Your church doesn’t have to wait for the perfect time or situation to get involved in global missions. This article from David Platt and Paul Akin explores five ways your church can get involved immediately. It originally appeared at 9Marks under the same title. It is used with permission.
Today, there are more than seven billion people in the world. Missiologists estimate that over 2.8 billion of those people have little to no access to the gospel. Practically, this means that billions of people are being born, living their entire lives, and dying without ever hearing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This reality cannot be tolerable to pastors and the people of God in the church.
With this in mind, we want to share five things that your church—regardless of size, location, or situation—can do to get involved in God’s global mission.
Pastors and church leaders, help your people see God’s heart for the world in his Word, and let that Word shape and inform how your people live in the world.
1. Teach God’s Word to your people, informing them how to live in the world
George Pentecost once wrote, “To the pastor belongs the privilege and responsibility of the missionary problem.” Pentecost maintained that mission boards could (and should) do what they will—organizing methods, devising movements, and raising money—but it is the responsibility and privilege of pastors to feel the weight of the nations and to fan a flame for God’s global glory in every local church.
From cover to cover in the Bible, God shows his passion for his glory in all nations. So pastors, teach God’s Word to your people, and let them see that God’s heart for the nations jumps off the pages of Scripture. Then, as you study God’s Word, make sure you apply it in light of urgent spiritual and physical needs that surround us in the world. We are surrounded by lost peoples who speak different languages from different nations, and they need the hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ. Pastors and church leaders, help your people see God’s heart for the world in his Word, and let that Word shape and inform how your people live in the world.
2. Commit yourselves to corporate prayer and fasting
As the church at Antioch fasted and prayed, God set apart Saul and Barnabas to take the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 13:1–3). For many local churches, prayer and fasting like this are supplemental. But in the New Testament, prayer and fasting like this were fundamental for the people of God as they engaged in mission. Today, through corporate prayer, local churches can take an active role in the Great Commission task.
By God’s grace, helpful resources like Operation World, PeopleGroups.org, and Joshua Project have been developed to aid and assist churches as they intercede on behalf of unreached peoples and places around the world. Intercession is the means by which we join in the daily activity of God in other people’s lives, and this includes people in our neighborhoods and peoples around the world that we may never meet. Through prayer, God allows local churches to join him in the reconciling work that he is doing right now among Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and people of all religions around the world. Desperate prayer and fasting are a vital way that local churches can be involved in the mission of God among the nations.
3. Give sacrificially
One of the most practical ways for local churches to get involved in global mission is through sacrificial giving. God has blessed many local churches with financial resources that, stewarded carefully and given wisely, can help fuel disciple making and church planting around the world. Regardless of church size or the socioeconomic makeup of the congregation, every local body can be involved in the advancement of the gospel through the sacrificial giving of financial resources.
In the NT, there are examples of local congregations giving to support local churches in different geographic locations (Rom. 15:25–28), as well as local churches giving out of their poverty and sacrificially beyond their means in order to support gospel advance (2 Cor. 8:1–4). Today, local churches can use their financial resources to support gospel-centered missions organizations. They can also give more specifically to meet the needs of persecuted brothers and sisters or to fuel disciple making and church planting projects among unreached peoples. This list of worthy causes related to global mission is endless. Sacrificial giving to global missions enables the whole church to be involved. Children, youth, adults, and senior adults can all contribute together for the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth.
4. Work hard to care for, serve, and be a blessing to cross-cultural missionaries
God has uniquely equipped local churches to care for and extend hospitality to missionaries. Whether or not your local church has sent out a missionary, you are able to provide care, support, and encouragement to cross-cultural missionaries. A few of the practical ways in which local churches can best care for and support missionaries are:
- Commit to regular communication (email, phone, texting, Skype, etc.).
- Send care packages and gifts
- Assist with furloughs and stateside assignments (provide housing, vehicle, mobile phone, help with schooling, childcare, and offering focused time away for rest and retreat)
- Allow them the opportunity to report back and share in a corporate setting when they return and visit
- Listen to them and demonstrate your interest and commitment to their work
Life on the mission field can be challenging, exhausting, and difficult. In the midst of the stress and the struggles, many missionaries often feel disconnected and forgotten by their sending church. Therefore, one of the most practical ways local churches can get involved in global mission is by working hard to care for, serve, and be a blessing to cross-cultural missionaries.
5. Send qualified disciple makers overseas
Perhaps the most obvious way that local churches can get involved in global mission is by sending out qualified and equipped disciple makers to directly engage in Great Commission work. On a local level, this includes releasing people out to your city to minster to lost neighbors, coworkers, and family members. Believers won’t do overseas what they do not do at home, so the starting point for missions must begin in local communities.
Then, as men and women are making disciples where they live, issue a periodic call for some to leave your local community to go to the nations. Under the direction of God’s Spirit, this will lead to your church sending people short-, mid-, and long-term to proclaim the gospel, make disciples, and fuel church planting efforts among unreached people and in unreached places.
The local church is the means that God is going to use for the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth. In a world filled with billions of lost people, many of whom have never heard the gospel, it is unacceptable for global mission to be relegated to a compartmentalized program in the church for a select few people. Surely God is calling his entire church to be involved in strategic ways in making his glory known among the nations. Our prayer and desire is that more and more pastors will take hold of the privilege and responsibility God has given local churches in his global mission.
David Platt is the president of the International Mission Board. You can find him on Twitter @plattdavid.
Paul Akin is the senior aide to the president of the International Mission Board. You can find him on Twitter @pakin33.