Two stories illustrate the impact and influence of a pastor “getting missions” in his vision for the church. A few years ago I asked a local church pastor out to lunch. My purpose was to find out what their church was doing in missions and if I could help them. I had visited his church; I knew nothing beyond the minimal routine denominational missions obligation was happening there. After we’d eaten, I asked, “What is your missions vision for your church?” His face was blank. I don’t think anyone had ever asked him that question before. After a thoughtful pause (it looked like his mind was racing to come up with an answer), he replied, “I think our church has been very successful in evangelizing our community. I think we should plant some other churches just like ours in nearby areas.” I could tell that he felt satisfied with his answer. It seemed like he thought, “See! That’s a great answer!”
Then again, I hadn’t responded yet. I wanted to compliment him. I realized that he was a pastor for which missions was only a possibility. I could tell that he wasn’t sure where this was going. So, I said, “That’s a great start! You can use local church planting as your laboratory and internship process to train people to plant churches all around the world.” You could have knocked him over with a feather. He looked like he’d just had the wind knocked out of him. Fast forward: Six months later, while visiting this dear brother’s church, I found in the lobby a freshly printed missions vision statement. It stated, in essence, “Our church is going to plant other churches, locally and overseas. We’re going to get experience here that we can use to deploy missionaries around the world.”
John Piper tells this account of his own growth in missions “ownership.” When he first came to Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, it already had a missions program with an annual missions conference planned well in advance. Being the typical, well-disciplined pastor at the time, he decided that the annual missions conference week would be a good week to take a vacation. One year, just weeks before the conference, the missions committee came to him to insist that he stay. The planned keynote speaker couldn’t make it at the last minute. They urgently needed him, the pastor, to be the speaker for the week!
Let me interject here, while this was an unplanned incident, it was a genius stroke of Providence. I’ve often wondered if the situation couldn’t be duplicated in other churches. i.e. – Could you try doing this same thing with your pastor? Maybe you should consider asking your pastor to preach on missions!
Back to the story: Piper panicked! He had little or no experience in preaching missions. But there was no way out. The vacation was shelved; off the shelf came the Bible and commentaries to start studying. He shuttered himself into his study to do the tedious work of preparation on short notice. What happened? God spoke through His Word! John Piper got it! His whole perspective on missions and his role was transformed. His classic book on the supremacy of God in missions, Let the Nations Be Glad was the result. An enduring result was a determined change in the purpose, vision, and values statement of Bethlehem Baptist Church — pushing missions into a clear passion of the church.
Does the pastor’s vision for missions affect the church? Absolutely. Do whatever it takes to capture a passionate vision for missions in your own heart for the sake of your church!
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