Growth Through Mission Emphasis and Action
By Bobbie Sorrill and Bob Banks
Every church, regardless of size, must be missionary. Missions relates to and is an essential part of a church’s mission or purpose. A church’s purpose or mission is to carry out the will of Christ in the world and to proclaim and apply His gospel. One definition of missions is: what the church does in keeping with the Great Commission of its sovereign Lord to extend its witness and ministry beyond itself (its community of faith) to bring all persons to Christ and to glorify God. In short, missions means proclaiming the gospel to the lost everywhere, both in the church’s immediate vicinity and to the ends of the earth.
The motivation for missions is clear. Each of the Gospels and the book of Acts report the commissions of Jesus (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:46-49; John 20:21; Acts 1:8). Based on the authority of Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, the believers were and are to make disciples of all peoples everywhere. They were to be witnesses “in Jerusalem, in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 18, GNB).
The Christian life and walk must be one of obedience to what Christ has commanded. Therefore, it includes obedience to his commands to proclaim the gospel to all people in the entire world. No Christian and no church is exempt from obedience to the missions mandate in the Bible.
Missions has been the heartbeat of churches across the centuries, beginning in the New Testament. It is interesting to note that the first missionaries, Barnabas and Paul, were sent out from the new (and possibly small) church in Antioch.
With varying degrees of zeal and success since New Testament days, churches have proclaimed the gospel. In 1845, the churches which formed the Southern Baptist Convention were bound together by a common commitment to evangelism and missions. Evangelism and missions still hold Southern Baptists together today.
In the late 1970’s, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a goal and a strategy to give every person in the world an opportunity to hear and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ by the year A.D. 2000, This strategy is called Bold Mission Thrust. It will take the commitment, energies, and resources of every Baptist and every church, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to reach the goal of Bold Mission Thrust. Is your church a part of Bold Mission Thrust?
Knowing About Missions Motivates the Doing of Missions
What should your church members know about missions which will motivate them to be involved? First, they need to understand thoroughly and to incorporate in their own lives the biblical basis of missions. The study of missions begins with the Bible, for the thread of missions runs through both the Old and the New Testaments. The Bible is God’s mission’s message to or plan for all people.
Missions originated in the heart of God. The Old Testament spells out clearly the predicament of all people because of sin. God began His plan of redemption by selecting and working through His covenant people. He promised a Redeemer. The New Testament records the revealing of the Redeemer-the life of Jesus, His teachings, His ministry and witness actions, His death and resurrection. The eternal purpose of God is for all persons to be saved. The missions mandate is clear. The mission of the church, made up of Christians, is to disciple all nations, to help all persons become followers of Christ. The mission is carried out by members as they minister and witness daily in Christ’s name.
Church members also need to be informed about what God is doing around the world today and about the needs of the world. This includes contemporary missions work-what missionaries are doing now in the church’s own community, the association, state, United States, and around the world. This is both direct missions and representative missions.
Direct missions is missions work a church does in its own location. It is proclaiming the gospel in the church’s Jerusalem. This might be ministering and witnessing to persons of special need or circumstance who are not members of the church or its programs and combating social and moral problems (mission action), personal witnessing, and establishing a church-type mission, a preaching point, or home Bible fellowship. Persons with needs are in every community. The church should discover and meet missions needs in its own community.
Representative missions is missions work done by a church through representative agents, usually called missionaries. These representatives are in the association, the state, or are missionaries under appointment of the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board or Foreign Mission Board. They come from Baptist churches and represent these churches in doing missions work the churches could not do alone. Southern Baptist churches have voluntarily agreed to work
cooperatively in missions work, thus reaching “Judea and Samaria,” and “the ends of the earth.” At the present time, there are approximately six thousand missionaries under appointment by the two mission boards. About one half of these serve in the United States, and one half serve overseas.
Since these missionaries represent our churches, the churches have the responsibility for supporting the missionaries and their work. Support means three essential things-prayer support, financial support, and personnel support. When asked what they would request churches to do to help their work, missionaries usually overwhelmingly ask for prayer support first. Prayer support for missions must intensify in tremendous proportions if the Bold Mission Thrust goal is to be accomplished.
Money is necessary if missionaries are to be sent and to do missions work throughout the United States and overseas. Churches cooperatively provide financial support for missions as they give through the Cooperative Program and to the special missions offerings (state missions offering, Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for home missions, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for foreign missions). In this time of rising inflation, more money than ever is needed for missions. Financial support for missions must intensify if Bold Mission Thrust is to be accomplished.
