(March 6, 2017) Missionary statesman George Forbes shares from experience on a successful mission’s strategy…
Missionary churches do not just happen!
They are born of a vision, founded by a pastor who has heard from God and grow to become a missionary church over a good period of time. They do not simply or suddenly appear. They are the outcome of multiple factors in the plan and purposes of God for the extension of his kingdom.
Over a period of at least forty years I had the joy of serving the Lord full-time in the world of missions. I related to hundreds of churches during those challenging years as I learned to understand God’s plan for all nations. I worked with some great pastors of local churches in Australia as well as in many countries around the world. At the same time it was my privilege to work in cooperation with good missionaries and good national church planters.
It was in this context that I grew to understand what is required in the making of a missionary church. Thus I will do my best to describe this process, recognising that I cannot possibly include every factor, but hopefully, those that are crucial.
Some of what I share may well be familiar to many. That is expected as much has been written, shared and imparted on this subject over many years. However, I do not find any articles or material specifically describing the journey of a local church that becomes a missionary church. There are excellent articles and many books of value in this field of study. I pray that my all too brief article will add some value.
The Process Factors
I am talking about a process in the will and plan of God.
- Task Force Training
We speak often about vision. It is the God-given factor in every fruitful ministry in a home church or ministry to the ends of the earth. A vision is a clear picture of what a leader sees his group being or doing. Having a vision is not enough. There must be commitment to the vision. A mission is simply a vision acted on.
Worthy visions are gifts of God. James 1:17 confirms this: ‘Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.’
I remind readers of Nehemiah – A man with a vision to rebuild Jerusalem. Of John Sung – who had a vision to reach all China. God gave Noah the vision of an ark, and he built it. God gave Abraham a vision of a city, and he looked for it. He gave the apostle Paul a vision of evangelising the whole world, and he covered the known world with his message. God gave David Livingstone a vision for Africa, and he opened the way for thousands of missionaries to preach the gospel.
‘Where there is no vision, the people perish’ (Prov. 29:18). Vision underlies and underpins all leadership. The leader’s vision is the basis of his leadership.
Mission’s strategy is the activity of churches, agencies and missionaries in fulfilling that commission. No, this is not a play on words, but an important distinction. Strategy is defined as –
- A careful plan or method for advancing towards a goal
- A framework or master-plan upon which specific tactics are based
- The means agreed on to reach a certain goal.
A leader must grasp the vision given to him by God. A vision generates direction, order, and devotion. Leadership clarifies the vision to the church and then motivates the church to act on it.
I believe that goal setting is the focus of vision. Goals must be set to work towards the fulfilling of a vision. I recommend the well-known, S-M-A-R-T method on goal setting –
A reality is that too many people with leadership responsibilities may have a vision without some, or even all of these factors.
Henry Kaiser said, ‘Determine what you want more than anything else in life, write down the means by which you intend to attain it, and permit nothing to deter you from pursuing it.’ The vision is important, but it will never be realised without goals.
Task Force Training
Training is now a normal part of a local church. The degree and levels of training vary greatly from church to church. This depends on the size of the church, the vision of the pastor and the strategy the church is following. However, the type of training varies greatly.
My point here is the need for training teams in local churches that manage the global dimension of their church’s vision. Too often this task is given to an individual who has a personal commitment to missionaries, that limits the focus to their interests and personal commitment.
The need for training of a task force is real as well as great. The missionary church must have a good well trained team of people who support the pastor and the church in a range of important areas. Prayer, fund raising, missionary care, missionary conferences, promotion, field visits and partnerships.
It was Abraham Lincoln who said, ‘Commitment is what transforms a promise into a reality.’
Have a look at this dictionary definition of commitment. – ‘It is an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action.’ It is the process or an instance of committing oneself; a pledge or undertaking. This is fundamental to marriage and likewise to missions’ commitments.
Psalm 37:5 gives us a good instruction on commitment. ‘Commit everything you do to God – trust him to help you do it and he will.’
Paul recognised that the Philippian church was his partner. The NIV makes this clear in Phil 1:5 – ‘Because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.‘ He testified; ‘I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.’
Here Paul links himself with the church and the Spirit in partnership, as the church prays and the Spirit acts (Phil. 1:9).
Partnership with the sent missionary is not an optional extra for the sending church. A missionary church will be in partnership with the missionaries whom they send and the national churches with whom they work.
This partnership will include prayer, provision for medical care, shelter, housing, resources, in-service training and general care.
Importance of combination
The combination of all these factors is needed to make a missionary minded church into a true missionary church.
Dr George Forbes is internationally recognised as a missionary statesman with a heart for the lost of the nations. With a wealth of missionary knowledge and a unique ability to communicate the global picture, he is widely known as the ‘story-teller.’ Link: firstname.lastname@example.org