A “goer” or a “sender”? Part 3
In my previous two posts, I’ve introduced the idea that because the God of the bible has made clear what His end game is, (Rev. 5:7 7:9), and has commissioned His church to participate with Him in making that a reality, “missions” really should matter to us. And that basically, everyone of His followers is called to be a “goer” or to “send” those that He has called to go.
In this post I’d like to share some of my experience and my perspective regarding the path to becoming a church that “sends them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God”. (3 John 6) If a church begins to take “sending” seriously, there’s something crucial that needs to be constructed to facilitate that happening.
Are there any ways to determine which ministries are really important to the pastor and leaders of a local church? I believe there are. Here are a few:
1. How often is that ministry referenced in the announcement or bulletin portion of the church service?
2. How often is that ministry or an aspect of that ministry made reference to by the pastor in his messages?
3. How prominent is that ministry in the foyer or the public area of the church office or the public gathering areas of the church?
4. What percentage of the church budget is expended for that ministry?
5. If a person wants to become a part of a specific ministry, has a policy or “process” already been developed that they will need to follow in order to be a part of that ministry?
Whether church leaders realize it or not, the ministries in their church that are closest to their hearts are revealed by these things.
Although it’s always interesting to ask the above 5 questions in regards to “missions”, I’d like to zero in on question number 5 alone.
To set the context for the points I’m going to make based on question 5, I should say that my perspective is the result of meetings I’ve had with the pastors and leaders of more than 50 churches over the past 15 years. In most of those meetings, “missions” was the reason for my being there and interacting with them. And even when “missions” wasn’t the primary reason for my meeting with them I always probed around and tried to get a feel for where “missions” fit in their overall view of themselves, their specific ministry, and the ministries of their churches.
Interestingly enough, every one of these churches had extremely well thought-out and written-out policies and procedures for serving in children’s or youth ministry. And most of them also had some kind of handbook and training process that needed to be followed in order for someone to be approved to lead a home fellowship. Some of them also had written guidelines for ushering, parking lot attendants, volunteering in the bookstore, and so forth.
But guess what? Less than a dozen of those churches had any kind of policy or procedure that a potential missionary would need to go through before being “sent” from the church to the mission field.
When I encouraged them, especially the senior pastors, to think about the potential value of creating a written “missions” policy, I was intrigued by the main response that many of them gave me. It was something like this, “oh man, written policies usually become something you end up being enslaved to and then actually kept by the policy from accomplishing the end game that the policy was originally created to help produce”.
It was strange to me that they didn’t take the same perspective regarding written policy when it came to children’s and youth ministry.
If one of the reasons why following a written policy for children’s ministry is God’s heart for children that is clearly revealed in His word, doesn’t His word even more clearly reveal His heart and love for people from all the ethnic groups and languages that He created?
If a written policy is an expression of His and our love for the children and youth of our own church, wouldn’t a written policy for reaching those scattered around the world also be an expression of love? And in both cases, that written policy wouldn’t only be a blessing to those receiving ministry, (children or youth, or people in other countries) it would also be a source of growth and blessing to those who ministered within the guidelines.
Just like the written policy for children’s and youth ministry, a written “missions” policy accomplishes the following purposes:
1. It proclaims to everyone that this area of your ministry is so important that you have thought through and recorded ahead of time the direction and structure necessary to fulfill the vision God has given you in this area. This instills confidence and trust in your leadership.
2. Provides a “process” and guidelines that can be easily followed and lets everyone what they can expect if they desire to be involved in this area of ministry.
3. In many cases, it protects the pastors or other church leaders from having to be the one that says “yes” or “no” to the person who is following the process of the policy on the journey to the mission field. Because the policy was instituted by a group of people at a point in the past and as the result of much prayer, thought, and research, the policy itself can play a major role in who/what is approved or disapproved. A good written policy provides an incredibly useful “screening” process.
The bottom-line is that a well written missions policy that is the “fleshing” out of the vision of the senior pastor–customized to flesh out his vision and to fit within the unique needs of that church, can be a major blessing to every aspect of a local church.
If the leadership of a local church desires to progress in being “senders”, a written missions policy should be one of the first steps to ensure that “sending” of one of their own is done in a manner that is worthy of our Missionary God.
I am wondering what you would think about a mission field in their own Jerusalem? Would you think that it would deem the same attention your are considering pastors to take in regards to, what seems to be characterized as the foreign missions field? I am involved in aspects of ministry within the walls of our church campus and I am familiar with the policies of our particular pastoral staff about which you wrote about in your commentary.
I will be praying about how I might encourage the pastoral staff where I am presently attending service about how we might affect our community in such a way. I appreciate your thoughts and comments
Great questions brother, thanks for asking them. When you refer to the “mission” field that is in their own Jerusalem, I’m assuming that you mean the neighborhood or community that the church member lives in and where the church he attends probably exists. If that is what you mean, here are my thoughts:
1. Every member of a local church should be growing in and excited about sharing their faith with all those they interact with on a daily basis. This would include their neighbors, workmates, relatives, the people that work at the grocery store and so forth.
A church that is equipping the saints that are its own members will be equipping, training, and challenging every one of them to approach day to day life as if they’re a missionary. A specific plan to accomplish those things could always be helpful, but even without a specific plan and certainly without a written policy these things should be the natural outcome of a healthy local church.
2. As the members of a local church naturally reach out to their communities, ministries will naturally develop that will provide opportunity for other members of that local church to participate in. At some point, a handbook or policy would probably be needed to sustain that specific ministry and keep it on track with it’s original purpose. But in this case, the policy would be the by-product of the ministry that’s already happening.
3. But when a member of a local church hears God’s call to serve among other cultures and languages that are outside his own country, a whole new spectrum of issues needs to be considered not only by the person with the call, but also by the leaders and members of his own church that if they love him, will desire to “send” him. The person called to be a missionary, not just to live like one in their own context, will be making decisions with major life-issues at stake, (think of all that’s involved with making a move to another city or state, and then amplify that 100 times if you’re moving to another country).
In this case, because of the inherent challenges every person called to be a missionary faces, the policy should precede the actual relocation and field ministry of the missionary in another country. I guess you could say it like this: the missionary and his successful ministry on the mission field is the by-product of a well thought-out written missions policy.
Thanks Jeff… from all us former, future and present missionaries.
What Trip said.
what trip and ed said 🙂
Thanks for your reply and for the insight of your perspective.