Local churches engaged in global missions-regardless of size (Part 2)
At a global missions conference many years ago, I participated in a very interesting and enlightening question and answer session with a small group of pastors.
Other than the very first one, every question was directed at me rather than the other pastor that had also given a short presentation about the level of his church’s engagement in global missions.
I concentrated on answering as clearly and as succinctly as possible.
At the same time I was thinking through how to respond to what they were asking, I realized once again that a foundational but fundamentally flawed belief held among many pastors and church members needs to be confronted and deconstructed on a regular basis.
This is my summary of the widely accepted but seldom thought about belief held by those pastors that day, many others today–especially those who lead small churches, and most pre-field missionaries:
A local church can’t be meaningfully involved in what God is doing around the world until it grows to a certain size in attendance and resources.
When church leaders and members navigate in accordance with this unbiblical and culturally produced conviction, the God of the bible is dishonored, His character is brought in to question, and His people’s capacity for glorifying Him as fully as possible is diminished.
At the time I put together what I was going to share with this group of pastors about what all my small church was involved with globally, it wasn’t my primary intention to demolish this belief that they all held, but that’s what ended up happening.
It was clear to them from what I said about what I believe the bible teaches and what that belief moved me and our church to do that they needed to re-think a few very important things.
RE-THINKING AN ACCEPTED BELIEF
Some of them did that re-thinking instantly in response to what I shared and their questions moved from the “Why?” realm in to the “How”? sphere.
But it isn’t just pastors that navigate in accordance with this unbiblical and culturally produced conviction that dishonors the God of the bible and provokes questions about His character.
A majority of the members of most local churches do too–including those that He has called to serve Him outside the borders of the United States.
Before I explain how I know this is true–especially for pre-field missionaries, an important dynamic generated almost immediately by the confirmation of their calling needs to be understood.
WHY PRE-FIELD MISSIONARIES ALSO NEED A RE-THINKING
Put as simply as possible, when the missionary calling is substantiated, raising the financial support necessary to obey that calling rushes to the forefront of that future global servant’s mind and priorities.
I know this is true for two primary reasons.
First, because that’s what became my highest priority after God confirmed His calling for me and my family to become missionaries back in 1987.
Second, because I’ve been interacting with literally hundreds of missionaries on their journey to the field since God called us to return to life in America and serve in the current role He has designed for me to play in His global plans and purposes.
Almost without fail, when I get around to asking a pre-field missionary about where they’re at in their journey to departure, they begin by describing how things are going in their financial support raising efforts.
Just like I did when I was asked the same question those many moons ago.
If they limit their description to only the percentage of their projected budget that they’ve been able to raise thus far, I’ve learned to probe in a little deeper with some specific questions, like these:
Is the financial support you’ve already received or had committed to you primarily from individuals?
Is your home church committing to support you financially from church funds?
Do you have any other churches that have chosen to become financial partners with you?
The most common response to that final question is that they really do want to raise more support from churches.
But when I ask them which churches they are trying to connect with or what kind of churches they’re attempting to approach, the vast majority of them tell me the names of either very large or even mega-churches.
Their description of their support raising strategy reveals that they have unknowingly bought in to the same mindset I summarized above that influences so many small church pastors.
You see, it isn’t just small church pastors that need to re-think a few things about involvement in global missions, those He calls to be missionaries do too.