Cultivating a Culture of Missions in a Small Church
Pastor, have you ever thought to yourself, “My church is so small, we cannot do much for missions, especially overseas missions”?
If so, I have news for you. Small churches are not exempt from the work of missions, nor should they want to be.
My church, Grace Baptist, does not have all of the resources often associated with congregations heavily vested in missions. But, by God’s grace, here’s how we have become increasingly committed to advancing the cause of Christ around the world:
1) EXPOSITORY PREACHING
Scripture, of course, is filled with instruction to believers and churches about God’s plan and our responsibility to spread the good news of salvation in Christ to the ends of the earth. As our congregation saw this repeatedly through expositional study of Scripture, we moved beyond theoretical agreement into thoughtful, practical engagement.
2) INTENTIONAL PRAYING
Next our congregation began to “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2). In the pastoral prayers during our worship gatherings, in our regular prayer meetings, and in smaller group settings, we began to pray this way. He has answered those prayers by calling some of our most faithful, gifted members to engage some of the most unreached peoples of the world.
3) FOCUSED STUDYING
Two books became instrumental in our church’s pilgrimage into practical missions involvement. The first is Patrick Johnstone’s Operation World. For more than a decade we have incorporated statistical and spiritual information on nations gleaned from this book into our weekly announcements and pastoral prayers. This has sensitized our members to people and places that we would otherwise ignore.
Also, one of the best things we ever did was to teach through John Piper’s Let the Nations be Glad in our adult Sunday School. The vision of God’s glory being magnified in the joy of yet-unreached people groups captured many of our members. It remains a favorite in the church.
4) PERSONAL CONNECTIONS
Finally, our missions efforts began to practically take off through providential meetings and personal connections. One Southern Baptist missionary just back from four years in Afghanistan visited our church and told us first-hand accounts which made a lasting impact on our church: prisoners who starved to death due to his team’s lack of funds to feed them; believers converting from Islam who were put to death or simply disappeared; and so forth.
This personal connection led us to adopt the unreached people group (UPG) in Central Asia that this missionary was targeting. We started learning about them, praying for them, and pledging resources to help reach them with the gospel. Ultimately God led us to send one of our deacons and his family to join the full-time work of those already working there.
Once our own members were living among our UPG, our interest in the work of the gospel in that part of the world increased significantly. Our prayers became more personal and fervent. Our giving became more meaningful and sacrificial. And our rejoicing was deeper and sweeter when a church was eventually established by God’s grace among new converts from that people group.
Over the years we have sent four missionary units (three families and one single adult) to live in hard places to make Christ known. We have adopted another Muslim UPG in Central Asia and have rejoiced in the birth of another church.
A MISSIONS CULTURE
Through expositional preaching, prayer, and special study, God has cultivated a “missions culture” within our church. In addition to what I have already written, we do several specific activities to help promote that culture:
- We regularly schedule trustworthy missionaries to visit and tell about their work. We try to encourage them and give them gifts, especially good books.
- We get to know missionaries (sometimes by asking discerning friends), publicize their needs, and systematically pray for them.
- We give space for maps and displays of mission activities in our facilities.
- We remember the birthdays and anniversaries of missionaries and send thoughtful notes and gifts to them.
- We enlist members to correspond with missionaries.
- We encourage church members to read good missionary books, including biographies.
- We train and send members on short-term trips to assist overseas workers with special projects or simply to serve and encourage them. God used short-term trips to confirm his call in the lives of each of the missionaries we’ve sent out.
- We work to increase the amount of money the church designates for missions.
None of these things may seem very significant on their own. But collectively they can encourage a church to develop a global perspective concerning the advance of the gospel. Not only that, they are the kinds of things any church can do, regardless of its size or resources. A church with this kind of atmosphere can become a great breeding ground for the next generation of international missionaries.