Keys for Effective Global Missions Engagement for Local Churches
by Matthew Ellison
Since 1995, I have had the amazing privilege of mobilizing local churches to be central players and full partners in global missions. After many years of evaluating and observing the most effective churches, I began noticing many of them had certain commonalities. I believe these commonalities reveal some of the KEYS needed to unlock the missions potential that exists in all local churches that are serious about Christ and His Great Commission. However, these KEYS are not a magic missions mobilization formula. Missions is the supernatural work of our Sovereign God; therefore, mobilizing local churches for missions must take into account the unique gifts, talents and passions He has given to each church. Still, churches that desire to engage the world effectively would do well to consider these KEYS.
Key #1 – Worship God
John Piper says it best, “When zeal for worship is weak, zeal for missions will also be weak.” In order for churches to effectively engage in missions, of course they need solid methodologies, sound strategies that are in touch with global realities, the ability to partner effectively, and an understanding of the complexities of planting churches among the world’s remaining unreached and least reached peoples; in short, churches need an abundance of mission skill and knowledge… and make no mistake, the absence of these things will hinder our global work. But if churches do not know, love and worship God, mustering the zeal needed to reach the nations, especially the unreached ones, will be impossible.
Key #2 – Engage Church Leaders
In my experience, members of a congregation can be a catalyst of missions envisioning, but without the engagement of church leaders, mobilizing a church is tough sledding. When I first began offering missions coaching to local churches, I was happy to meet with anyone from a church that asked for help. Usually, these were marginalized groups of big-hearted, missions-minded people who desired change but lacked the necessary influence to initiate it. I realized that without the input and affirmation of church leaders, missions would likely remain in the margins. When we started requiring church leaders to participate in our missions coaching process and they began to shed the spiritual blood that forging a world-changing vision requires, they became champions of that vision.
Key #3 – Walk Through a Process
It is my conviction that programs do not mobilize churches — Churches are mobilized by people walking through a process. I define process as simply thinking through and then doing the ministry of missions. Thinking is hard work and so many churches would rather ape the missions programs of other effective churches. Here’s the problem: the churches they are copying went through a process to arrive at their vision and strategy, even if unwittingly. Not only that, a programmatic approach to missions mobilization fails to take into the account the unique gifts, talents and passions within each church. Church leaders need to take their church through a process so their missions vision is endemic to them and their people.
Many questions should be asked during a mission mobilization process, such as:
- What are we supposed to be doing?
- What drives us?
- What does that look like?
- How will we accomplish what we are supposed to be doing?
One of the most important questions a church needs to consider is, “What is missions and why does it matter?” This is especially critical today because a massive number of churches in the West have come to adopt a philosophy that says every good, altruistic, or evangelistic work is a missions work and that every follower of Christ is a missionary. But are these Biblical concepts? Are they helpful? Do they lead to more missions work being accomplished or less? Without a Biblical definition of missions informing and shaping a church’s missions decisions and actions they may find that much of what is considered missions works, is not missions work at all. Moreover, having a Biblical definition of missions will help with not only missions methodology but also with missions motivation.
Key #4 – Encourage Every Believer to Participate
George Miley in his book, Loving the Church, Blessing the Nations, writes,
“During the reformation of the Church, the reformers wanted to make the Word of God accessible to Every Believer. Now we live in a time when God’s leaders recognize that we must make the work of God accessible to Every Believer. “
Reaching all people groups calls forth the gifts and contributions of Every Believer. Visualize an overall process of initiation, strategy development, implementation, management, pastoral, support, and funding, and you will begin to see a wide range of roles, each of which is a channel for the involvement of Every Believer. Most folks will not leave home permanently to minister on the mission field. If they are to participate in world missions, they must be released where they are, in the context of their local church.
Certainly, effective global engagement consists of more than these four keys, but hopefully they will be a starting point for your church to begin thinking through and then doing our all-important work of making disciples of all nations, all tribes, and all tongues.
To learn more about how missions coaching can help churches realize their potential to reach the nations visit www.1615.org.
President of Sixteen:Fifteen
Missio Nexus Mission Advisor for Church Missions Engagement and Coaching