The representatives or missionaries come from our churches. They usually grow up in and are nurtured by Southern Baptist churches. They learn concepts, Bible knowledge, and Christian skills in our churches. If more laborers are to be provided for the worldwide harvest, reinforcements are needed. Bold Mission Thrust calls for at least doubling the number of missionaries now serving. It will be impossible for new missionaries to come forth unless each church provides an environment in which a person could hear and respond to a call to missions. There must be knowledge about missions in every church.
It is easy to see that when people know about missions, they undertake missions. Knowledge includes an understanding of the biblical basis of missions, the needs in the church’s community, the needs in America and the world, and what is happening today on the mission fields. With this knowledge and a desire to be obedient to Christ’s commissions, a person can
be involved in missions-locally through mission action and personal witnessing and across the United States and overseas through mission support and even going as a volunteer.
What does all this have to do with helping churches grow? As church members become involved in missions locally, the church may and should grow spiritually and may grow numerically. Obviously, as persons are obedient to the missions mandate in the Bible and become involved in the total missions effort, they grow personally and mature as Christians. Additionally, as churches enable missions work to be accomplished beyond the church’s own vicinity-around the world-they are involved in proclaiming the gospel – and starting new congregations.
Missions Organizations in Your Church
It has already been pointed out that missions is essential for every church and that when people know about missions, they undertake missions. But persons or churches do not promote or support missions automatically. Nor do they by some magic get involved in the church’s mission. Nor can or should you as pastor lead this effort alone.
In order to carry out its missions responsibilities and to be involved in missions, every church needs the two church organizations which can provide missions leadership: Woman’s Missionary Union and Brotherhood. Because of various approaches offered by these two organizations, every church, even the smallest, can have a WMU and Brotherhood.
WMU in a Small Church. There are at least two practical options for beginning or having WMU in a small church. These options are: (1) a one-woman WMU or simply having a WMU director, or (2) one or more age-level missions organizations for women, girls, or preschoolers.
Surely even the smallest church can find at least one woman who is willing to be obedient to the biblical mandate related to missions, to learn something about missions herself, and to help involve the church in missions. If so, you can have a WMU in your church. In essence this is a one-woman WMU, but it helps the church to have missions emphases and activities.
WMU work in a church can begin with one WMU officer, the director. Her election by the church is considered the beginning point in organizing a WMU.
There are several reasons a church may consider this option. It is a good way for a church with no WMU to begin WMU work. There may be few leaders available in the church. The church’s members may be widely scattered geographically, or the church may be new and small and must spend its major resources in building the fellowship and in outreach. If any of these reasons exist and there cannot be missions organizations, the church still needs a missions emphasis and activities.
How does a WMU function when there is only a director’? What does she do? Her major function is to lead the church in special missions emphases and activities. This relieves you as pastor of this responsibility since the WMU director does the detailed planning necessary to have a missions emphasis.
If the work is just beginning or the director is new, she might work with you on having only one missions emphasis the first year. There are some missions activities that are especially good ones to begin with. These include some kind of emphasis or event, perhaps during the Sunday worship services or prayer meeting, during the Week of Prayer for Foreign Missions in December or the Week of Prayer for Home Missions in March. There are resources, readily available, to give you ideas and helps related to the weeks of prayer. Another good beginning event is a study of one of the annual foreign mission study or home mission study books.
If the work is more developed and the church has had more exposure to missions, the WMU director might plan (or work with the Brotherhood director to plan) a churchwide missions event at least each quarter or lead in some kind of missions emphasis during times when the church is gathered at least once a month. She can choose from the numerous missions projects which are possibilities.
A second major responsibility of the WMU director is to start one of the WMU age-level missions organizations when the time is right. She should always be alert to this possibility when women or girls show an interest and there are enough prospects in an age group. Even when the small church has no missions organizations and she is in essence the only WMU member, she needs to have a vision for future possibilities. If the church is small only because it is new, it will grow. As there are more women and girls and more leader prospects, the WMU director can see that a missions organization is started. This leads to the second option for having WMU in a small church: missions organizations.
WMU work can begin in a small church with one age-level missions organization, even when there is no WMU director. It can begin with any age group-preschool, children, youth, or adult.
