I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t always understood why being on mission both personally and as a church is so vital. I used to skip the “missions” chapel services in seminary because I wrongly believed that missions and being a pastor were two separate callings. I just wanted to be a pastor. Sadly, the first church I pastored wasn’t very mission-minded because I wasn’t.
However, I am now convinced that one of the vital roles of pastors and church leaders is to lead the church to fully embrace God’s call to be involved in their local community and beyond. My heart now understands that the church should be a strong community of mobilized missionaries. It is now my desire to lead the church through preaching, mission trips, and other creative ways so that missions becomes part of our church’s DNA.
I believe that one of the first ways to lead your church to be on mission is to be a leader who is on mission. I am convinced that when the leader of a church is passionate about the mission of God and living a missional life, that focus and zeal will naturally overflow into the hearts of those in the pew.
When a leader is passionate about the mission of God, that zeal will overflow to people in the pews.
All throughout Scripture we clearly hear God’s call to missional living. We see a clear gospel focus when Christ sends out the 12 disciples in Luke 9 and again when he sends out the 70 in Luke 10. We hear God’s heart when we read the Great Commission and Acts 1:8. In our head, we can know that God wants us to live this life with passion for the gospel, but it is so hard to keep the main thing the main thing.
When being on mission becomes part of the leader’s DNA, the church hears about it through his preaching, sees it through his life, and feels it through his tears for people who are lost without Christ.
Though my mind is now thoroughly convinced of the importance of leading my church to be on mission, I must continually remind my heart about God’s mission. Here are some of the practices that help my heart to be missions-minded:
Personally participating in at least one mission trip a year. These times are good for my walk with God. I need to see God move in ways I cannot explain. Often these trips become spiritual revivals for my heart. I try to alternate between going overseas and going somewhere in the U.S. each year.
Reading missions books and biographies of missionaries. Some of the books that make me cry are “10 Who Changed the World” by Daniel Akin, “The Insanity of God” by Nik Ripken, “The Hole in our Gospel” by Richard Stearns, and “Seven Men” by Eric Metaxas.
Attending missions training sponsored by IBSA, and conferences sponsored by the North American Mission Board. Some of the conferences that have recently helped my missions heart are NAMB’s Send Conference, the Midwest Leadership Summit hosted by IBSA, an IMB Missionary Commissioning service, and the IBSA and SBC Annual Meetings.
I’m not always looking for new programs or new ideas at these conferences, though I often come home with an idea for how we can do missions differently or better at Immanuel.
Talking with missionaries. I love hearing their heart, their struggles, and their successes. You can connect with church planting missionaries on a vision tour hosted by NAMB or IBSA, and the International Mission Board is always happy to send a missionary on furlough to preach at your church.
Most missionaries also send out regular e-mail prayer newsletters. While these messages remind me to pray for the missionary, they also encourage me as I read about some creative things others are doing all across the world for King Jesus.
Spending time with other believers who are on fire for Jesus and who are getting it done sharing the gospel. Often, these lunches and the time I spend with these kinds of believers greatly challenges me.
What a joy it can be when a church understands that God has commissioned them to be the light in a dark world. What a joy it can be when church members leave to plant churches, surrender to ministry, lead their co-worker to Christ, and go to the nations.
The steps you take to fuel your missions heart are steps toward God’s heart, enabling your entire church to be on mission! Keep chasing him, my friends.
– Sammy Simmons is pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Benton.