Mobilizing the church
I do the best I can to make sure my family cares about the same things I do. As I play sports with my kids, they begin to love sports. When I sing with them, they begin to care about music. Spiritually speaking, we tell stories from the Bible and we pray for missionaries at dinner. Our Christmas traditions are specifically pointed at the gospel. I want my family to care about the things that are in my heart. More importantly, I want them to care about the things that are in God’s heart.
In the same way, people who have a heart for the nations want their church family to be just as passionate as they are for God’s renown among the nations. My definition of “mobilizing” a church is helping your local church develop a plan to engage the nations with their resources of time, people and money. I have seen several churches develop a missions vision, and these are some of the steps that I believe help the process along.
Most churches seem to have a few people who are dedicated to prayer. Some have people who are dedicated to prayer for the nations. Begin to network with people through prayer. It doesn’t have to be formal, it just has to happen. Start a prayer for the nations group, a one day prayer emphasis for the nations, or a prayer chain for missionaries. The vast majority of missions movements (some would say every movement) have started with prayer.
This could be either missions-minded or influential people who are teachable and want to help you mobilize the church. Many of these people may be elders or deacons or other types of leaders who will “rally the troops”. You are looking for someone to speak up for you, basically saying to the rest of the body “this person is with me and I like what they are doing.”
You find advocates through serving in your church and listening to people’s hearts, and then sharing yours. Another term could be “Encouragers” because you are seeking to find influential people who can encourage you to keep casting vision for the nations in your local church.
Every cause needs a champion. If you really want to mobilize your church, it is crucial that you actually have someone that commits to going. This could be a home-grown person who is loved by the church or someone with loose connections (that you can tighten) to the church who has already gone.
Think of William Carey, who raised awareness before he left, or Adoniram Judson who became a Baptist after leaving for the mission field. Carey’s sending board was organized before he left, Judson’s was organized after. The church needs a face and a family to rally around and often one person opens the gates for many more to follow.
Win the Chief, win the tribe. Your church’s vision and involvement in missions will always be limited to that of it’s leaders. Do everything you can to meet with your leaders, give them books on missions, get them around mission minded pastors they respect, and help increase their vision.
The most lasting impact you can make in your church will come from the impact you make on your pastor. Don’t assume that they have no vision for missions (because they probably do). The best thing you can do for your pastor is simply ask, “What can I do to help?” Often there is a plan or vision in place and all that is missing are some volunteers to help carry that out.
You must serve the church. I don’t mean “serving” by offering your immense wisdom to the church that just “doesn’t get missions.” I mean being a submissive, obedient part of the beautiful body of Christ, regardless of where they are at in their vision to reach the nations. Often people who really get on fire for missions just had their “eyes opened” to the nations a short time before. Many people in this situation are hypercritical of others who don’t share this passion. They forget what they were like a year ago before they heard that great missions talk by John Piper or David Platt.
Paul tells Titus to “remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities.” The most important thing you can do to mobilize your church is to submit to your leaders and serve it, often in very practical ways. Church work-days, serving in the nursery, helping with children’s programs, and being a part of the events and programs your church is doing isn’t just a way to soften people up so you can tell them about missions; it’s God’s plan for your growth through the leaders He has placed over you.
The truth is that when people know you care and are a functioning part of the body, God will use you within that body. Messages cannot be sent through nerve endings from a finger that is cut off from the hand. You must be connected.
Your pastor has heard of the Great Commission. He knows missionaries. Chances are your church actually supports a few. Just because every week isn’t missions week at your church doesn’t mean your elders hate the unreached. Many churches actually do have a missions program and often they are in need of help for people to serve and create awareness of what they are doing. Meet with the leaders in your church to find out what their missions vision is and play a role in what they are already doing.
My pastor has a huge heart for the persecuted and impoverished church. I came in wanting to see our church be more intentional about reaching unreached people groups. I can say that I’ve played a role (alongside of others) in pointing our church in that direction and it didn’t take much. We were already pointed overseas. We simply added an unreached emphasis as we continued to participate (and grow) in our knowledge and heart for our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted.
Jesus believed in multiplication and so should you. I’ve seen too many missions people stop at “go” when talking about the Great Commission. Jesus commanded us to make disciples and we should be actively involved in that process wherever we are.
Telling people to go overseas to share the gospel and make disciples while you do nothing at home is inconsistent at best and hypocritical at worst. If you want to get your church involved in the Great Commission, begin to obey all of it right now. The bonus is as you reproduce your life into others, you will raise up advocates who are pointed in the same direction as you. Multiplication takes time, but it is powerful. Patience and perseverance will be rewarded by spiritual reproduction.
Take advantage of every opportunity to move your church forward in this. Begin prayer groups for the nations, Sunday School classes on missions, invite people to conferences on missions and do everything you can to get your church involved in a Perspectives on the World Christian Movement class .
Look for ways to connect missions to events your church is already involved in. Include missions lessons in the church’s children’s program. Recommend missionaries to speak at different church events. Raise awareness for missions fundraisers your church is putting on. When your church is ready to move forward, be at the front leading the charge, right behind your leaders.
Our church currently has one missionary overseas for every dozen members in the pew on a Sunday morning. Our members are actively engaging the lost from other countries in our community. We’ve seen God do some amazing things but it didn’t happen overnight, and we’re still not done. We believe faithfulness in our church will produce fruitfulness among the nations.