The church should be sensitive to the needs for even a small number of prospects to have missions experiences. If there is one little girl and a leader, the church can have Girls in Action. One teenage girl and a leader can form Acteens. A leader and one preschooler can make up Mission Friends. And two adult women can organize either a Baptist Women or a Baptist Young Women organization.
Do not overlook the possibility of beginning with one missions organization. This is a significant and worthy missions involvement in a small church.
These are the possible WMU age-level organizations:
– Mission Friends for boys and girls birth through five or school entrance (Resource: Start).
– Girls in Action for girls six through eleven or in grades one through six (Resource: Aware for leaders and Disc very for members).
– Acteens for girls twelve through seventeen or in grades seven through twelve (Resource: Accent).
– Baptist Young Women for women ages eighteen through twenty-nine (Resource: Conicimpo).
– Baptist Women for women ages thirty and up (Resource: Royal Service).
WMU provides curriculum materials for each of these organizations in the form of missions
The church can combine or adapt organizations any way it needs to. For example, all women over eighteen can be in one organization; and it can be either a Baptist Women or a Baptist Young Women organization. This decision probably needs to be based on the ages and interests of the women involved. When combined, they use the magazine prepared for the organization they have chosen to be. It is not necessary to have all of the officers or to do everything suggested in the materials. The primary things to keep in mind are that the purpose of the organization is missions and that there should be a balance between mission study, mission action and personal witnessing, and mission support.
WMU missions organizations provide a number of ways for members to be involved personally in missions. In Girls in Action and Acteens, members can work on the individual achievement plans called Missions Adventures and Studiact. All of the missions organizations encourage and provide opportunity for individual mission study, individual mission action. personal witnessing, personal prayer for missions, and other individual mission support activities.
There are many examples of small churches with missions organizations which have greatly influenced lives. From a small church in South Carolina several years ago came one of the Acteens National Advisory Panelists. Each year the Woman’s Missionary Union of the Southern Baptist Convention selects six topnotch Acteens from across the United States who have met rigid standards. The girl from South Carolina was named Cindy. Cindy was a member of a small church and an Acteens organization with only two members, Cindy and her leader. The two of them met regularly to discuss the missions material in Accent magazine. They did mission action projects. They shared missions with the congregation. Cindy achieved levels in Studiact and they consistently tried to enlist into Acteens the few other girls who were prospects.
Consider the following suggestions to begin involving your men and boys in missions and ministry.
– Needs are the first consideration, though some kind of organization may develop later.
– Large numbers are not needed to begin.
– Success or effectiveness is not measured by numbers or meeting attendance.
– A meeting is not the end goal.
– What is best for another church may not be best ‘ for you.
– Although you may start with a small group. your ultimate aim should be to lead all men and boys in your church to be involved in missions.
Study the following ways for beginning and conducting men’s and boys’ mission work in a church. Select the best approach for your church, and begin to use it.
In churches which want to involve their men and boys in missions until units can be started, the Brotherhood organization may have only a Brotherhood director. He should be elected by the church to involve all men and boys in mission learning experiences and mission activities. He would serve on the
Here are some ways one man can lead men and boys in missions:
– Church council.
– Plans missions studies for men and boys or a study together with women and girls.
– Plans special missions Sundays at least once each quarter.
– Plans annual observances of Baptist Men’s Day. Royal Ambassador Week, and Cooperative Program Day.
– Men and boys of the church can be called on to give testimonies, to sing, and to lead out in a variety of services for the church.
– Organizes efforts to take boys to places where they can have missions learning experiences and have a fellowship with the men of the church.
– Involves men Wall women in mission activities. a Several mission projects can be conducted and mission action groups established.
– Distributes World Missions Journal to men and Crusader and Probe magazines to boys. These magazines can help inform men and boys about missions and encourage them to support missions.
– Encourages the church to have a Lay Renewal Weekend, lay-led revival, or any type activity where people can become acquainted with the idea of lay involvement on behalf of mission causes.
– Plans missions tours for members of the church. People who see missions at work as they travel usually become strong supporters of missions.
– Discovers areas of community missions needs and leads church members to meet the needs. In such cases the one-man leader becomes the coordinator of those missions services.
– Organizes prayer meetings on behalf of missions.
– Encourages men and boys to be good stewards in support of missions.
– Involves men and boys in World Missions Conferences sponsored by the association.
