Dr. Charles Revis, Executive Minister
As American Baptists we have a long and storied history of mission engagement. There is much to celebrate. Many have come to know Christ and have experienced life-transformation through the dedicated work of our missionaries and our mission sending agencies. Many of our churches were birthed out of the efforts of local Baptist associations working in partnership with national mission societies.
The generous financial support of ABC churches has given life to this story. More often than not local church missions committees have led the charge. Missions committees have promoted the annual offerings. They’ve urged their congregations to set aside a percentage of weekly offering income in support of missions, usually at the level of the tithe. These same committees have taken a personal interest in our missionaries. Without the lowly, unsung work of missions committees I imagine there would have been far less support for missions in our churches throughout the years. I celebrate the advocacy and work of the missions committees of local ABC churches.
On the other hand I believe we’ve paid a price in our churches by relegating the work of missions to a committee. The unintended consequence is that missions became the limited concern of a few informed individuals. Missions, which should be at the heart of the church, became relegated to a sub-group on the periphery of church life.
Over the recent years ABC-NW has sought to realize the vision of “Growing healthy, mission-focused churches that multiply disciples and churches.”
The choice of the phrase “mission-focused” is more than mere word-smithing. The phrase calls us to reconnect with our roots and once again make missions a front and center, church-wide concern. Recognizing our historic passion for missions, both nationally and internationally, we want to stoke the flames of that passion within local congregations. In this way missions would once again become the driving force of the church writ large. This means moving beyond merely supporting missions to hands-on engagement in missions. The more the church engages in mission the more mission moves out of an isolated silo to take up its rightful place at the center of the church’s life.
In other words becoming a “mission-focused” church can be a strategic method for moving an inward focused congregation in an outward focused direction. It’s a way of becoming authentically missional (the current buzz word that is swiftly becoming a cliché). Rather than primarily serving church members the mission-focused church redirects its energies to the world beyond its buildings and holy huddles. The mission-focused church steps out of safety into the dangerous, uncharted mission field immediately outside its front door step. As the local church engages in hands on missions, both locally and abroad, the congregation moves from merely supporting missions to becoming a mission agency in its own right. In other words, as the congregation engages in missions it is transformed into a church on mission, which is what being a missional church is all about. The daily practice of mission leads to church transformation and health.
So, practically speaking how might this play out in the church’s daily life? Here are a few suggestions:
1. The congregation, after investigation and prayer, starts a ministry that meets a particular need in its immediate community. The entire congregation is invited to help out with this new endeavor. Wins are celebrated in the worship service(s).
2. The primary leadership team with input from a missions team (or, committee), plans one to three mission trips each year. Participants in the mission trips are recruited from the entire congregation. The results of the work are reported to the entire congregation and celebrated.
3. The congregation selects one to five International Missionaries to support directly. Updates from the missionaries are regularly communicated on the church’s web site and/or newsletter.
4. Every member/attender is trained to become a local missionary. Outreach and evangelism become the main focus of the entire congregation. One of the best approaches is through the OIKOS training by Tom Mercer. His simple training book is available through Amazon. Tom will be in the ABC-NW twice this fall offering training.
5. The church regularly prays for success in mission, locally and abroad. These prayers are offered in worship services, small group gatherings and during leadership meetings.