Three Ways to Tie Global Missions into the Regular Diet of Your Preaching
From the earliest days of our life as a congregation, by God’s grace, The Church at Brook Hills has been a people who wanted to be “different to make a difference.” Pastors have urged members to a faith that works itself out in love, a faith that shows and shares Jesus with the lost. Under David Platt, this focus sharpened even more. There are many ways in which we have seen God graciously bring forth fruit. As members of this church, a passion to take the gospel to the nations is evident in our praying, our giving, and our going. We praise God for this!
But that’s not all. God reminds his people of the vital importance of global missions by giving them pastors who shepherd the church through the week-by-week instruction of God’s Word.
As the senior pastor, I very much feel a responsibility to maintain and contend for this essential, biblical emphasis in the life of our congregation. These are three categories I try to keep in mind as drift-preventers.
1) Commit to expository preaching.
God’s commitment to the nations is one of the great threads that runs through the whole Bible. Graeme Goldsworthy helpfully summarizes Scripture with this single sentence: “God is bringing his people into his place under his rule and blessing.” As we read through the Bible, it becomes apparent that the people whom God is intent to bring into his place is a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
As we teach passage after passage, seeing the promises and purposes of God and his divine claim on our lives, we will increasingly discover that Matthew 28 doesn’t just live in Matthew 28. We indeed have a Great Commission Bible and serve a Great Commission Savior, who came into this world to seek and save the lost.
This emphasis features prominently throughout the Bible. That being true, perhaps the best safeguard to ensure that we don’t forget that God wants to save sinners from every tribe is simply to commit to preach the Bible, chapter-by-chapter and verse-by-verse.
2) Create a tracking system.
A few years back I created a document in which I include the date, title, text, and theological/pastoral themes treated in any given sermon. (Click here to see a typical sample that covers four consecutive weeks.)
This document is updated each week and the past month of updates are shared each month with our elders. I have found this helpful for all kinds of reasons, not just as it relates to tracking the regularity of this particular theme, but others as well. Being able to look back on it each month with the elders provides a sense of accountability to teach the whole counsel of God. I don’t feel any pressure to force a missional connection into a sermon; nonetheless, having a tracking system allows me to make sure I am touching on missions on a regular basis. Given the previous point, if there isn’t a clear connection this week, I can rest confident that there will be one soon.
3) Connect global missions to everything.
As just stated, there are many passages of Scripture of which global missions isn’t the main point of the text, and yet, even there, we can help the church appreciate the way global mission connects to a vast range of biblical and pastoral themes.
On the one hand, when a person answers God’s call to engage in global mission, they are not answering a call to do something different than they were doing before. They are answering the call to do the same thing—namely, love God and make disciples—but in a different place and among a different people. God calls every Christ-follower to share and show Jesus to the world around them. This is what we want to see believers doing in Birmingham, Alabama, and this is what we want to see them doing in Bihar, India.
Something is lost when an aged believer in a congregation gets the impression that the only meaningful contribution she can make to global missions would be to pick up her life and move to the 10-40 window. Of course, we need believers to continually respond to God’s call by actually moving to hard places and acquiring the language skills necessary to share the gospel with those who’ve never heard it. But it’s not as though, short of that, the believer has been missionally sidelined. Paul, for example, asks church members to pray that he would speak with boldness as he ought to speak (Eph. 6:19) and that the word of the gospel would speed ahead (2 Thess. 3:1). Clearly, Paul gives the impression that prayer is a key factor in the success of gospel witness, even in distant places.
Missions should not be thought of as this flurry of activity happening in isolation from the rest of a local church’s corporate life. The primary tasks of worship, nurture, and mission are not meant to be three separate entities contending for bragging rights, as if some should be allowed to say, “I am of worship,” or “I am of nurture and biblical fellowship,” or “I am of mission.” No, rightly considered, worship, nurture, and mission, are mutually reinforcing.
Think about it: Our love for one another grabs the attention of a watching world (John 13:35). Our honorable conduct silences those who speak against us as evildoers (1 Pet. 2:12, 15), so that when they see our good deeds they may glorify the Father (Matt 5:16). Our working together to share Christ with those around us also reaches back into our experience of spiritual community, deepening the bonds of fellowship. Even the elements of our worship gatherings—seeing God as high and exalted and sovereign and beautiful, reveling in the abundance of his grace in the gospel—are meant to fuel gospel witness.
When we preach from certain texts that focus on different topics—prayer, evangelism, compassion, the kingdom of God—there are countless natural (not contrived) on-ramps that can link to global missions. If this is done with care, over time our people will see more clearly the big picture of what God wants to do in the world and in history. Indeed, the Bible is so cohesive that one can hardly preach a message that doesn’t have any missional implications.
All the while, then, as we uphold God’s Word and see God’s missionary heart, let’s pray that God’s Spirit would empower and embolden us to be a people who proclaim, here and throughout the world, the praises of him who called us out of darkness and into his wonderful light (1 Pet. 2:9).