Baptist Men is a fellowship of men in the church eighteen years of age and older, who are organized for mission learning experiences, witnessing and ministering activities, and missions support activities.
Large numbers are not needed for a Baptist Men’s unit. Two or three men can begin a group and work effectively in missions. Look at your needs and interests, and select one of the following approaches.
The study-fellowship approach is more broad based and inclusive than other approaches. It involves regular meetings (weekly or monthly) and use of mission study programs. Men participate in regular missions activities in addition to the meetings.
The mission action approach is action oriented, engaging men who wish to he involved primarily in witnessing, ministering activities. Such a group may start with just two or three men meeting one particular need in the community.
Men who participate in the prayer approach meet regularly or at special times to pray for the church, church leadership, missions. lost men in the community, and other needs. Men in these units are involved not only in prayer meetings but also in mission activities.
The witnessing approach appeals to men who are interested in and gifted for evangelism. Their outlet for this interest may be in direct personal witnessing in their own community or in serving on lay-led revival teams. A Baptist Men’s unit can he established in the church to provide a continuing organized group for winning persons to Christ in support of the church’s outreach in the community.
Lay renewal is an overall strategy called “a journey into life-style evangelism and ministry.” It is a church-centered process of continuing small-group activities and discipleship programs directed toward helping a church develop its own strategies for lifestyle evangelism and ministry.
Royal Ambassadors is a missions program for boys in grades one through twelve. Royal Ambassadors has two age-graded divisions. Crusaders is for boys in grades one through six, and Pioneers is for boys in grades seven through twelve.
The “pastor as resource” approach is designed especially for the small church. A small church may need or be able to have only one Royal Ambassador chapter and one leader. Many times the chapter counselor in a small church finds himself serving as the only leader for long periods of time and without the help he needs to function at his best. In these situations the pastor, or someone selected by him can serve as a resource and support to the counselor. The pastor or elected person, in effect, functions as the Royal Ambassador committee.
The Two-gether Plan allows boys to be Royal Ambassadors on an individual basis. There are many churches that may have only one or two boys of Royal Ambassador age and do not feel they can have a regular chapter. The Two-gether Plan brings into working relationship a boy who desires to be a Royal Ambassador and a man or woman who will agree to serve as his counselor to help him in spiritual growth.
The counselor’s principal duty is to help the boy pass his advancement work through the use of an advancement book and to help him learn about current missions through either Crusader or Probe magazines. This may he done in a weekly or monthly meeting with the boy.
The church has the ultimate responsibility for providing missions education for boys. However, if men cannot be secured as leaders or if it seems to be more feasible at a particular time, the WMU or some other organized adult group may initiate or may be asked by the church to lead Royal Ambassadors.
Some churches may not feel they have enough boys to have an organized chapter. If there is a girls’ mission group but no boys’ group, the WMU director may take plans to the church for approval to involve boys with girls in missions activities. The Brotherhood director may do the same if no girls’ organization exists.
Such joint missions activities might be planned periodically until a Royal Ambassador chapter can be organized.
The basic approach to Royal Ambassador work involves the election of a Royal Ambassador director and committee. This is the best approach in starting and operating a Royal Ambassador program.
Special Missions Emphases and Activities for Your Church
WMU and Brotherhood age-level missions organizations are the best avenues for ongoing, regular, consistent, in-depth involvement in missions. Their goal is to involve every person in every Southern Baptist church in missions. To do this, WMU and Brotherhood can provide special missions projects for the congregation, one age group in the church, families, or individual members. This is possible both in a church with a one-person-only WMU or Brotherhood (a director) or in a church which has missions organizations for one or more age groups.
If your church has only a WMU or a Brotherhood director, this director can help you choose and plan one or more special projects for the congregation. If your church has missions organizations, however, the missions leaders can take this responsibility. Following are some special missions emphases and activities possible in any size church. Some small churches need to begin a missions emphasis and may choose only one of these projects. Other small churches might have a special missions emphases or event regularly, perhaps once a quarter.
