer is to stop focusing on yourself.  Packing the pews or gaining a big donor is not the answer.  The answer lies in the geography of Israel.

There are two main lakes large enough to be called seas: Galilee and the Dead Sea.  The first is a vibrant body of water, with vital fishing and irrigation industry.  The second will not support life.  Both have an incoming source.  Only one has an exit.

What keeps Galilee productive is the constant outflow of water.    The outflow is not the result of water coming in; water leaving drops the level of the lake, creating an imbalance, an opening for new water to rush in from upstream to correct for the drop. 

What the church needs is a viable outflow.  Note I said viable.  This is spirit-filled activity that engages the congregation in ministry and evangelism in ways that expend physical, spiritual and financial energy, without having to sever membership ties. 

For some, it is taking on a social cause:  a soup kitchen, a thrift store, an after-school program, a kids’ athletic league.  While good to do, they will generally not achieve a level of spiritual return commensurate with the energy expended.  The Return on Investment isn’t strong enough.

I’d suggest more purely spiritual tasks.  If you want a spiritual – and not jsut social – return, you need a spiritual investment.  The easiest is prayer walking.  Walk through the neighborhood and pray for each household.  Go door to door and offer to pray about needs they might have. (Write the need down, but don’t leave without praying on the spot.)

Missions is also a good approach.  Adopt a missionary or unreached people group and commit to specific, focused prayers for a substantial time (daily for a month, weekly for a year, etc.)  Pray for spiritual victories, for salvation of the people, for protection of the missionary.  Make contact with a missions representative about the region and learn what to pray for, and then be super-specific.

In praying this way, you will model Jesus to them, the way His disciples asked to be taught to pray.  They will grow spiritually.  The congregation will grow in unity of purpose.  The church will develop spiritually mature leaders.  And the drop in available spiritual energy will allow God to refill the reservoir with fresh resources.

I’ve been on mission this week.  33 of us from church went to New Mexico to help a local pastor in his work with the Navajo.  While most of the team led morning Bible study, a few of us did home maintenance.  The spiritual nature of our task was to “prepay” the use of the building and a witness to the community.

On Monday, we joined with a team from Georgia to put a roof on a community center.  There is nothing glamorous about spreading tar cement and nailing roll roofing in the hot July New Mexico sun.  (We went through a lot of water that day).    The three from Georgia had repaired the roof decking last week, and we joined them in finishing the job with cutting the ten rolls to size, cementing them down and nailing it in place.   By God’s grace, both teams were needed to finish, but neither knew of the other before we arrived.  They were leaving the next day, and we arrived just in time with the five additional workers  to complete the job.

On Tuesday & Wednesday, we painted a 2-story house.  There aren’t many 2-story houses in the area, and this one was at the top of a hill on the main road.  The hot sun had taken a toll on the siding, and it looked pretty rough.  The thirsty wood sucked in the paint, but the result was dramatic.  The owner (grandmother to the 10 kids and 3 other adults living there) was thrilled, and will tell the story of how the Baptists care for one another.  We bought access.

On Thursday, it was back to the community center.  Part of our team had begun to use it for Bible studies, and we painted the trim around the roof.  It made a great visual improvement, and helped cement the relationship between the local pastor and the members of that community.  Next week, the pastor will hold another Bible study there, and will begin to hold prayer meetings in the facility rent free. (The rent was paid by our labor.)

What was the spiritual nature of painting and roofing?  It bought access.  The Gospel will be preached in that community on the Reservation, on Navajo family lands, because of the efforts of 8 construction missionaries.

I want you to think about how you ask for money for church events, and what you are teaching the people when you do ask.

Are you teaching giving to God out of gratitude for your salvation?  Are you teaching a model of sharing what you have for the common benefit of all?  Both of those come from a practice of regular tithing – a weekly or biweekly or monthly share of your income.

Or do you fund the church with bake sales and flea markets?  (more…)

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