Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions.

Greetings and welcome back to the Missions on Point podcast, this is episode 198. Today we are talking about the missions path of the senior pastor of the church.  And while you may be a regular listener, but you’re not a senior pastor, don’t tune out just yet.  There’s something in this consideration for everyone.  And this is true for all of our missions paths.  While it may not be the particular path that you walk down for missions involvement, it’s helpful to be aware of how others in the body of Christ fulfill their functions.  What God has you doing will not be the same as what he has someone else doing, but we are all blessed when one member serves the whole body.  And this is especially evident when the leadership of the church takes up their responsibility to lead the church in missions.  If you’re not a pastor and you’re listening to this, you can pray for your pastor and encourage them when you see them taking steps down this path.  Point them to this podcast if you haven’t already. 

There are three aspects of the senior pastor’s ministry that I’d like to think about briefly here.  First, we will consider the priority of missions ministry in the church.  Second, we will think about the role of the Senior Pastor.  And third, we will think about how the Senior Pastor relates to the roles that other people in his congregation play. 

First, what priority should missions have in the church?

Before we talk about anything, we have to go back to scripture and develop biblical convictions about the priority of missions in the church.  It is our conviction at Propempo, and we hope that it is yours too, that missions is at the core of the church’s existence and purpose.  Missions is the heart from which all other ministry lifeblood flows. If you get the missions priority right, all the other priorities of the church will be in harmony and alignment; they will all more naturally have a vision and understand their complementary parts of the big picture.

Church leaders who see missions as a nonnegotiable priority for the church will find that everything else in the church will then find its rightful place and they will function better.  People respond with excitement to leadership that takes the focus off of themselves and puts a focus God’s kingdom first.  But if the church does not hear the leaders explicitly giving them an outward focus, then they are not going to get it on their own.  Missions should have the highest possible priority for a church.  It should be taught to every congregant in as many ways as possible. 

Therefore, missions out to enter into teaching and preaching all the time.  Of course, it should not be forced as an application of the text.  But, we would argue that the missions focus of scripture is there more often than is acknowledged and it is typically ignored in much preaching.  But once you start to see God’s glory being displayed among all the nations through the expansion of the church to all nations, once you start to see that as evident in the text of scripture itself, then you can’t unsee it. 

Second, what is the senior pastor’s role in missions?

The senior pastor’s role is critical for church missions leadership.  When the senior pastor is passionate about world missions, then the entire church can become energized to achieve missions goals above expectations.  But, if the senior pastor does not value missions or if he even sees it as a competition to the ministry in the church, then missions efforts in the church will be hampered and relegated to the periphery of church life.  If there is fire in the pulpit, then there’s fire in the pew. 

Of course, if you ask any senior pastor, they will agree that missions is important and that they want their church to be a missions minded church.  But many pastors have had little to no training in missions organizational leadership and little exposure to cross-cultural field ministry.  Acts 1:8 is sometimes invoked as a justification for focusing on their own Jerusalem first before eventually getting around to doing world missions.  But that passage is meant to be seen simultaneously and not sequentially.  It’s only sequential for the unfolding of the book of Acts, but by the end of the book, Christians should be going to all the world all the time. 

So, the first advice given to the senior pastor here is that he needs to be open to growing in his understanding and open to owning his role in the leadership of world missions vision in his church.  There are many good books to read.  Find another pastor who has experience in missions or leading missions in his church.  Pray publicly and often for missions.  And start to preach about it too.  God will work on the pastor’s heart just as he will the entire congregation through the preached word of God. 

The most important role of the pastor is his public and private ministry of the word and prayer.  He is regularly seen as the mouthpiece of the congregation.  Missions is heralded from the pulpit and that public platform is often closely guarded by most churches.  But putting missionaries and the support of their ministries in front of everyone is well worth the stage time.

Someone might ask, does the pastor have to be the leader of missions in the church?  And the answer is: absolutely yes!  The pastor is the leader of all spiritual growth in the local church.  If the pastor does not prize missions, the people will not either. 