Preaching and teaching activities led by the pastor – Since you as pastor lead the church in fulfilling its mission and in proclamation, you have a major role related to missions. As you preach and lead the worship services, you can regularly lay a firm missions foundation by preaching on the biblical basis of missions, the Christian’s responsibility in missions, and intercessory prayer for missions. When there are special times on the denominational calendar when missions can normally and naturally be emphasized this can be a major part of your preaching ministry. Possibilities include: missions sermons in relation to Cooperative Program Month and World Hunger Day in October, the annual foreign mission study and Royal Ambassador Week in November, the Week of Prayer for Foreign Missions and the Lottie Moon Christmas _ Offering in December and annual home mission study and WMU Focus Week in February, the Week of Prayer for Home Missions and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering in March, Cooperative Program Day in April, Associational Emphasis Week in May, and the State missions emphasis usually in September.
You may also take advantage of opportunities to teach a series of sessions on the biblical basis of missions, or you may teach one of the annual foreign or home mission study books to the congregation or to one age group.
Special mission study projects-There are many possibilities for special study projects related to missions. These can easily be done at times the congregation is already assembled, or they can be planned as special events.
Each year Woman’s Missionary Union, SBC, the Brotherhood Commission, and the two mission boards publish resources for an annual foreign mission study and an annual home mission study. These studies are ideal ways for the entire congregation to receive some missions knowledge. Materials include: mission study books for each age group, teaching guides, and additional resources. The study materials relate to a different area of mission work each year. For example, the foreign mission study for one year might be on urban evangelism in Asia. The home mission study might major on one of the key cities of the United States. There are new study areas and resources for each year.
Other special mission study activities include a study of the biblical basis of missions, missions tours or field trips, missions day camps for children, Missions Night Out events (activities to involve adults, youth, families in missions through study and involvement), or participation in a World Missions Conference sponsored by the association. It is ideal when the church can have a missionary speaker-either a home missionary, a foreign missionary, or the associational director of missions. These persons can speak on or teach about missions any time of the year.
Special mission action and witnessing projects. It is entirely possible for a small church to be involved in local mission action and witnessing projects as a congregation. Some of the best mission action reported is done by small churches.
Mission action is intended to meet needs and to witness to persons of special need or circumstance in the church’s community. A mission action project might be a mission Vacation Bible School; a Big A Club for unreached children in the community jail ministry meeting needs of persons who have experienced a fire, hurricane, or tornado; a ministry to a person or persons in the community who are handicapped; sick, alcoholics, drug abusers, or migrants; or a ministry to a language group or internationals. There are numerous resources available to help persons learn how to do mission action with different groups.
Though witnessing is personal, the small church can train persons to witness and provide opportunities in which they can witness. Witnessing projects may include the more obvious ones such as revivals or regular witnessing visitation, but there are other possibilities such as the church’s youth being involved in a witness to fellow high-school students, lay-led revivals, Lay Renewal Weekends, or reaching persons through special Bible study events, a mission Vacation Bible School or a Big A Club.
Special mission support projects. Mission support projects lend themselves especially well to congregational settings. Any small church can easily observe the Week of Prayer for Foreign Missions in December and the Week of Prayer for Home Missions in March. These observances emphasize all three aspects of mission support-prayer, giving, and personnel. These would be good activities to start with if the church has never had a missions emphasis. There are many suggestions for implementing these projects in WMU and Brotherhood periodicals, as well as in the November and February issues of The Baptist Program.
Other possible missions prayer activities are use of the missions prayer calendar in Sunday worship services or prayer meeting, prayer for missions needs (secured from the various missions periodicals) in the worship services or prayer meeting, special missions prayer retreats, observance of the state missions season of prayer and Associational Emphasis Week, Every family and every individual needs to be encouraged and urged to make intercessory prayer for missions a daily priority.
The small church can and should emphasize the Cooperative Program on a regular basis since the Cooperative Program is the main-line, ongoing method of supporting Southern Baptist missions efforts. Special projects for the church might include a study of the Cooperative Program, an emphasis on the Cooperative Program during the church’s budget or stewardship effort, Cooperative Program testimonies, use of Missionary Moments, observance of Cooperative Program Day in April, or a missionary speaker,
A Word About Resources
There are many, many resources available for conducting special missions emphases and activities in a church. The problem is in knowing what these resources are and when and how to use them.
Have available for yourself and the church at least one subscription each to Dimension and Brotherhood Builder, the WMU and Brotherhood quarterly periodicals for general officers and pastors. These periodicals regularly give suggestions for special missions projects, identify the available resources, and include help for planning the projects.
“Growth Through Mission Emphasis and Action,” excerpted from “Helping a Small Church Grow.” By Bobbie Sorrill and Bob Banks
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”