Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on Church and missions. Hello, this is episode 33 of Missions on Point. Thanks for joining us. This episode is one of the series on keys to effectiveness as a missionary. This one happens to be number eight in the series. I'm calling it A Future Vision. There's two primary elements I want to talk about. One is a future vision for the ministry itself, that is where is it going and what's the desired end result? We talked about that a little bit in terms of having a vision at all, but a vision beyond the immediate long-term goal to what is the larger future for the ministry. What I'm talking about is a difference in years, whereas some quote long-term goals end-quote, maybe play be planned for two years, five years, even eight years out, depending on the context and the type of ministry and the difficulties involved.

This future vision I'm talking about is more like 10 to 25 or 30 years. It's what do you do as you accomplish that long-term goal, what's happening next? The second element has to do with the missionary's work. It is basically an exit strategy. How do you plan to make yourself redundant in a way to leave graciously, cross the finish line, celebrate the victory, and move on? Surprisingly, these two elements are often missing with missionaries on the field. Even the Missionary Administration does not work with them, partner with them, encourage them, shepherd them, lead them into identifying these two elements. And in fact, these two parts of a future vision ought to be included in the very first thinking and planning for the work of the ministry, regardless of what type of ministry it is. Now, if the missionary is in a support role, it may not mean that they are being replaced by nationals that they've discipled.

It might, but it might not. It might mean finding a replacement for yourself among other expatriate or foreign nationals working as missionaries in that role. It's always a concern to think about what is the future beyond the large immediate visionary goal ahead of you, and how do I replace myself? How do I work myself out of a job in such a way that the ministry continues on? It's said that the true legacy of a ministry is, does it continue in the same fashion or better than the original founding party to that ministry? Now, our focus with Missions on Point is missiology and ecclesiology. So if we're talking about the planting of local Churches as the [inaudible 00:03:21] of missions, that is everything in missions points toward contributing to that goal of planting indigenous Churches, then the future vision we're talking about is not just planting a Church, but it's seeing that Church grow in such maturity and vitality that it also is actively pursuing planting other Churches.

In some respects, the term that's used widely now among the mission agencies is to plant a Church planting movement or to grow and mature a Church planting movement. It's not just the first Church, it's the next village, it's the next province, it's the next sphere of influence. It's Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts. It is concentric rings of passion, influence, evangelism and ministry so that other Churches are planted just beyond the reach of the original planted local Church. It's an interesting paradox that missionaries come home to their home country and are expected to teach and preach missions to their home Churches. And yet so often they fail to actually teach and preach missions to the Church that they're planting or have planted. Somehow it seems there's something like blinders on about seeing the Church being mature enough to actually produce leaders in such a way that it also desires to plant other Churches and to send missionaries.

I won't speak in this episode of the idea of how do you draw that finish line. Typically, for a pioneering Church planter, the finish line is a little closer than they actually think because not all the programs and events and things that are attributed to their home Church have to be reproduced in the same way in the planted Church overseas. I'll save that for another episode. To my thinking, this is one of the keys to effectiveness as a missionary, is to see the long view, have the really big perspective. Try to get a God-sized view of the whole picture, not just the nitty-gritty details that you're waiting in day by day and week by week in the ministry. But have a long vision, a future vision for what the possibilities are for these people and for this ministry, this work, this Church, that you're seeing God grow on the field. Simultaneous to that must be the concept that the missionary is not going to stay forever.

I almost resent missionaries who go and build a kingdom so that they become the more or less permanent pastor of a foreign speaking, foreign culture Church, and not turning it over to the nationals that they've raised up under their ministry. All they've done is they've transplanted themselves as a pastor with foreign support, by the way, in order to minister and be the lead pastor or senior pastor, teaching pastor of the Church that's planted. Instead of having a future vision, which incorporates a strategy for them leaving by preparing leaders in such a way that their leaving is not a particular loss to the Church, except in heart terms of friendship and relationship, but not in ministry. So in the context of our flow of keys to effectiveness, these are building blocks. There is a clear biblical vision for what the end goal should be. Then there are simple priorities for day-to-day, week to week things that keep you on track and help you define the priorities and lose the things that are going to bog you down and keep you from achieving that.

