FIRST-PERSON: Missionary practice
CINCINNATI (BP) -- I keep wondering about the role of mission education for equipping more workers in the harvest.
What if, say, Peyton Manning reached 24 years of age before deciding to become an NFL quarterback? Yet, we have well-meaning people surrendering to vocational missions sometimes with little more than a couple of volunteer mission trips under their belts.
What if every church member were trained as a missionary? What if parents ran drills to witness to the lost and serve the needy and talked up how to make disciple-makers every Saturday afternoon for five hours? Maybe we need to call mission education by the name "missionary practice."
There is a need for mission education that is not about missions, but equips all church members for mission. It was a joy to meet with our state's missions leaders earlier this month. We met to pray and talk over a new day of mission education, one that would draw from orientation guides that both prepare and send teams of adults, teens and children into God's mission.
And mission education must be tracked and held accountable for working to bring spiritual transformation. If every believer is a missionary, then churches must start using different ways to measure success. Right now, we keep track of baptisms, Sunday morning worship attendance, Sunday School attendance and giving to the church. These, however, are all attractional not missional measurements.
Let me propose that we track spiritual conversations engaged in, new believers who lead someone else to Christ, money invested in evangelizing and missions support, new small groups begun, new small group leaders trained, new pastors trained to shepherd new churches, and multiple new churches started each year by church members.
God uses many things to call us to join His mission. I once surveyed IMB career missionaries to get a timeline of their missions education and influences. Each of them, when in their early 20s, had heard a sermon on Isaiah 6. Almost all of them had been RAs and GA too. They took at least one seminary class on missions. And they had all taken at least one volunteer mission trip. Churches would do well to look at opportunities to disciple their members in missions so that when God invites them, they are well-prepared.
Peyton Manning's father was and his younger brother still is an NFL quarterback. Archie Manning practiced and practiced with his boys. He was their unofficial coach for years of football experiences from youth leagues to high school, college and into the pros. What does that look like in your family? In your church? It's not too late to get started equipping members as missionaries.