Some of our GO applicants who wish to serve the Lord abroad as tentmakers or missionaries come from churches with little or no missionary vision. Yet as they go abroad they need moral and prayer support from their home church, and maybe financial support as well.
The fact that the applicants are missions-committed gives them a responsibility to get their church turned on to missions. A church that is not involved in missions is a disobedient church. To get them involved can bring the church enormous blessing. Missions involvement provides the needed motivation for effective local ministry.
But what can one person do? A great deal, says Dr. Gordon MacDonald, a pastor and writer. We have reproduced his helpful Urbana talk, and added our own page of suggested missions resources.
I. Your Church: A Base for Missions
If you really want to get serious about the matter of Gods mission in the world, sooner or later you have to deal with the great fact of the church. If your heart is set on confronting people with the claims of Jesus Christ, leading to the possibility that they will choose to follow him, sooner or later you will have to deal with the church. The church is the beginning and the end of our world mission.
It was a congregation which sensed from the Holy Spirit that they should send out Saul (later Paul) and Barnabas. Having heard the call of the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:1-3), it recognized the uniqueness of the two men, sent them off, and later received them back for their report. A study of that congregation will make it plain that they were a group of believers hungry for teaching (Acts 11:26), compassionate in their caring for the whole person (Acts 11:28-30) and fervent in worship (Acts 13:1,2). It is in such an atmosphere that a sense of world mission grows until it can be contained no longer. A congregation sent out the first missionaries, and it cared for them when they returned
Wherever the two men went, they tried to do one basic thing: Plant more churches. Why? Because they believed that congregations were the best expressions of the people of God; because they believed in the universal genius of how people are drawn together; because they saw the congregation as the environment for growth; and because they anticipated that a congregation would regenerate itself.
Our great mission is to plant the church in the world which in turn will give honor and praise to him who died for the church, and invested it with gifts so that he might present it to his heavenly Father as his most prized possession.
II. Your Church: Taking Its First Steps
Moses tells us the story of how the Israelites, on the verge of entering Canaan and claiming it for their own as God had promised, sent twelve spies to survey the situation. God had not promised that taking the land would be easy, and indeed, the land was full of powerful people and fortified cities. Ten spies could not believe God for the land, and urged Israel to turn back. Joshua and Caleb, on the other hand, were men of courage, faith, and conviction. God had promised the land. Despite inherent battles, the land was theirs for the taking. “We should go up and take possession of the land,’ said Caleb, “we can do it!” (Num 1.30)
Perhaps you are in a similar situation. Jesus has issued the mandate of world evangelization (Matt. 29:18-20), and has promised to supply the power for the task (Acts 1:8). You know your church is not assuming its responsibility, and it seems unwilling or unready to do so. What can you do to motivate your church to become active in missions? Here are some possibilities.
III. At The Individual Level
A famous saying goes, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” The same is true of a local church’s involvement in missions: One person of vision and conviction must “begin the journey,” no matter how long the trip
Missions should never be a divisive issue in a local church. In Eph.4: 3, Paul urged each believer to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” The local church which makes no room for missions, or whose leaders are openly hostile toward missions, is no place for an individual to begin a crusade that may create dissension.
But if the church is open to change, or is simply failing to do what it knows it should, mission-minded individuals are obliged to teach, reprove, correct, and instruct to strengthen their church.
Can one person make the difference in a church’s missions program? Yes! One person can do things that will lead to the identification or development of a missions-minded group in the church. Here are things an individual can do.
A. Pray fervently and regularly for:
Revival to produce personal holiness and missions concern.
Your church’s missionaries.
Your church’s leaders: that they will adopt God’s heart for the world.
Others with a missions vision to help you bring about change.
Current worldwide missions work.
Hidden people groups and nations.
Political, cultural and religious trends and events around the world.
B. Become more informed about missions by:
Studying scripture to learn more of God’s heart for the world and his plan for the nations.
Reading current missions books and periodicals
Reading and watching world news with missions m mind.
C. Begin working in the church:
Plan missions events in and for the church.
Start a missions focus group that gathers to pray for missions or study a missions book monthly or quarterly.
Promote missions activities and events in the area.
Seek help from other churches and mission agencies.
Recommend missionaries or projects for the church to support.
Accumulate missions resource materials for church use.
Arrange for missionaries to share in Sunday school classes.
Spend time with your pastor. Discern his level of interest, and encourage him to develop a deeper interest.
Suggest that your church send representatives to regional conferences of the Assoc. of Church Missions Committees. [And to other missions conferences.]
The goal of your personal efforts should be to identify and develop a core of people that can effectively and biblically
IV. At The Group Level
Once this core of people committed to missions exists, it can take several major steps in moving your church towards missions-mindedness.
A. Work with church Leaders:
Receive authorization to work for missions in the church.
Get a church leader to work as a part of the group.
Ask for advice and direction from leaders.
Find the key leaders who are obstacles. Befriend them and find out what is behind their attitudes. Pray for them. If possible, involve them in a short-term missions project or overseas missions visit. [GO. can recommend possibilities.]
