As the people of a missionary God, we are entrusted to participate in the world the same way He does—by committing to be His ambassadors (see John 20:21; 2 Corinthians 5:20). “Missional” describes the perspective to see people as God does and to engage in the activity of reaching them. The church on mission is the church as God intended, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and proclaiming the good news of redemption found in Jesus.
In today’s church culture, the church is defined as successful if it has a large congregation, modern facilities, and a cool band that is seemingly reaching the de-churched. The church at large seems to focus a higher percentage of our writings, thoughts, and conferences on how to grow the church, what strategies to use, and how larger churches are reaching people for Jesus. The pastors of these “successful” churches seem to be the go-to public figures for speaking invitations, and their model of church growth is extolled as something for all churches to emulate.
While there are many reasons to celebrate the things larger churches have already done and continue to accomplish, sometimes we overlook and neglect the work that small churches can do and are doing. Small churches with 250 attendees each week make up the vast majority of evangelical churches in the United States.
A fairly well known California pastor left a church he and his wife had founded, a church that had grown to over 5,000 in its seven years of existence. He did not think that people were using their gifts, but they had become spectators. Now he believes the way to do church is in homes – no buildings, no payroll, no expenses, no preaching; everyone contributes every Sunday.
Paul’s writings in 1 Corinthians 12 makes note that God gives spiritual gifts to each believer, and that believers are to work together for the good of the church. He then immediately moves to the unity of the church and makes special note that members working together, exercising their gifts and not letting the supposedly more important gifts take center stage, leads to a healthy church. When large and small churches identify, support, and utilize the gifts of their members, and have understanding of their identity as a church, the concept of “being sent”, and an accurate biblical perception of the church and its relationship to the world, then each congregation will contribute to the blossoming of the church at large, no matter where or what size they happen to be.
Many people sit in small churches each week and wonder how to move forward. Well, the church was created to be God’s witness to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). But too many churches use this verse as a mission’s strategy, beginning in their own Jerusalem (their own town), then moving to Samaria (the surrounding region or the US in general), and then to the ends of the earth (overseas missions). There are several issues with this line of thinking. First, the point of the verse, and the book of Acts as a whole, and the whole Bible for that matter, is for the gospel to get to the ends of the earth. Second, there is a danger of focusing too much on our own “Jerusalems” to the point that there is nothing left—no money and no people—to send to the ends of the earth. Third, this thinking can leave missional engagement to someone else because it is not the first priority of the church. The thought that we can outsource missions is not unheard of.
What if we placed our priority on taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth, and then allow it to trickle down to local location? Would people with a global vision see their own community in a different light because they now “own” mission and take personal responsibility for the Great Commission? Then the question that comes to mind is, “How can a small church grow its global vision?” The answer is to be in touch with global trends in missions and be informed through relationships with missionaries on the field. Large denominations typically can provide a listing of their missionaries along with prayer points. Koinonia’s India Connection is just a small example of that. Contact a reputable mission agency and sign up for their prayer letters. Hearing regular reports from those in the field brings a vitality to a local church. Finally, take personal responsibility for the Great Commission. Jesus commissioned the Church, and all churches (Matthew 28:19–20). The Great Commission is for everyone. Everyone can pray, give, go, or welcome those who have come here. Churches who take this seriously are typically churches ready to move both globally and locally.
Do you really believe Jesus when He said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:2)? Churches who believe this passage will sense an urgency to understand the state of the world and pray strategically for the advance of the gospel. Pray for God to raise up missionaries, church planters, and gospel workers from within your own congregation.
Pray and seek ways to give more and to go more. Get a laminated world map the size of your dinner table and use it in place of a table cloth. You’ll be amazed at how often the conversation turns to local and global gospel issues because people are now looking at the world on a regular basis. Simply announcing missions at church or presenting a list of ideas for mission will not result in long-term change. Developing a global vision and praying strategically will begin to replace the inactive bits of DNA in any church with Missional DNA. At Koinonia we look to pastors to preach faithfully through all the Scriptures and not miss the thread of God’s heart for the nations that runs throughout the Bible. The identity of God’s people has always been geared towards mission. It is our responsibility to have people see that week after week from the Scripture. The following quote has often been attributed to missionary martyr Jim Elliot: “Why do you need a voice when you have a verse?”
May we as a Congregation be convicted and challenged to dig deeply into the Scripture, and thus close to God’s heart, to share Him with others, which is the definition of being Missional.