Ten days after Jesus ascended, the Holy Spirit descended, the Church was born, and the world began to be turned upside down for the gospel. I assume that you want to see that happen in your lifetime, as I do. In light of this goal, I can think of five common mission mistakes you should try to avoid as a pastor.
Making Your Missions Strategy Sequential
This is a common mistake because Acts 1:8 is a simultaneous strategy, not a sequential one. The “missions starts at home” line of thinking sounds biblical and reasonable, especially in light of the progression found in Acts 1:8. There is no need for you to waste a lot of time, energy, and vision figuring out how to go here then there. Instead, we need to follow the commission for our church to go here and there.
The first century leaders were initially so hyper-focused on Jerusalem and Judea that their mission myopia stalled them spiritually.
Focusing on Countries Instead of Cultures
As a result of various countries closing their borders to traditional missionaries, many mission agencies have been shrewd about focusing on people groups that migrate outside of ever changing political borders.
Go and make disciples of all nations (ethnos).
Since there are more Armenians in Los Angeles than in Yerevan and more Jews in New York than in Tel Aviv, a “here and there” strategy only makes sense in effectively reaching these people groups (ethnos). Focusing on ethnic groups instead of just countries expands our opportunities to reach them wherever they currently call home.
Posturing Missionaries as Professionals
It is much easier to support a missionary than to become one.
Evangelicals get easily confused about who are real missionaries. We do the same disservice by professionalizing evangelists, elders, and equippers. Our Western sensibilities drive us to artificially categorize ourselves according to our org charts instead of our gifts or marching orders.
The Great Commission is an obligation and privilege for every follower of Jesus. For those who are full time and live across the planet from their family, I have no problem calling them “missionaries.” Just be careful not to let ourselves off the hook because we do not share that title. It is too easy to justify our missions inertia by pointing to the pros.
You will be my witnesses. (Acts 1:8)
As Luke covered the expansion of the Church from Jerusalem to Rome in Acts, we see both pastors and non-pastors sharing their faith boldly. I love watching Philip share the gospel with an Ethiopian before he moved on to the land of Samaritans and Philistines. What I love most about Philip is that he was a deacon, not a pastor or an apostle.
Reaching the World Without the Holy Spirit
I am sending you what My Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high. (Luke 24:49)
Fifty days after the resurrection, the Church was born and on fire. The Holy Spirit showed up as Jesus promised ten days earlier, and as the prophet Joel promised 800 years before that. There is nothing new about the Spirit of God’s role in the advancement of the kingdom.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses. (Acts 1:8)
Preaching about Missions without Practicing It First
Dr. Thom Rainer recently wrote a post called 5 keys to evangelistic growth. In it he said, “I’ve yet to find an evangelistic church who is not led by an evangelistic pastor.”
Pastor, your people will eventually know whether you believe in what you preach. When is the last time you shared your faith locally or globally?
You can lead your church to become authentically missional without comparing or cloning your strategy with another church. The only truly dangerous missional mistake you can make is to do nothing.