Meet with the pastor, elders, deacons, etc., to discuss the church’s philosophy and goals, and how missions fits into the life of the church.
Keep the pastor involved.
B. Begin a missions committee:
Recruit people for the committee–preferably those with missions experience.
Establish positions and sub-committees that reflect the goals of the committee.
Begin meeting regularly.
Keep the leadership informed.
C. Write a missions policy:
Find your church’s purpose statement (or write one).
Your policy should contain the practical guidelines for carrying out the missions portion of the purpose statement.
Gain leadership approval of it.
Publicize the policy.
D. Stimulate and educate the congregation:
Obtain and make available missions resources. Work with church departments to incorporate a missions emphasis.
Initiate regular prayer for missions.
Hold a missions conference.
Teach the congregation about the biblical basis of missions, current events, your church’s involvement, the centrality of prayer, and missions history.
Ask key people to house a missionary overnight.
Involve the congregation in an outreach-oriented ministry to your community or in a short-term project overseas.
E. Recruit missionaries from your congregation:
Establish qualifications for missionaries and tentmakers.
Identify members of all ages with the right qualifications.
Guide and evaluate candidates.
Your task of “conquering the land” for missions in your church may seem like a battle against giants. If so, adopt the spirit of Caleb and Joshua. They recognized the strength of the giants and the difficult battles before them, but they also knew that God would empower them to do any task to which he had called them. Make Caleb’s desire, as recorded in Num. 14:12, your own: “Now give me this hill country…”
(By Gordon MacDonald, pastor and writer. Reprinted by ACMC from IVCF’s 1981 Urbana compendium Let Every Tongue Confess, with the first four paragraphs adapted by ACMC, who have the copyright, 1988.) For more information on developing a complete missions program in your church, write ACMC, P0 Box ACMC, Wheaton, TL 60189-8000. (708) 260-1660.)
Even if you do not complete the whole process, at least get it started. Help the church take the first few steps toward this goal. We know of a number of churches that were turned on to missions by a few of their young people who were excited about fulfilling the Great Commission.
Be sure your vision for missions includes the important place that tentmaking should have in it. A church with little or no missions budget, or used to denominational giving only may be delighted with the prospect of sending workers for whom they do not have to provide support.
Note the brief missions bibliography below of essential books for a missions library, and list of GO Papers that are available. Busy church leaders may read a paper more readily than a book.
Remember also that Global Opportunities provides global job referral and job/missions counseling services for individuals interested in tentmaking. It also provides materials and recommends speakers for churches to help them promote the tentmaking concept.
–Ruth E. Siemens
John R. Stott. Christian Mission in the Modern World. Downers Grove: IVP, 1975. Basic, definitions, etc.
John Siewert, ed. MARC Missions Handbook, Monrovia: World Vision MARC, 1993-5. Information on every missionary agency.
Patrick Johnstone. Operation World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993. Missions status of all countries.
J.N.D. Anderson: The World Religions. Descriptions of major religions.
J. N. D. Anderson. Christianity and World Religions. On the uniqueness of Christianity.
Kenneth Scott Latourette. A History of the Expansion of Christianity. 7 volumes or a 3-volume condensed edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970. Definitive missions history.
Stephen Neill. A History of Christian Missions. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1975.
F. F. Bruce. The Spreading Flame. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1958. Growth of the early church!
J. D. Douglas, ed. The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974. A who’s who and what’s what in Christianity.
Ralph D. Winter. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Pasadena: William Carey Library. A compendium of articles by mission leaders which is an excellent introductory course, covering biblical, historical, cultural and strategic aspects of missions.
Michael Green. Evangelism in the Early Church. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970. How early church working people evangelized their world!
David Paton, ed. The Compulsion of the Spirit: A Roland Allen Reader. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983. Excerpts from Roland Allen’s books about Paul’s tentmaking.
William J. Danker. Profit for the Lord Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971. Amazing Moravians establish self-supporting communities to do missions in 1700’s!
R. Paul Stevens. Liberating the Laity: Equipping all the Saints for Ministry. Downers Grove: IVP, 1985.
Eugene A. Nida. Customs and Cultures. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1954. Practical anthropology in missions.
David M. Howard. Student Power in World Evangelism,. Downers Grove: IVP, 1952.
Don Richardson. Peace Child Glendale: G/L Regal, 1974. Reaching primitive jungle people on New Guinea!
David Bentley-Taylor. My Love Must Wait. Downers Grove: IVP, 1975. Biography of Henry Martyn, early missionary to India and Persia.
L. Robert Kohls. Survival Kit for Overseas Living. Chicago: Intercultual Press, 1979. For Americans planning to live and work abroad.
Helen Roseveare, Give Me this Mountain. London: IVP, 1969. Autobiography of this missionary doctor who was captured by rebels in Zaire.
James and Marti Hefley. Uncle Cam. Milford: Mott Media, 1974. Cameron Townsend, missionary to Guatemala and founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators.
Howard Taylor. Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, Lessons he learned as an early missionary in China.