Pastor Cliff Jordan’s church, Movement Church in Richmond, Virginia, has been sending short-term missions teams overseas since their first year as a church plant in 2011, and they continue to regularly send out and support members of their church family as long-term missionaries to areas such as Central Asia and Central America. He graciously agreed to speak with us about the thought and process behind their sending.
What does it mean to have a “sending culture” in a church?
Ideally, having a sending culture changes everything. When you realize that you’re sent, that means you don’t just “go” anywhere anymore, but rather you’re sent everywhere. Living as sent ones brings an intentionality to life that I believe is exactly what God wants for his church. It takes “sentness” and mission activity and evangelistic activity away from just a single life category and says, “This is who you are. So if this is who you are, this is what you’re going to do as a way of life.”
How can a church begin to create a “sending culture” in their congregation?
Well, if a church isn’t already actively involved in missions, the first step isn’t a program or a trip overseas. The first step is repentance. If you find yourself in a church that’s saying, “We need to get back to making disciples of all nations,” then that means you’ve gotten away from that.
So the first step is to go back to the Bible and see that God is indeed, from the very beginning, a sending God, and therefore we are a sent people. And after you repent, you start right where you are, in your own lives and schools and neighborhoods and workplaces. And then don’t limit your missions activity to where you are currently, but look to where God is sending his people worldwide. After repentance, you’ll be much better prepared to get practical answers on how to begin sending your members out. But the heart problem must be recognized first.
What role has missions played in Movement Church?
We’ve always seen ourselves as missionaries. Missions existed the very first day we looked at the Bible and said, “Let’s do life together, let’s reach out, and let’s be missionaries to Richmond.” We didn’t look at anything we did as haphazard. We didn’t just go to the grocery store, or the park, or the gym. We decided we were sent there with a purpose, on mission for Christ.
It was in our first year as a church that we decided we needed to go overseas, just to sear that into our story early. Jesus told us to make disciples all over the world, so we believed we needed to model that from the very beginning. We went to Central Asia and started working with, of all things, American football groups in the local universities. That’s where we met up with a football coach who worked for the IMB and fell in love with him, his family, and his vision. We quickly moved our efforts to join him where he was planting churches in Central Asia. In fact, we recently sent out a couple to join his team long term.
A lot of people advised us against taking that first trip, saying that we weren’t ready, that it was too early in the life of our church. But, looking back now, it really paid off. It’s given us a super strong connection in that area of the world and increased our awareness of missions here. It’s something we’re very proud of.
How do you decide where to send your church members?
Need is everywhere, so where need and opportunity and the Spirit are leading, that’s a good indication of where we need to go. For our church, those three converged in Central Asia. Now, for example, we did send one of our members to a completely different part of Asia. This woman had a personal connection with a particular people group, and we recognized that the Spirit was using that connection to lead her there. The need for the gospel in that place was obvious, and there was a job opportunity, and so that’s where she was sent.
How do you continue to support the church members you’ve sent out long term?
If the Lord sends out our church members for long-term work, that means we go with them. It doesn’t matter how hard it is. We as a church have to figure out how to stay connected to them and how to help them. If that means more difficulty for us, then so be it.
So you’re still very much a part of our church when you go overseas for missions. We have a missions team that contacts our people every week for prayer or for any needs they might have. If at any point our folks have a need that we can meet or encouragement we can provide, we will hop on an airplane and be over there ASAP. And when couples or individuals go overseas, their community groups remain a vital connection for them. Now, with technology these days, we have the ability for instant communication, and so things like texting have been a great help, especially during uncertain or even dangerous moments.
Also, a significant part of our short-term trips is not just reaching out but also reaching in and ministering to our folks living overseas. These trips are almost pastoral care trips, in some sense. We know that IMB has people in place to care for their members, and that’s awesome, but these are our people. And so we’re going to take care of them in any way they need.
Another way pastors and churches can support missionaries is by joining the Sending Celebration on November 10, 2016. This service is a chance to gather with other believers and churches to celebrate the lives and callings of our newest missionaries. We will have a chance to pray over these believers, hear their testimonies, worship with them, and be challenged by a message from IMB president David Platt. If one of your friends, family members, or church members is being sent out, this is an excellent way to encourage and support them as they begin their journey.
Attendance is possible both in person and through an online livestream. Visit the Sending Celebration Event Page to learn more and register for either option.
Cliff Jordan is the lead pastor at Movement Church in Richmond, Virginia.
Sophie Spencer has worked as a writer in South Asia. She currently serves as a writer and social media associate for IMB.