Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. We're glad you've connected to episode 65 of Missions on Point. We're in the middle of a series called The Vision of Ascending Church. After going through V for values, I for identity. Today we're on S for strategy, which is a much misunderstood component of missions, leadership and direction for the local church. Please forgive me in advance if what I'm going to say here may offend you, but strategy is often neglected by godly people who claim that they want to have freedom to move as the spirit leads at the moment, rather than take the time communication, thought process and work that it takes to create a strategy or a strategic plan. Such thinking is irresponsible at best and perhaps sinful laziness. There is so much biblical teaching about taking responsibility and models in the Bible of legitimate and good long-term planning that smashes such a mindset to bits.

There's an old saying that says, if you aim at nothing, you're sure to hit it. And it's foolish to draw a bullseye around where your arrow has landed. So I want to say right up front, a strategy is important, it's biblical. The higher the stakes, the more people that are involved. You really need to have a well-thought-out strategy and communicate it well to your people. While our previous vision element dealt with identity of the church and its local environment, beginning to solicit information from connections further removed from the church. In our strategy section today, we're dealing with research regarding what kind of groups are out there that have the most spiritual need. I want to keep pushing towards the fact that the greatest need of unreached people is the gospel. It's not community development, it is not economic. It is not some form of slavery or oppression.

It is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Based on hints that you've already picked up in the identity section, now we're going to research unreached people groups and the needs of the gospel around the world. So look at some websites like,, and to get lots of demographic data. Take a look at your Operation World Book or website to find out some specific demographic data and interesting facts about how difficult it may or may not be to enter such a country or a people group.

Connect this information from your sources, from missionaries that you support or missions friends that you have that would lead you toward the stepping stones of developing a strategy for your church to be involved with that particular place out there. Still fresh in my mind is the scene of our missions team at our church passing around printouts of data of different people groups and countries that were yet to be reached with the gospel and praying for them and rotating the papers to the right as everybody sat in a circle and prayed for an extended time for these people groups that the church of Jesus Christ would be planted in their midst.

God used those times of dynamic discussion, prayer and consideration of the facts to narrow our focus and get us leaning in on a particular area of the world. Certainly you want to find resources from outside your congregation, actual field missionaries or people with field experience, perhaps a mission agency that you know or are friends with. Someone that has actual field insight and experience to help inform your decision. A field visit might be necessary by one or more of your leaders to ask people on the ground to get pictures and feel what it would be like to live in that target zone, if you will. Certainly gather information about others who may be doing similar work to what you seem to be projecting forward as your field strategic vision, even if they're not otherwise related or aligned with the church. You want to find out what is it like to live on the ground there?

What is the market for spiritual work, if you will? Many people ask, well, how long does this take? And I say, depending on how thorough and careful you are, it could easily take two to two and a half years, including sending a pastoral vision trip team to go and ask questions on the ground. It takes more time than you think, but it's worth the investment of the time and care and prayer to do it right. It might depend somewhat on the long-term missions experience of the church and disposition of the church in planning and research altogether. Again, I would say give a lot of prayer and open-minded information gathering. Have the congregation praying for you. Have your supported missionaries praying for you that God would lead you and help you make sound decisions. It does take some time to budget perhaps and raise funds for doing this kind of research and identifying key people or a team to do it.

Informed by your list of priorities which you created in the value section, now you narrow down the choices to perhaps two or three potential strategic focus ministries. If you've done the field visit and narrow it down to one, then you have to create clear goals and means for accomplishing those goals along with the time orientation. I remember developing a 25-year plan, which included suffering and potential martyrdom for missionaries in a particular area of the world. Understand that these goals then help inform you about the qualities and character of people who may be going as your missionaries. Not every part of the world is for every person. The strategy would include things like a specific methodology. Do we have to create a business in order to get a visa there, and how are we going to help our people do that? Do they actually have the knowledge and experience to operate and run a business in a cross-cultural situation?

