Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on Church and Missions.
Hello, thanks for listening to episode 53 of Missions on Point. Over the next few episodes, I want to talk about some of the primary questions that churches have for us when they call. Usually, it's in some form of distress, and so I've titled each of these next couple of weeks 'Help with such and such an issue', and I hope that you'll find it not only interesting and helpful, but fun to recognize these issues, both in your own church or in other churches. We actually get these questions with some frequency and they're from the top questions that we get. If you want to submit questions or comments, please do email us email@example.com is the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for doing that.
The first help call is, 'Help. We have no missions focus.' Ironically, if you don't understand what this help call is, you may have this same problem.
The call kind of comes like this. 'Please help us. I'm the pastor or missions leader of our church and I'm looking at our missionary map on the wall. It doesn't seem like there's any coordination between any of the pins on the map. Our missionaries don't all go to the same place or the same kind of ministry. Sometimes we don't even know who they are. Over the years, we've inherited missions or missionaries that we support. We have taken on support for different missionaries and they are literally all over the map. It looks like a shotgun shell exploded on the map, not a rifle target.'.
So, we ask some simple questions. Describe the missionaries and ministries that you support. Tell us what they do, where they are, how long they've been there, what are their goals? In fact, one of the easiest exercises for you to do, is to actually do that. Map them or use a chart. Find out what kind of ministry they're in and where they are. How long they've been doing it? What their goals are? Have they achieved that? What the future is in the relationship with the church? Or just how they are related to the church at all?
We've done this with many churches. It's sort of a revelation to see that perhaps a third or more of all of their mission support is going to local ministries. So immediately we see that they may have a problem with their definition of missions. Another background issue, which is very important, is do the missionaries and missions that you support actually align with and sustain the doctrinal statement of the church? So many churches have never even asked that question, and over time, missionaries are likely to be a little bit flexible in how they interpret things, so that even if they started out being in perfect alignment with your doctrine, over time, they may have shifted because of the influences they have had on the field. It's one of the first questions I get the church to ask of their missionaries is, do you actually agree with our church's doctrinal statement?
We don't want to be supporting things that are not in alignment with, parallel to our beliefs and our doctrine. Then, from your chart or thinking about your missionaries, you ask, "How are they related to the church? How did they originally get connected with the church? Is it because of some relationship within the church? Did they grow up in the church? Were they related to the pastor of the church at the time they came on missionary support or some member of the church? Was there a relational connection that makes sense for them to have a continuing relationship with the church and accountability to the church as one of their supporters, or perhaps even the sending church?" Then, the next area has to do with priority of ministry and the church needs to think about the priority of proclaiming the gospel, the planting of local churches and development of church leaders. National church leaders.
If there is a missionary that you support that is doing some other kind of work or "ministry" on the field, is it directly related in the chain leading to evangelism, church planting and leadership development? Besides those initial queries, you need to take a step back from the map and think about what is it that our church wants to accomplish? Is there a significant and specific focus that we want to have as a church? Do we want to be about Asia? Do we want to be about Africa? Do we want to be about Muslim work or Hindu work? Do we want to be about reaching unreached people groups, or are we content to do support of institutional type of ministries like schools and hospitals, clinics, those kinds of things. Do we emphasize or have a specific concern for humanitarian type of efforts? And again, how is that connected then to evangelism, church planting and leadership development?
Identifying and moving toward a strategic focus for the church missions ministries is not something that just happens overnight. It takes consensus and discussion among the leaders, if not, also the people of the church, to discern and find what is the place we want to go to in the future in our missions. Then to be gracious about how to move from where we are now to that preferred future vision and focus. It almost certainly means that the church will make some decisions that will impact your present ministry and mission support as you move toward more focus. If you have a third or more of your mission support going to local ministries, you definitely need to reevaluate your definition of missions. What does that mean and is it cross-cultural? Is involved in those priority ministries? Is it something that is making a contribution to furthering the great commission in specific ways or is it simply local evangelism and outreach? I would suggest that that's different than missions. So go back in an earlier Missions on Point podcast episode and find that biblical definition of missions and start applying that to the things that you support.
God has wired every church with specific relationships, background, skills, inclinations, even ethnicities that form bridges for strategic ministry. So as the church and its leaders think about what should be our strategic focus, need to take those things into account and figure out, is there some way in which God has specifically composed our church in such a way that we can make a unique contribution to the great commission by doing this strategic focus. Coming up with the answer to that becomes a huge blessing and joy to the congregation because it all feels right. And it does mean that you have to say no to other opportunities that are not in alignment with your church, with its priorities of ministry and its strategic focus.
In our own church, because we're known to be a strongly missions minded church, we get inquiries from missionaries all the time that are outside of our strategic focus. And I simply am able to explain, "Look, this is our strategic focus. We're not going to support you just because you're going into missions or just because you say and a mission board says that you're somehow called into missions. If you're not doing the things that are a part of our strategic focus and have a relational connection to our church in such a way that it makes sense for our body to wrap our arms around you and support you in every way, in loving, financial support, in emotional and pastoral shepherding support. In support of your family through years of effort on the field, for longevity and sustaining ministry over time, then we just don't have room for you on our missionary map."
And those missionaries who are seeking support most often reply with, "Thank you so much for being honest with us. We really appreciate your focus. We hope to be supported by people and churches that have a focus that matches up with our proposed ministry."
It's natural for any church to have whatever focus they had 10 or 20 years ago blurred by people who have not held the line on focus and instructed the whole church about that. I often get recommendations from our church members about this or that missionary that they would like to see us support. But they haven't really understood and embraced our church's strategic focus. So, when we start asking the questions of are they in doctrinal alignment, do they actually have a relational connection to our church? Are they doing the priority ministry of our ordered priorities? Are they in the range of our strategic focus to contribute in that way or not? And when they finally understand that they get it. And we don't get a bunch of recommendations from everybody in the congregation about people that they happen to know or be friends with or related to. And sorry to say, let me tell you, this is a hard thing to teach your pastor.
One of the predominant mistakes that are made by missions in the local church are the pastor has friends that he went to seminary with or knows from some past ministry experience that he would like to see his church support, whether or not they fit a particular strategic focus profile. I want to just tell you that's not a good thing. Because eventually, that pastor is going to move on in one way or another, and then the church does not have the same relational commitment to that missionary. If they're not in the strategic focus profile, having those things line up, there's no good reason for that church to continue supporting them.
So a pastor of mine calls those missionaries, FOPs, FOP, friends of the pastor. Just because they're a friend of the pastor, don't say yes to supporting them. In the meantime, you're training your pastor to say no, because he is actually one of the key gatekeepers of the church and its platform in very real terms. So who you've allowed to speak and present in church, even if it's on a weeknight or a weekend, those people become influencers in the mind and heart of your congregation, and the pastor needs to learn how to say 'no' to good things so that you can say 'yes' to the best things.
Now, it is my prayer that every local church and its leaders would understand that it is best for their church to have a strategic focus and understand what that is. It doesn't mean that everything fits neat and tidy because the world isn't neat and tidy. At the same time, if you have that guiding light as your future vision, then it's going to help with a lot of decisions and relationships and strengthen the church's resolve and commitment and involvement in missions.
We are going to get into some other 'nitty-gritty' help issues in the coming episodes. If you would like to chime in or give us your feedback, email us at email@example.com. Thanks for listening.
Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. I trust that you'll find more help and resources on the website, propempo.com. Please preferably consider supporting this ministry. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.
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