Missions Emphasis is Basic

by Bob Gerow

Editor's note: As a follow-up to the July editorial, this is the promised practical, "how-to" approach to getting your church rolling with a missions conference or missions emphasis week.

The following statement was presented in a survey of PH readers: "My church hosts an annual missions emphasis week or missions conference." Only 39% of the 847 PH readers that responded answered in the affirmative.

If this sampling is representative, there are close to 8,000 churches represented by PH readership that do not host regular missions conferences of any kind. If you are among that number, what follows is for your encouragement.

Launching an effective interest in missions does not have to be complicated or costly. A missions emphasis will not conflict with any legitimate priorities in a fellowship that takes discipleship seriously. In fact, taking discipleship seriously may be the best launch point for an interest and engagement is missions.

The first step to a more formal missions emphasis is an understanding of what "missions" is all about, and why it matters. The Great Commission (Matt. 20:18-20) is addressed to the Body, and is stated as something all of Christ's followers should be doing as a matter of course: "Wherever you go, make disciples." Both by definition, and by command, making disciples is no longer an agenda item, but what should identify us in our daily "going." It's about all of life in Christ. "Missions" becomes "Christ-bearing" in our daily walk. Bearing witness is being continuously attentive to the spiritual needs of others who are still to be drawn in to become Christ's disciples.

The second step is to tap into what may already be staring us in the face. An awakened interest in our own discipleship will also awaken our awareness of those who are around us. When we are looking for it, we will pay closer attention to existing denominational links or ties, church networks, pastoral fellowships, and community needs. These, in turn, give rise to the question, "Is this an opportunity for me or our fellowship to bear witness and make disciples?" There will be inevitable "Yes" answers.

The third step is to move from thinking about it to doing something about it-get your resolve on the schedule. While your circumstances may be unique to your fellowship and the community in which you minister, here are a few ideas for the "do something about it" step:

Pray regularly and fervently to the Lord of the Harvest about His plans for your life and ministry, ministry and the life of the believers over whom you are spiritual shepherd.

Prepare a series of sermons/Bible studies focused specifically on our calling to be witnesses and disciple makers. (See "The Kindling Box" below)

Include a "Missions Moment" in regular worship services-reports that focus attention on disciple-making and witness-bearing.

Recruit and empower a committee to explore and develop ways for the fellowship to become involved in bearing witness across the street and around the world.

Participate in cultural fairs and exchanges in your community as a way of expanding your understanding of the world we live in and exploring ways to bear Christ into the community.

Bob Gerow is development administrator for AMG International.

The Kindling Box

Here are a few starters to help introduce an emphasis on missions to your sermons and teaching:

Carefully study three of Jesus' personal encounters during his ministry on earth:

With Nicodemus (John 3:1-21).

With the Samaritan woman (John 4:7-39).

With the "rich young ruler" (Matt. 19:16-30).

With "Christ-bearing" in mind, develop the following:

1. Note the ways in which these three encounters differ:

Who made the first move? How did the conversation begin?

How did they handle and present their sense of need?

What difficulties did each have in understanding Jesus' words?

What changed as a result of the conversation? How was the change evidenced?

2. Note the features about these encounters that are similar:

What are the similarities in Jesus' approach to these individuals?

Is there a common thread in the expressed needs / concerns?

3. What insights do these encounters provide about how Jesus went about His mission?

"One size fits all" style vs. individualized attention.

"Clean up before you come" vs. "I'll meet you as you are."

"Winning converts" vs. "clarifying options and respecting free will." (Everyone takes his own amount of time to get with the program.)

Focus on "people" vs. programs.

Employing theological terminology vs. "everyday" stories and interests held in common to make his point.

Jesus' ministry transcended cultural and social boundaries. The "gospel" is for everyone.

4. In what ways can we individually, and as a church body reflect Jesus' style, conviction, and obedience to His Father in our disciple making?

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