But now, we're looking at this future vision beyond the initial vision of seeing a Church planted. Which is hard enough, I grant you. But seeing a future vision and praying for that, seeing God work it out in such a way that the Church is reproducing, multiplying itself and involved in mission work locally and perhaps across cultures, as well as the missionary finding their way to leave the ministry in the hands totally of the nationals with whom they've been working. So let's make this a little personal. It is perfectly okay for you or your Church or your mission's leadership of your Church to ask your missionaries, what is your long-term future vision? How will you know when you reach the finish line? What are you doing now that will help you achieve that goal of being able to leave the ministry in the hands of others?

Does your future vision goal include reproducing Churches and/or ministries of like kind in other places? What kinds of things are you teaching the people that you're working with to prepare them to achieve that goal? The same kinds of questions could be reflected back on us, on our Church here in the States. What is our future vision? Is it just growth in general? Growth in numbers? What kind of growth? How do you measure growth? Spiritual maturity, producing leaners, discipling people in depth, the spread of the gospel across your metropolitan area? Is it planting Churches? How much growth is legitimate and how much is internal focused? In our Church in the United States, it seems like so many Churches are internal focused. It's about us and me and what we're doing, and not so much about spreading gospel ministry to other places except perhaps through our missions budget.

Churches that are extremely self-focused on themselves, their programs, their events, attracting people to their Church, attracting non-believers, end up having problem after problem after problem because they don't have a solidly built regenerate membership. They're more about growth in general instead of spiritual growth in particular. And hey, the same thing could be said about us personally. What are we interested in? What are our goals? Is it about me and mine? Is it about us versus them? Is it about how we get along and not how we spread the gospel of the good news of Jesus Christ to others in our sphere of influence? Is it about creating a notch on our belt or somehow measuring up to some external metric of spiritual success? Rather than reproducibility and building in other people to the point that our ministry becomes a stepping stone toward further ministry into the future, even to the time when we are not around anymore.

This thing about discipleship being the core of the Great Commission has application for us here. And the future vision of that includes passing the baton, defining that finish line, moving on, and doing it again and again and again. So these two elements are the part of this key of effectiveness as a missionary for a future vision. The first is reproducibility, that there is a plan for the ministry to reproduce itself in the future. If that's a planted Church, then that means that Church gets involved with Church planting themselves. Secondly, defining the finish line for the missionary worker themselves in that particular place. For some missionaries, that may mean going to another unreached area to plant a new Church there. For other missionaries, it may mean learning from their experience to help others and coach or teach or lead them in similar ministries. It's always a good thing as a Church or personally to ask ourselves the question, what do we see God doing with us?

What is the future vision goal for us in 20 years, 25 years, 30 years from now. And take steps now that help lead toward fulfillment of that future vision. I should add, it's not presumptuous of the Lord to say we have these plans. What it means is those plans are not cast in cement. And that we are sure to go for that no matter what, because as time goes on, more information is our friend to help us amend or change or redirect the trajectory of that future vision to match up with reality. We're always open to God's leading, but it is better to have that big future vision goal and march toward it so that God can lead us and direct us, instead of waiting for some supernatural sign somehow to tell us what we ought to be about when there's plenty to be about right now heading toward that future vision.

It's related to that old adage, if you aim at nothing, you're sure to hit it. But biblically, there's lots of examples of planning for the future and taking steps toward accomplishing that end. I'm thinking of the Temple of Solomon in particular. David had plans for it, apparently architectural drawings, and began gathering materials long in advance of its actual building after his death. That is a future vision passed down to the next generation. That's the kind of thing we're talking about. So I would encourage you to prayerfully and respectfully ask these questions of your missionaries. Ask these questions of your Church leadership. Ask these questions of yourself. Expect God to lead and guide you in formulating what that future vision should be. May God bless us as we do so. 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, Please preferably consider supporting this ministry. Now to God be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

Comments (0)

Please login to comment.

Register for an account