By Deborah Spooner
You might see the words “world missions” and feel dread (and then feel guilty that you felt dread). Or, you might feel excitement rising. No matter your reaction, missions evokes a response in pastors.
How do I talk about this with my church? Are we really making a difference? Will anyone support our missionaries financially? Am I failing as a pastor if few in my congregation serve as overseas missionaries? Why doesn’t my church seem as passionate about missions as I think they should?
Whether missions has been your rallying cry for years or whether you face discouragement, uncertainty, and frustration, we all share a common tendency: We forget. We forget simple realities around missions that can speak to all our situations.
Let’s remind ourselves of these five things about missions:
1. It’s a lifestyle and not just a theory.
We talk about missions—a lot. The best ways to run our short-term missions trips. The veracity of short-term trips in the first place. How to help without hurting. The true cost of living overseas.
But, at the end of the day, missions isn’t a theory we hold at arm’s length. Either we are 1) equipping our congregation to model their lifestyles after Christ so they are ready if the Lord calls overseas, or 2) teaching them that missions is something we say but rarely do.
It has to not just be a distanced theory but become a livable, urgent, honored, and even taught lifestyle—a lifestyle of going and praying for those who do.
2. It’s a reality and not just a story.
Sometimes, we can treat missions as an isolated set of stories from the field and feel that they are just very distanced from our lives or that missionaries are superhuman. Yet, reality is different.
Missionaries and their stories are real, and they’re humans just like we are. They’re humans ministering to other humans. We forget they have experienced loss.
They get frustrated. They’re jealous, tired, and happy just as those they minister to aren’t just the lost but are people with hopes, dreams, and fears, too.
This changes how we pray and interact. They’re not people needing pitying or idolizing. Missionaries are people needing Jesus and sharing Jesus even as we pursue Jesus, too.
Missionaries are family, and it’s our greatest reality to not write them into a separate story but see their unique role in the story God is weaving in all humanity.
3. It’s a Church culture and not just a department.
Do you wonder why few are signing up to travel overseas? Question whether your church should at least have catalyzed one person out of all your members to commit their lives to reaching the unreached?
Consider stopping to ask mission’s place in the fabric of your church. Is it something you highlight once a year or mention passingly as a prayer request? Or is it something that is steeped into the core of your values?
We forget that missions is a cornerstone of our greater Church reality, a reality that doesn’t stop with us. The Church had a consistent presence in the past and will span into the future.
The truth is, we couldn’t contain missions into a department if we wanted to do so. It’s the Churches’ true culture and aim, and we miss out if we minimize its role.
4. It’s a place for urgency and not for cynicism.
What can we really do? We can cynically tend to stop at this statement and wonder if our prayers, money, and people are actually making an impact in a world of such great need and such staggering number of people unreached with the gospel.
Good news is, the pressure isn’t on us in the first place. We don’t have the right to be cynics when we’ve been centered with a mission: the Great Commission.
We’re called to be disciples making disciples, to the ends of the earth, and we can pray to replace our doubting, prideful cynicism with a Jesus-given urgency and burden for those without a saving faith in Jesus.
5. It’s a measurement and not just a metric.
We can get caught up in the numbers. How many missionaries we are funding, praying for, and sending. How many conversions they are seeing.
But when we see only numbers, we miss true sight. Missions isn’t just a metric of these things we hold so highly. It’s a measurement of what matters: that Christ can save beyond measure.
It’s about daily obedience to Christ not the results that we wish we could see.
Instead of only asking for numbers, we can seek to find these measures of God’s grace: in the stories of what the Lord is doing in people’s hearts tangibly, in how His glory is being made known even through dry seasons, of the faithful actions of the less glamorous tasks, of the worshipful hearts in those doing ministry in a world of pain.
World missions doesn’t have to be daunting, and we would do well to remember these things. Challenge yourself to not forget the wider perspective on missions as you seek to lead your church deeper into God’s heart for the world.
DEBORAH SPOONER is a marketing strategist for Lifeway’s Groups Ministry.