By Meredith Cook
I went on my first mission trip when I was 14. My grandparents led a group from our church to work with career missionaries in Mexico, and they let me tag along.
The Lord used that trip to set me on a path that would lead to greater involvement and passion for international missions as an adult.
I don’t remember much about our church’s missions involvement before I went on the trip, but I remember it coincided with the arrival of a new pastor that year. Over the years, he led our church to become more hands-on in its approach to missions.
We began partnering with missionaries all over the world and sending short-term teams to support the work of those missionaries. Our church hosted a large International Mission Board (IMB) sending celebration. We sent out missionaries.
As I consider the churches I’ve joined in various life stages, I’ve come to believe a church’s mission strategy largely hinges on its leaders and their passion for the Great Commission.
The Need for Leadership
The mission of the church isn’t just the responsibility of the pastor—it’s a group effort. There are two main reasons, however, why missions involvement starts with the pastor’s leadership.
First, people tend to go where they’re led, despite our individualistic culture. Just look at fashion, popular restaurants, diets, and social media fads. These trends are typically passed down by people following a key leader in the industry.
More importantly, the Bible exhorts pastors to be good leaders (Titus 1) and the church to obey and submit to her leaders (Hebrews 13).
The most missions-minded churches I know are that way because they’re led to be so. The reverse is true, as well. I’ve seen missions-minded churches lose their Great Commission fervor if a pastor moves on and is replaced by a pastor who’s not as passionate about missions.
The churches that send and support the most missionaries have leaders that infuse passion for the Great Commission in all aspects of the church—from preaching, to training, to short-term mission trips, and more.
Second, we’re easily distracted. People are busy. Media inundates us with messages of all kinds, telling us what we should think about a host of different hot topics. And if that isn’t enough, we’re also told we should know and care equally about all of these topics and issues.
With all of these distractions, we need leaders to help us focus. We need to be reminded week after week that Christ is our foundation, our hope is sure, and our mission is to take the gospel to the nations.
Practical Ways to Focus on the Great Commission
Pastors have countless responsibilities, concerns, and ministries vying for their attention, and it can be difficult to determine what should take precedence. But there are ways pastors can lead their churches to become more missions-minded without adding extra things to their plates.
Pastors preach every Sunday, pray every day, talk with church members regularly, and likely have other leaders to help them. These are all opportunities to develop a love for the nations within congregations.
Here are five practical ways to lead your church to fulfill the Great Commission:
1. Teach about God’s love for the nations.
God’s desire for the nations to worship Him is woven throughout Scripture. Point out those instances and call your church to be obedient to the Great Commission in your sermons.
2. Pray for God to raise up missionaries in your congregation.
Some members of your church may consider serving overseas but aren’t sure how to go about that. You can help them discern their calling.
Or, as in Acts 13, the Holy Spirit may be leading your church to raise up members as missionaries, even if they haven’t discerned the call yet themselves. Pray for God to reveal those people.
3. Proactively identify those you might send.
You play a vital role in the sending process. As you pray for the Lord to reveal potential sent-out members, seek those members out and challenge them to consider becoming missionaries.
4. Empower members and delegate responsibilities.
You don’t have to do it all. Develop leaders within your church to be advocates for missions and missionaries, to lead short-term mission trips, or to connect with sending organizations for help.
Train your small group leaders to talk with members about the Great Commission and to look out for those who might be considering a call to missions.
5. Take care of your current missionaries.
If you’ve already sent out missionaries, delegate other church members to communicate with those missionaries and pass on prayer and other needs to the church.
Christ, in His final words, commanded the church to make disciples of all nations. Pastors, let Christ’s last words be lasting words by leading your churches to obey the Great Commission.
Meredith Cook (@meredithcook716) is the wife of Keelan and an M.Div graduate in Missiology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.