Audio Transcript:

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

I am so thankful for you listening to this Missions On Point podcast. This is episode 154. This episode is number 13 in a series in the big picture of the centrality of the local church in missions, sort of my working title for a book I'm working on. And these episodes are a preview chapter by chapter of that book. We're in a section called Restoring Missions in the local church, but my favorite way of referring to it really is repatriating missions to the local church. And this particular episode is going to be dealing with adopting a strategic focus. This is a very practical topic in the restoration of missions in the local church. For the local church to consciously and carefully, prayerfully adopt a strategic focus for their missions outreach. In the most recent episodes, we've walked through some steps that would help the church do a better job in missions. And the first is owning missions, and then clarifying the goal of missions and beginning to think about raising up missionaries for within your congregation.

Those concepts are huge for the local church to begin to wrap their hands around, owning missions and getting skin in the game by raising up missionaries from among their families to go out and do the work of missions on the field. This adopting a strategic focus is an important one as well. And I just grimace when I go into a church or I'm called by a church to go visit and help them in missions and see that, whether big or small, they have pins scattered all over the map. When you analyze what they're doing in missions, they're doing a lot of good Christian work in general, but they may not be doing the best thing for their church and for their people, and may not be doing the best thing even for accomplishing the task of missions because they're supporting all kinds of things. I remember a small church that said we like to support missionaries from all over the place because then we get a handle on what God's doing in the world.

The problem is they don't really have an in-depth relationship with those missionaries. They can't if they're only supporting them for 50 or $100 a month and a whole bunch of them. There was a church that I visited one time that was a large church and their goal in missions was to put a pin in every country of the map. We're talking about 200 countries. There is no way that their church family can actually have a personal relationship with and get involved in the ministry of that many missionaries scattered in so many different ways and so many different places and so many different types of ministries around the world. So my plea in this episode is please consider adopting a strategic focus. What do I mean by a strategic focus? The short answer is I'm hoping that the church will feel convicted and convinced that they ought to be looking toward helping complete the great commission by focusing on an unreached people group or an unreached language group that is taking the gospel to places that it just hasn't been before, perhaps needs additional reinforcement and missionary help in order to plant churches there.

In Propempo, we usually teach three different axes or three columns, or three rows, if you will, of how to determine who to support the most. And they go along the lines of relationship to your local church. It could be partly geographical to your local church, but hopefully it's raising up people within your local church. They have a higher priority and get a higher amount of support to go out from the church representing the church in missions ministry. The second line or access is priority or type of ministry. At the top of the line, we put church planting and development of indigenous local churches. That is training of indigenous leaders to continue to do church planting in their region or their language group. The third axis or column is access to the gospel that is unengaged, unreached people groups. Where there is no representative of Christianity there at all, they are the highest priority to reach.

And then unreached people groups or unreached language groups, which may have some presence, but a very weak church locally, and they need help to develop and grow and multiply local churches within their people group or their language group. So if you combine those ideas together, you begin to focus on where do we want to go? And it doesn't have to be something that you're already supporting. I'll get to the how in just a moment, but I want to start really with the scripture and show you that Paul's mindset was to always press to the edges of the reach of the gospel. So even in his own personal missionary ministry, being sent out from the church in Antioch, he went to Cyprus, and then these areas and provinces of the Roman Empire at the time, Lycia and Pamphylia and Pisidia and Galatia, Asia, Mysia, [inaudible] Macedonia, Achaea, Italy, and then goal to reach Spain. So in this concentric circles from Jerusalem to Dalmatia, he says, he continued to press toward the edges of the reach of the gospel. And I think that's what we ought to be thinking about today.

Let me show you from the scripture, Romans 15 verses 18 to 24. Paul writes this by the Holy Spirit, "For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the spirit of God. So that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum, I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ. And thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation. But as it is written, those who have never been told of him will see. And those who have never heard will understand. This is the reason why I have often been hindered from coming to you. But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have long for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain and to be helped on my journey there by you once I've enjoyed your company for a while."

Now, Paul made it very clear that he keeps pressing toward the edge. He systematically saw the gospel expand from Jerusalem all the way around to present day Croatia, and he makes it his ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, but to go to those places where they haven't seen and understood the gospel. So for that reason, he says, "Church in Rome, I expect to be helped on my journey to Spain by you," and that happens to be the Propempo word to send forward.