How much will all of this cost, and what are the personnel costs and efforts and equipping necessary to be effective and faithful on the field for long term? In some cases, the church may want to entertain the idea of sending more than one unit, that is more than one family to the field. As a church-based team, realize that as time goes on, information and experience informs field realities and informs changes in the plan. Just because you created the plan doesn't mean that you should blindly move forward to achieve that specific thing no matter what. When in actuality real conditions on the field, real things happening in history and on the ground are going to shape the direction and refine the trajectory of what you're trying to accomplish. There are factors that are within your control and within your foresight, so to speak, and there are factors that are completely not within your control.

Our recent experience in social and political upheaval in revolutions around the world in wartime status and in pandemic have certainly significantly changed how we approach certain mission opportunities. I want to make a pitch to you as a church person and perhaps a church leader to distinguish between means and ends. That is, what is the method or strategy even that you use to achieve a certain goal at the end? Biblically, we know that the means of development of medicine, of sports ministry, of well drilling, of improving life of the nationals, of somehow creating an economic benefit for them and self-reliance, freedom in a various range of arenas in their life are not the end goal. The end goal biblically is to plant churches. You cannot fulfill the great commission without producing local churches. The planting of indigenous local churches should be the intentional priority of missions ministry in that end goal.

We like to say that the local church is the beginning and the end of missions. When you read the Great Commission found in Matthew 28 with an open mind, you realize that there's no way you can fulfill those verses without resulting in believers who are mutually committed to meet regularly together that have church leaders and observe the ordinances of the church and follow the teachings of the New Testament, including the commands of the one another's of the New Testament. In fact, one of the telling reasons why I believe so is that the people who heard Jesus express the Great Commission in Matthew 28 and the other gospels went out and planted churches everywhere. The Book of Acts, and all the letters after Acts assume that the locust of ministry is the local church. That's where the action is spiritually, and that's where God places groups of people to evangelize their own people group.

So whatever your strategy, whatever your end goal is in ministry, whatever your strategic focus, make sure that it has a conscious direct connection to the establishment of indigenous local churches among the people group in the field that's targeted. Now, the elements of a strategic plan or strategic focus are going to include not only what is that target area or people group, but things including the development of the personnel who will go and reach that people group, whether they are directly in your church or maybe that you come in contact with from other churches that you will support to attain that strategic focus. So the training and equipping of those missionaries, those global workers, is going to take a significant amount of time. You also need to have time for planning and liaison because you're probably not going to do it all by yourself. It would be inadvisable to do that.

You want to do it in coordination with other groups that are nearby and groups that will supply and resource your efforts toward reaching your strategic goal by supplying perhaps literature or language training or information on the field or the umbrella coverage for immigration and visa status. I don't encourage local churches to send people directly on their own, although some can and have done so, because local churches tend to overestimate their capabilities and underestimate the complexities of monitoring and managing someone living in a foreign culture thousands of miles away, and all of the financial human resources, shepherding and supervision and accountability, things that are connected with that kind of a commitment. Churches think that they're going to save money by doing it on their own, but they spend people, most often people who have little or no experience in doing those kinds of things that a mission sending agency might do for them.

You have to think through things like communication and security for people on the field. And then what are the steps that require transition from your home church to that cross-cultural field situation? It takes an enormous amount of effort to transition a family who is established in the states, have them equipped and trained properly to basically close up their house, sell their stuff, move, lose their job here in order to take the job of being a missionary there. Cross the mental, emotional and spiritual barriers, as well as physical barriers of transitioning into a completely new living situation, far removed from relatives, friends, family, church family, and the blessing and nurture that we often take for granted just being involved in our local church.

Add to that the effort that it takes to communicate with the church congregation in such a way that they own it, that they take responsibility. And the people of the congregation have their fingerprints all over this effort to take someone from your church and send them to an unreached people group and shepherd and love them in such a way that they can stay there long term, doing the work that God's called them to do. To win people, to Lord Jesus Christ through the gospel proclamation and forming a local church that is indigenous and will stay there long after the missionaries left.

Amen. May it be 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 prayerfully consider supporting this ministry. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

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