The senior pastor has an absolutely critical role in church missions leadership. When it is clear that the senior pastor is passionate about world missions, a synergetic effect enables the church to achieve missions goals above expectations. If the senior pastor does NOT value missions or, heaven forbid, sees missions as a competitor to his own ministry “vision,” then the local church’s missions efforts will be viewed as something peripheral to the life of the church. Many pastors who have experienced a change of heart in favor of a biblical missions vision for the church report that it had a major positive impact on their church’s health and growth. If there’s fire in the pulpit, there’s fire in the pew.

We have never had a senior pastor tell us that they don’t want to see missions functioning well in their church. The reflex response is, “Of course we want to be (or are) a missions-minded church!” There is an instinctive sense that missions is necessary and important, even though most pastors have had little or no exposure to healthy models of missions-focused churches, little or no training in missions organizational leadership, little or no training in the pervasive biblical foundation and support for world missions, and little or no exposure or experience with nitty-gritty cross-cultural field ministry concerns. The typical pastor has had only one course in missions history or church planting, and that one only because it was required.

Pastors sometimes assume that Acts 1:8 gives them license to use all resources to reach their “Jerusalem” first; then, progressively move out toward their “Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” However, the text indicates the command is to reach these areas simultaneously, not sequentially.

So, how then does a senior pastor grow in understanding and skill in this area? First, the pastor must have some openness to it. If the pastor is truly closed to owning his role in leadership of world missions vision in the church, that “demon” can only be cast out by prayer and fasting. Usually though, the pastor has just never been challenged to “lift his eyes to the Harvest.” He may never have been confronted with the joy and exhilaration of proclaiming the glory of Christ to all nations. Reading the right books can help. Check out the recommended titles in Propempo’s A-store. Finding a mentor can be a big help, – a fellow pastor who has walked that trail and learned valuable lessons and who has a church deeply involved in strategic missions. Here’s a true story to illustrate just giving your pastor a chance to be challenged by world missions:

I asked a local church pastor out to lunch. My purpose was to find out what their church was doing in missions and if I could help them. I had visited his church; I knew nothing beyond the minimal routine denominational missions obligation was happening there. After we’d eaten, I asked, “What is your missions vision for your church?” His face was blank. I don’t think anyone had ever asked him that question before. After a thoughtful pause (it looked like his mind was racing to come up with an answer), he replied, “I think our church has been very successful in evangelizing our community. I think we should plant some other churches just like ours in nearby areas.” I could tell that he felt satisfied with his answer. It seemed like he thought, “See! That’s a great answer!”

Then again, I hadn’t responded yet. I wanted to compliment him. I realized that he was a pastor in this first level: missions was only a possibility. I could tell that he wasn’t sure where this was going. So, I said, “That’s a great start! You can use local church planting as your laboratory and internship process to train people to plant churches all around the world.” You could have knocked him over with a feather. He looked like he’d just had the wind knocked out of him. Fast forward: Six months later, while visiting this dear brother’s church, I found in the lobby a freshly printed missions vision statement. It stated, in essence, “Our church is going to plant other churches, locally and overseas. We’re going to get experience here that we can use to deploy missionaries around the world.”

How can the senior pastor grow in his missions leadership?
  1. Don’t block missions progress. Don’t view growth in missions vision as competition for local ministry growth.
  2. Encourage excellence in mobilization through the Missions Team, Missions Leader/Chairperson, and/or Missions Pastor.
  3. Speak often in global terms of God’s glory and the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ and His Gospel among all nations.
  4. Pray publicly and privately for missionaries and their work.
  5. Read quality missions materials in balance with your other reading (or media).
  6. Ask for help in understanding missions. Attend conferences or workshops specifically aimed at developing missions ministry in the local church.
  7. Invite a Propempo staff person to consult with you and your leadership to sharpen effectiveness and resource your own skill development.
  8. Open lines of communication and relationship with your supported missionaries.
  9. With your missions leadership and the blessing of your financial leaders, plan to visit your supported missionaries on their field of ministry as an observer and encourager (not as a visiting star).
  10. Preach a world missions message at least annually.
  11. Enthusiastically participate in your church’s annual missions event.
  12. Challenge your people to consider missionary service as a legitimate vocational calling.