Why Your Church Isn’t Passionate About Missions… And What to Do About It
Missions in most evangelical churches is usually relegated to an annual emphasis where we pull out the world flags, quote the Great Commission, applaud missionaries and write a few checks. In the Southern Baptist denomination (which I’m a part of) we have some nationwide offerings that center around Christmas and Easter. Yet according to estimates I could find (which are a little sketchy at best), including a 2008 report of by the Presbyterian denomination, just 2 million North American Christians—around 3%—go on a mission trip each year.
The fact is, the vast majority of believers have little to do with missions, and the vast majority of churches do little to reach people globally in the context of their ongoing ministries. It is likely, then, that your church is not passionate about missions. Like most churches, you have a small but vocal group of missions advocates, but your missions involvement is probably lacking.
And that’s sad, because when you look at churches that are highly engaged and active in missions globally, they also tend to be the ones that are active in reaching people locally. Missionary C.T. Studd said, “The light that shines the farthest shines brightest close to home.” And that’s true—those willing to go out among the nations to serve Christ and share the gospel will come home more energized, passionate and active in sharing the faith with their neighbors. If you want to impact you local community in a profound way for Christ then the first step is to send people out to the world for a time so the walls around their view of Christ, the Gospel and their personal mission can be blown out.
Over the years I’ve heard these five reasons—excuses, really—for lack of missions involvement in local churches. Here’s what to do with what you hear within a missions-lacking congregation. They’ll tell you…
We have plenty of needs here. That will always be true even in a wealthy country like the United States. However, we do have something in the U.S. that is not present in many other places, and that is free and open access to the Gospel, to churches and to Bible study materials. Christianity is readily accessible to us, but not to many in the world. Additionally, the U.S. poverty level of $22,350 per family still puts that family in the top 5% of all families worldwide. Today more than 2 billion people will make less than $1, 1.5 billion will only have access to one meal, and 50,000 will die of preventable diseases. The needs are great here, but you’d have to have your head in the sand to deny the needs are much, much greater spiritually and physically elsewhere.
Let the professionals handle it. The unfortunate side-effect of a denominational missions program is that in many cases is sidelines personal missions activity. We seek out and hire lifetime “professional” missionaries which we sent to other nations, then create offerings and ask churches to support their work around the world. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does remove in some measure the personal responsibility to share the gospel among all nations. Rick Warren’s classic “Purpose Driven Life” has a great biblical principle in the phrase “every member is a minister.” If your church has 100 people, then you have 100 ministers and 100 potential missionaries. To let anyone think they need special training, a seminary pedigree or a fat bank account to do missions is a travesty. Any believer can do missions. Every believer should. Never let a congregation get the idea that writing a check in support of “missions professionals” is a fitting substitute for their own personal missions involvement.
I’m not called to missions. That’s just flat-out not true. Know this: all Christians are called to missions, without exception. No matter the age, the background, the physical condition, the talents or skills, every believer is a missionary. The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 is clearly a call for all believers to share their faith locally and globally. It is not a choice, it is a command. Anyone who says they’re not “called to missions” has simply believed an unbiblical, unholy lie. We must never teach that missions is not everyone’s responsibility. The result of that seemingly innocent sentence, according to Barna Research, is that more than 40% of supposed Christ-followers never share their faith with anyone—not even their friends and neighbors. That is disobedience to Christ and a failure on the part of churches to teach disciple-making/missions/evangelism in a holistic and biblical fashion. Never, ever use or allow the sentence, “I’m not called to missions.”
God doesn’t want us to go to risky or dangerous places. Another stance that’s just not true. It’s natural to pray for safety and security when traveling or when sharing the gospel, and I do believe that God hears that prayer. However, we need only look at the apostles and early Christ-followers who were crucified, stoned, burned and otherwise killed for their faith to know that God surely does expect His committed followers to be willing to give all—including their lives—for Christ. According to Voice of the Martyrs, today around the world more than 200 million Christians are denied basic human rights because of their faith.
But perhaps the greatest example of someone risking their life for another is Christ Himself, Who gave His very life for us. When He said we must “deny ourselves, take up your cross (an instrument of torture) and follow Me”, He was quite clear that there would be challenge, pain, even death, as a result of following Him. When we look at how we are being obedient to the call and commands of Christ, we must realize that the Bible says little in defense of our personal safety in the matter. Should we teach our people to have guts in the midst of some challenging situations for Christ and the gospel? Yes, absolutely.
The pastor isn’t big on missions. Christ led by example and the church He founded is led by the examples of its leaders. If the pastor is uninvolved in missions, he sends a clear message to the congregation that it’s optional. In my view the Pastor must lead out in this area. A pastor passionate about people coming to Christ in his own congregation must be passionate about the nations coming to Christ. He must travel and lead out in the area of missions. He must go and encourage his people to go. I must confess I do not know what it is like to serve in a church that is not passionate about missions, because everywhere I have served the pastor has been out front and personally involved in missions locally and globally. This is paramount. Pastor, if you’re preaching to “reach the lost” and not deeply involved in missions and pressing for the growth and expansion of your missions program globally, stop what you’re doing and get on a plane tomorrow. We cannot teach people how to reach the world if we do not see the world as God sees it. None of us has a lens long enough to view the work of God and the need of people for the gospel from afar. Before any other hindrance to missions in a church, a pastor must ask himself, “Am I the one holding us back?”
Author: Eugene Mason, Communications Director for Cross Pointe Church under the leadership of Dr. James Merritt