Let’s take the worst case scenario. Suppose you’re in a church which has never had a special missions event or celebration. Suppose your pastor and/or leadership has many other priorities over missions. Suppose your congregation is unacquainted with the concept of missions or skeptical about the rationale or benefits of missions.
Most church missions advocates wrestle with the difficulty of carving out enough time in the church calendar to give proper priority and visibility to world missions. So, it is not unusual problem.
Begin by thinking of the most fundamental issues. In order to get your desired end result, that is consistently getting a special missions celebration event into the church calendar, you need to build consensus support among the decision-makers. Come alongside your pastor/s and leadership in positive and encouraging ways, helping them understand the biblical basis, priority, and essential nature of missions. Take them to training and exposure events or missions trips to enlarge their vision and fuel their passion for God honoring, kingdom building, spiritual growth producing missions discipling of the nations. Don’t overload them with a mountain of trivial facts and statistics or an endless stream of unrelated missions stories. Don’t give them a stack of “key” missions books and magazines, which will probably end up alongside several other stacks of books and publications that other people in the congregation want them to read. Try to limit your submissions of materials and expectations to only the crème de la crème, top flight, impactful resources. Any time you get a chance to view, attend, and/or hear a quality missions presentation and then interact with your pastor or church leader about it’s content, that opportunity is priceless. Warm, friendly, sympathetic input over a period of time will win over your pastor and leadership to supporting a missions event in the church calendar.
How can we say this so confidently? It is because the word of God, read and studied objectively, unequivocally shows God’s heart for the world. No sincere believing pastor and church leaders can ultimately resist such compelling, living evidences of the priorities of world missions for the local church. Even church leaders who may be driven, however subtly, by self-serving, self-seeking motives for self-centered kingdom building, must eventually concede that the most substantial spiritual growth both in depth and breadth comes through a God centered missions driven focus. If church leaders are concerned at all about the spiritual helps of the church and growth of their members, they will make way for at least some annual missions emphasis event.
It may not be too much to share the anecdote of a nationally known pastor. This pastor is presently well-known as a man passionate for missions. He has written multiple books and preached in scores of conferences on the theme of biblical missions. But there was a time when he regarded missions as a side issue of the local church. Missions leaders of his local church conducted the annual missions conference while this pastor went on vacation every year. One year the missions leadership staff person approach this pastor insisting that he cancel his vacation in order to be the speaker for the weeklong missions conference because the planned speaker couldn’t come at the “last minute”. Though the pastor argued against it the missions leadership staff person’s insistence won the day. The pastor ended up canceling appointments and locking himself in his study to pour over God’s word and develop his messages for the missions conference. No one was more surprised than that pastor to find such a compelling depth of material, which he had never previously seen so clearly. The resulting messages were published in book form as Let the Nations Be Glad, by John Piper. That study change the direction of Bethlehem Baptist Church and the life and ministry of its pastor. And we all are beneficiaries of God’s grace through that transformation.
If you are struggling with the question of how to get missions events into the church calendar, don’t give up! Keep working in positive and constructive ways to help and educate your church leaders toward a Biblical missions mindset. Use whatever opportunities you have to slowly but surely grow missions in your church. Take what you can get and build on it with excellence so that your congregation, your audience, will love it and long for more.
Most churches today, if they have not already been doing it for decades, will not allow for the old-fashioned eight-day conference, from one Sunday through the next Sunday. Most churches today deal with the annual missions conference as a “long weekend” event, Friday through Sunday. You may be able to stretch the event through an entire week by providing resources and special opportunities to use the normal meetings and events of the church week in a special way for missions. E.g.- AWANA has a missions night, the use group features a special missions video, the young adults have a young missionary candidate present his or her work, the midweek service features a missionary report, Sunday school classes are populated by missions team members prepared to give great missions biographies, etc.
Some churches are able to designate one Sunday per quarter as a special missions emphasis Sunday. It may not mean that you get to have a missionary speaker each of those Sundays, but you may be able to give some special missions report or presentation during the service on those Sundays. It is particularly significant to the congregation when you can highlight missionaries whom they know and have relationship with personally. These are also opportunities to present missions projects and support needs as you build your missions stewardship commitments.
If you are finding resistance, don’t despair. Just keep doing what you are allowed to do; eventually the tidal surge of acceptance and expectation among the congregation at large will buoy up the leadership to a place of acceptance. On the other hand, it may be possible that your expectations are too grand or unrealistic. You may have to pare down your hopes to match whatever is most appropriate for your congregation and your situation. Again, prayer is a wonderful way of adjusting your attitudes as well as those of your church leaders. So pray. Trust God. Keep doing the right things.
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