But there is a word of caution and comfort here too.  The pastor does not have to be and he should not be personally responsible for all missions activity in the church.  There are likely plenty of other capable people in the church that can be called on to delegate responsibility to.  If the pastor focuses primarily on the biblical and theological basis for missions, in order to incorporate that into his teaching, he will have more than enough to keep him busy. 

So, it’s important that the senior pastor know how to manage his time and expectations on his time well.  He and his fellow elders need to work hard at preventing him from getting overwhelmed by missions stuff.  There is much that he can do to lead the way, especially in his teaching ministry.  But there is much that he should delegate to others and simply oversee as they fulfill the work.  That brings us to the third aspect of the senior pastor’s role in missions ministry. 

Third, how does the Senior Pastor relate to the roles others have in missions?

While we could enumerate a bunch of different roles that other people play in missions, I want to highlight three roles that everyone else fits into categorically in relation to the senior pastor.  Those three groups of people are the congregation, the church staff and the missionaries on the field. 

For the congregation, we have already covered much of the pastor’s role toward them.  The pastor leads and inspires the congregation through teaching the word of God and bringing them before God’s throne of grace.  The pastor ensures that the entire congregation is regularly reminded of their Great Commission call and that missions is always on their mind because scripture constantly leads us to it.  In this sense, for many people in the congregation, the pastor may be the first person to encourage someone to consider full-time missions ministry.  The pastor very often begins the discipleship process of a person becoming a missionary candidate.

The pastor though has a much more direct relationship with the church staff.  It’s easy for the church staff to take over the functions of missions in their church, but we need to strike a delicate balance here between the staff and the missions team.  The team should be primarily comprised of lay members in the congregation.  They are responsible for the missions vision, establishing the boundaries and direction for missions under the authority of the Elders.  The staff though can take care of operational matters: logistics, technology, communication, finances, promotion, coordination of hospitality, etc.  But policy, priorities, and major decision making needs to be left to the missions team. 

There is one staff member that the senior pastor needs to have a close relationship with when it comes to missions, and that is the missions pastor, should a church have one.  If there is no missions pastor, then these roles fall to the senior pastor.  We’ll talk more about the missions pastor in next week’s missions path podcast. 

Finally, the pastors – both the senior and the missions pastors – should understand their relationship to the missionaries on the field.  While the senior pastor should know the missionaries, the missions pastor is the main conduit of information flow back and forth.  He should have regular routine communication with each supported missionary.  He communicates important prayer requests to the congregation and the church’s vision for missions to the missionaries.  He is the first to greet missionaries when they visit and the main advocate for missionaries with the congregation. 

The pastor should visit every long-term supported missionary in their field of ministry, not as a guest superstar speaker, but primarily as a learner.  As a shepherd he takes interest in their life and the stresses they face.  He takes home with him the sights and sounds, joys and sorrows of the field and those experiences begin to be empathetically infused into the pastors sermon illustrations and prayers. 

Pastor, you set the spiritual barometer of your church.  The church will not likely grab a passion for mission more than you have.  We want to encourage you to see the pivotal role you play in leading your church in missions. 

We hope this missions path has been valuable to you.  You can find more detailed answers to these questions on our website, answering almost 400 frequently asked questions about your missions paths.  If you’d like, you can compile those questions from our website into a custom-made pdf.  Some questions have been pre-selected into common groupings, or you can just pick your own.  Also, on our website you can contact one of our missions coaches or find all of our almost 200 podcast episodes now addressing the missions topics you are interested in.  For example, we did a four part series on pastoral leadership in missions beginning with episode 12

If you’re a pastor, maybe even a solo pastor of a church, don’t worry you’re not alone.  We’re here to help you and give you resources you might need.  You are prayed for, and you are a vital part of Christ’s bride, the church.  We want you to be encouraged to continue to be faithful to God’s call on your life.  Jesus is the True Shepherd, and his word will not return void as you proclaim it to your congregation.  Trust him, and keep pointing others to trust in him too.

Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point. We trust that you'll find more help and resources on our websites at and We are so thankful for those who support us, enabling us to produce this podcast. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

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