It’s one thing for a church to pray for missionaries, be burdened for the lost, and have a growing passion to become engaged in global missions. But channeling that passion, forming a plan, and moving a church forward requires vision. And getting a vision starts with a simple step—connecting with missionaries by going on a vision trip.
Turning Passion into a Practical Plan
As a new pastor, God stirred my heart for his work in all the nations, but I needed a vision—a practical plan for missions through my local church. So, I made a phone call. That call led to a connection with an IMB missionary couple in Africa.
That connection led to a vision trip to the field, which changed everything. It wasn’t my first mission trip, but it was my first trip as a pastor looking for how my church could have a meaningful partnership with missionaries and help to advance God’s kingdom globally. God used that first vision trip not only to deepen my passion for His mission but also to give me a plan for missions in my church.
This is what a vision trip should do: Turn passion into a plan for missions.
Making the First Connection
A conversation with those who are actively engaged in healthy international missions is the starting point. But making a connection with vetted missionaries leading viable God-centered ministries isn’t always easy.
This is where Southern Baptists are blessed to have the cooperative resource of the International Mission Board. IMB’s mobilization team specializes in helping churches make connections with gifted, trained missionaries serving internationally. Today, it’s easier than ever to make that first connection.
Deciding Where to Go
While there are abundant opportunities to connect with those doing missions all over the world, determining where God is calling you and your church can be an overwhelming question. I find it helpful to look at the Apostle Paul’s example when he sought the Lord’s direction in Acts 16:4-10. Here are three principles I’ve observed in that passage:
- Live on mission where God has you (Acts 16:4-5) as you seek to find out where God is leading you in his global mission. A passion for participating in the expansion of the global work of the gospel starts with obedience to the work of the gospel wherever you are.
- Don’t force open a closed door (Acts 16:7), and don’t hesitate to walk through an open door (Acts 16:9-10). God may have placed a people group or location on your heart, but if your heart is surrendered to God’s plan for your place in his global work, then trust that he’ll lead you where he wants you to go.
- Involve others to prayerfully consider and affirm God’s call in where he’s sending you to connect his church to his work in the world. Include trusted believers in the process of praying for the direction for the vision trip God has planned for you (Acts 16:10).
Once God has opened a door by connecting you with those doing missions on the field, go! Go to the field with the prayer that God will give you a vision from the field for how to move your church to the field for his glory among the nations. Go with a heart that’s open to learn from the field what’s needed for a healthy partnership with those in the field for the global work of the gospel.
Learning by Asking Good Questions
I would encourage those who are looking for a vision to ask missionaries to share with you their vision for a healthy partnership in the mission. Helpful questions may include the following:
- What does a healthy church partnership look like?
- How can our church partner with you to help support and encourage the work that God’s given you among this people group?
- If God called a group from our church to come to the field to serve with you, what would that look like? How would we be able to assist you in your work of the gospel?
- What are the most helpful and the least helpful things when it comes to partnerships between churches and cross-cultural missionaries?
The list of questions could go on-and-on, but the point is to have a heart ready to listen. Ask questions that allow missionaries on the field to guide your vision.
Whatever you do, don’t continue struggling with turning dreams and passion into a practical plan. Start a conversation today that will lead to a connection, a vision, and greater spiritual flourishing for your church and for the expansion of God’s church globally.
Dr. Joel Williams is senior pastor at First Baptist Church in St. Francisville, Louisiana. He also does adjunct work for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and serves as the director for Advance International Honduras. Joel and his wife, Tiffany, have been married for twenty-four years, and they have a son, a daughter, and a son-in-law.