Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Missions Makeover: What Does It Mean?

As I entered the foyer of the church, my eye was drawn to a world map displayed prominently on the wall next to the doorway of the sanctuary. At first glimpse, it looked like a route map of an airline company; a big white stick pen at the hub with colored yarn going off to all types of destinations in Africa, Europe, and Latin America. Beside the map were pictures of missionaries as well as their recent prayer letters. This church no doubt was mission-minded, as the map of their outreach ministry was over 20 countries, supporting more than 50 missionaries, all at approximately $30 a month.

While this congregation was being faithful to the spirit of Acts 1:8, to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth, their strategy of missions was na├»ve at best. Their mission map revealed two things. First, they had no clear purpose of what they were trying to accomplish with their missions dollars as their missions involvement was literally, all over the map. Second, they had no real commitment to those they supported, as some people spend more than $30 a month at Starbucks. Supporting many with a little does little to generate enthusiasm for those who are asked to support missions. Developing a comprehensive mission’s policy will give focus to a congregation in what they are trying to accomplish in their outreach ministry.


Aristotle said, “If you wish to converse with me, please define your terms.” The beginning process of developing a strategic document for the local church is by defining purpose, mission, ministry, and missions. Here are term definitions.

PURPOSE – Why does your church exist? What justification do you have for being called a Body of believers? There are many good purpose statements, for example, one might be:

“We exist to glorify Christ in our personal life, family, community and the world.”

MISSION - A purpose statement is who you are as a congregation…a mission reflects what you do to fulfill your purpose. Mission is the process, the macro-view of the congregation’s purpose. The mission statement may be:

“To reflect God’s glory by taking the Gospel to the unreached, making disciples and establishing local communities of believers; demonstrating His love through meeting the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of people throughout the world.”

MINISTRY AND MISSIONSProjects are the micro-activities of what a congregation does to carry out their mission. Obviously, there are many projects of the local church; we call them ministry activities (music, children, cell group, youth ministries, etc.). What a church does at the local community level is beyond the scope of my discussion but a church that defines well what they do at a local level is important for their growth as it relates to their purpose.

It is important that the church separate ministry and missions projects. Why? Because if it doesn’t, then everything becomes missions, which causes confusion in the congregation, which leads to an ill-defined global outreach program. Missions is other focused, while ministry is us focused. Missions is activity outside the direct benefit of the local body of believers. Missions is not youth camps, radio/television ministry, a Christian school, or senior adult projects. I would argue that short-term mission trips are not as much missions as short-term exposure trips primarily for the benefit of those who go. They are not as effective in terms of reaching others with the Gospel.

Next time I will help define what is missions and how we can use that definition to create a solid global outreach program.