He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" - Romans 8:32

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Tuesday, July 03, 2012 

Six Challenges for the Church in Missions: 4) Balancing New Strategies with Commitment to Long-Term Missionaries


Church leaders always have to decide how to best use limited resources for kingdom benefit. Which takes priority: investing in promising or productive strategies or supporting and caring for current long-term missionaries?
Historically, congregations have been connected to missions through their missionaries and their primary concern has been to the missionaries. Some churches idolize missionaries, the people who gave up everything to live for Jesus in distant lands. The support and welfare of their missionaries is their number one priority. One pastor told me, “We have never missed a check for our missionaries, and as long as I’m the pastor, we never will.” Those in the church may have little idea what the missionaries are trying to accomplish and their prayers will usually be for the missionary instead of the people the missionary is trying to reach. They would not think to ask if the missionary is effective or if their ministry is strategic.

Many churches do not have specific missions goals and strategies. Local church leaders are largely unaware of various parts of the world and know little about cultures and mission strategies. They want to spread the gospel and they support and trust missionaries and mission organizations that have their own goals. The church missions strategy is a collection of the strategies of supported missionaries and organizations.

Some churches have long ignored the missionaries they support. They don’t know them and have little idea of what or how they are doing. A few church leaders want to evaluate their missionaries but have unreasonable expectations. They would not think of evaluating their own church by the same standards they wish to apply to their missionaries. Others are highly critical of missionaries who seem to show little results. Many church leaders assume church growth in a difficult environment should be rapid and dramatic (thus mirroring their own church growth). One young missions pastor in a suburban multi-campus church told me their leaders were considering disengaging with their missionaries in the 10/40 Window. They wanted to take a “high impact” approach like their ministry in the US. He didn’t seem to understand that “high impact” might look different in the 10/40 Window.

Occasionally a new missions committee feels compelled to become better stewards of missions resources. They develop a strategy, perhaps without considering the consequences to their missionaries who are far away and dependent upon their support. Missionaries who may have pioneered the missions ministry in the church or been long-time workers from the church may be unceremoniously dumped because they don’t fit into the new strategy.

Increasingly church leaders recognize that the congregation is disconnected from missions and they work to get congregants involved. The most natural forms of involvement are mission trips and projects in the community. These require a great deal of planning and management. Many missions leaders are so busy with organizing these complex involvements (along with other responsibilities in the church) that they have little time to think about how or whether these projects contribute to the larger goal of world evangelization.

There are an increasing number of administrative and missions pastors who have recently come from the business world. Although they have a good handle on goals and strategy, they may lack an appreciation for the church’s long-time missionaries, be unaware of what it means to work cross-culturally or understand how progress might look in other cultures.
Becoming more strategic while taking care of our missionaries is a major challenge.

Practices for maximum global impact:
—Take good care of your missionaries. Get to know them. Concern yourself with their goals, progress and dreams. Pray for them. Help them communicate with the congregation and develop personal friendships among your members.

—Help your missionaries with accountability from a developmental perspective. Work with their sending agencies to help them realistically evaluate their ministries. Do what you can do as a church to help them become as effective as possible.

—Read and learn everything you can about the world, the situations of peoples and nations, missions trends and the methods and strategies God is using effectively today.

—Develop strategies and pursue them as your missions budget expands, as new missionary candidates surface and as current missionaries leave the field.

—Watch for good partners, both US and international, who are pursuing the same goals.

—Undertake partnerships which will be beneficial to your missions goal.

- by David Mays

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