Monday, April 02, 2007

Cut To The Chase

In the past couple of posts I ‘ve been pontificating on the need to make missions better. To cut to the chase, what would I do, how would I approach missions if I were a pastor in the U.S.? Whether my congregation was 50 or 500 here is what how I would pastor my flock in the world of global outreach.

1. I would begin a yearlong educational program so that our membership was informed. I’ve talked about this issue over the past two posts, so no need to repeat myself here. I would subscribe to monthly journals, have a reading list, attend at least two seminars on missions and would invite a missions consultant to meet with our people. I WOULD NOT invite a missionary or national to visit my church during that year. The reason is obvious; they have a work and an agenda. That’s not bad, but you should build relationships and partnerships AFTER research.

2. I would create a purpose statement that reflected Acts 1:8, i.e., outreach to Jerusalem (my city), Judea (my region or country), Samaria (similar belief countries) and, uttermost parts of the world (the unreached). I would define missions as outreach outside my local congregation. (I define any outreach for the benefit of our congregation as evangelism, but for the sake of category would identify local outreach as M0). True missions, therefore, would have with these classifications:

a. M1 – Regional outreach. This may mean giving to a Hispanic ministry in the city, supporting a new church plant among the Iranian’s in Dallas, campus ministry to international students, drug intervention program, etc.

An M1 mission is not VBS, short-term mission trips to Mexico. Though important, these projects promotes and benefits the local assembly, therefore would be M0 evangelism.

b. M2 – Outreach to the Reached. Missions and missionaries (Western or National) to people and countries who already have access to the Gospel. I am well aware that the people in Mexico City, Stockholm and Pusan are not yet Christian centers and those who serve in those areas are important and some do have significant ministries. If I were a pastor, those serving in M2 missions would need to get my attention if our church is to partner with them.

c. M3 – Outreach to the Unreached. One third of the world’s population has no viable Gospel witness. They live in the restricted countries where politically it’s impossible to openly declare the message of Christ; they are religiously resistant (Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Animist). An M3 mission is ministry in hard-ground among hard people and the fruit of the ministry may not be seen in our lifetime.

3. I would institute a 70/30 budget…70% for Jerusalem/Judea (M0) and 30% for Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world (M1, M2, and M3). Of the 30% to missions I would dedicate 10% to M1 and M2 and 20% to M3.

To make this budget work the congregation must be diligent to protect the integrity of its purpose. If the teen-agers want to have a Bible club in New Orleans; if the mission committee wants to take a fact-finding trip to Moldova; if a missionary comes by for lunch, monies for such activities should either come out of the M0 budget or paid for out of a persons own pocket.

When I think of budget, I am thinking of ALL monies that are raised through the church. If my church needs a million dollar expansion, we should think about how to raise $300K for M1-M3 missions. I realize I lose most of my audience at this point, but I contend that there needs to be radical shift from centripetal ecclesiastical centered congregations to centrifugal missional assemblies. If the reason for our church existence is to compete with other congregations so we can survive I’m not convinced we have a right purpose. If our purpose is to reach the world with the message of hope in Christ, then a spirit of sacrifice of must prevail within the assembly. If a group of believers of people can’t function on 70% of its income, it seems to me, our priorities are a bit out of kilter. Real radicals might suggest a 60/40 budget.

To go 70/30 and to budget toward M3 ministry is a process that will be difficult for the institutional church. Denominational intuitionalism will make it even more challenging. The larger and older the congregation the more the “choke law” of innovation becomes evident. If I were a pastor of an established program I would set a five-year goal, beginning with education, in moving toward a 70/30 M3 mission plan. Those with the newer congregations or who do not have a defined mission strategy can move much quicker toward the reality of a missional church.

Idealistic? Perhaps. One thing is certain, churches throughout the world are captivated with church growth and what it takes to become more attractive in their community. Though half of the churches in our region could die tomorrow and Christ would still have an adequate witness, we can’t or won’t realign our outreach that is more outward and less inward focus. To cut to the chase, we need to revaluate how we do missions and to those who have never heard His Name.