He says it in a slightly different way in his second letter to the Corinthians in chapter 10, starting in verse 15. "We do not boast beyond limit in the labor of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you without boasting of work already done in another's area of influence. Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord." Paul even hints of this outward push. In his letter to Titus, one of the last letters he wrote. He says in Titus three, verse 12, "When I send Artemis or [inaudible] to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there." Well, where is that? That's in present day Croatia. Apparently he was working with Titus after he finished his ministry on the island of Crete to penetrate farther north into Europe, through Croatia and up into what now we would know as Austria and Germany.

Now let's answer two central questions to this idea of a strategic focus. One is why, and the second one is how. So why? First is for the church to clarify its outward focus in cross-cultural missions. It's really important for the congregation to be able to wrap their hands around what is it we do in missions? Not that we do everything, but we do some things the best. We do some things really well. And a strategic focus does that. It doesn't eliminate every other thing that you might possibly support because of relationships or goals or connections you have, but it does mean that primarily, you're going to be focused on accomplishing the task of missions in a particular area. And over time, that could shift to be completing one area or completing what you consider your task in one area and moving on to another one and another one.

It also means that it doesn't have to be a specific geography or people group. It may be a particular type of ministry that is your focus, as long as, we have taught, it is connected to establishing local churches and raising up indigenous local churches in that area. The second reason why is to simplify things. Too many choices paralyze us. We need to simplify our choices. It doesn't imply that all the other choices are of less value, but they are of less value to you. When you make that choice. You go a particular direction for good reason. And God blesses that and you've made a great choice. You can't do it all, but you can do your slice of the great commission with excellence. The third thing is to amplify involvement. More people can get involved when they have it clarified. They can wrap their hands around it. The goal is simplified. They don't have to do too many things.

It's all focused around one thing. And you amplify the whole involvement of the church through having a strategic focus. Then how do you do it? First, I say simply survey your opportunities. Ask the missionaries and ministries you support, where are the edges of the gospel, where you are? What is the greatest need for seeing the gospel go to unreached or unengaged places around you? Look to your church relationships. It may be a church fellowship, or even a denomination. Is there some place that is the least reached that your church can adopt as a strategic focus? Secondly, survey your congregation. Who knows? Maybe you have some particular connections through business or ethnicity or relationships that would guide you to a specific place that really makes sense for your congregation. The third thing is to pray, which is maybe really the very first thing. You need to pray continuously that Lord would guide you.

And in fact, even your present missionary ministries and missions ministries that you support should be alerted, "Hey, pray with us because we are working toward adopting a strategic focus, and we want to do what God wants us to do, pray that we will make good decisions and have the right kinds of information. The fourth thing is field study. And by that, I mean gathering all the appropriate data. You can go to Joshua project or websites related to that operation world and others and learn some demographic data, some statistical data, some logistics data. I usually recommend that churches east of the Mississippi go east to Europe, Africa, whatever, and churches west of the Mississippi, go west. Now I realize there's a crossover point and transportation is such that it may not matter so much to you whether you go east or west, or even south. But logistically, it's easier and less expensive for your congregation to be directly connected with and support the ministries that are logistically more reasonable for them to reach.

I've worked with many churches in going through this process and simplifying and focusing on a strategic focus. It's been great for them to do. As they've walked through, they often adopt a strategic focus locally. This is the local ministry we're going to emphasize and get our people in involved in, and one that is nearby, that is perhaps cross-cultural but it's not too far away. And often, that is the place where a lot of short-term ministry teams go for exposure and experience before going across the ocean, so to speak, in cross-cultural ministry. And then lastly, it is that more distant one. They choose that one that's way out there in an unreached area of the world in order to have that impact, that results in a greater completion of the great commission. I know one church, pretty large church. And they couldn't really decide, so they had a ten-year plan.

They were going to have a strategic focus for a Muslim group for three years, and then a Hindu group for three years, and then a Buddhist group for three years, hitting the major segments of mankind that had not yet been reached. And in time, they actually did that, but they maintained their relationships with each of those three year segments while giving the largest promotion in communication for each three year segment in its time. In so doing, they really had a fantastic ownership of the congregation of those ministries because they communicated so well and were so focused as to know the people involved and the target people involved in that ministry. I strongly encourage you to prayerfully consider your church adopting a strategic focus in a way it is a game changer for helping your people understand, grasp, own, and take action on cutting edge missions ministry to fulfill the great commission.

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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