Get a vision for missions
Beginning mission work or restarting a lagging program sounds difficult. But mission experts say it begins just as every other ministry, with a vision from the Holy Spirit and obedience to the call.
Mick Smith speaks to hundreds of people each year as senior director of the international office of MAP International, a non-profit medical missions organization headquartered in Brunswick, Ga. He encourages church leaders to consider their questions about mission work in their church as a calling and to answer them specifically in order to realize a vision. And that vision may begin with just one person.
“God can use you to make a difference in your church,” Smith said. “But it starts with your heart.” He also asks mission visionaries to describe how they sense God’s leading and where their faith fits in.
Stevenson and Smith encourage church leaders to write a draft of their vision statement for missions outreach and not to worry too much about how it differs from other church visions. “Don’t be disheartened if it’s not an exact fit with what your church has set out,” Stevenson said.
According to Dr. Russ Summay, a key volunteer with the Mission Ministry at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky., churches new to missions outreach should organize a committee of like-minded people and to listen to God, asking where to go and how to be involved. “We looked to see where God was working,” Summay said of a similar committee at Southeast.
He also advocates prayer and education for mission committee members as well as short-term trips. “I can’t underestimate the importance of that,” Summary said.
Ken Casey of World Vision’s HIV/AIDS HOPE (Hope, Orphans, Prevention and Education) also encourages church leaders to become intentional about becoming aware of missions needs and to make a point of learning and exploring for the church. Travel to other parts of the world is critical both in assessing projects and in kindling the desire to reach out from church leaders.
“Once they’re made aware of the reality, hearts get softened really quickly,” Casey said. “I would encourage church leaders to become aware.”
Research is also the first step the MAP organization recommends for churches looking to mobilize for missions. They recognize six steps church leaders can take toward building a missionary congregation:
Personally live out the missionary heart you want for your congregation.
Work and pray for the pastor and key leaders to develop a genuine and transparent heart for the poor, the blind and the broken.
Build a missions leadership team.
Form strategic partnerships with a congregation or agency outside your own cultural context. Partnerships should be centered on shared goals and fueled by God’s love.
Engage the whole congregation with hands-on service, missions communications
and involvement both locally and globally.
Don’t try to go it alone. Use available resources such as books, agencies, classes, grants, etc.
A vision for mission work may still fall flat for some members of a church; or, you may have a clash of visions. One body with many members often means different views of what missions outreach should look like in a church. According to Summay, that shouldn’t matter.
“Everybody in your church is not going to get the vision,” he said. “You may not have leadership on board. I don’t think that’s an excuse.”
Smith recommended missions “visioneers” pray for others in church leadership and the senior minister or pastor, “that God will create in them a genuine heart for the world.”