Sending culture: 3 ways pastors can develop one
RICHMOND, Va. (BP) -- Recently I was privileged to attend a commissioning service for new International Mission Board missionaries. I was invited by a couple from our church who was preparing to be sent to the nations.
Fellow pastors may have that same desire but simply don't know how to create a culture where sending is the norm in their church. A pastor may lead a small church and believe only large churches have the resources and wherewithal to send missionaries to the field.
That simply isn't true.
I pastor one of the smallest -- if not the smallest -- churches in our local Baptist association. We don't own a building. Currently, we meet in homes. But we are absolutely committed to seeing the Gospel go forth not only at home but around the world. Our small church, located in the panhandle of Florida, is actively involved in the spread of the Gospel in Haiti, Guatemala, North Africa, East Asia, North Dakota, and of course, wherever the IMB sends missionaries because of our participation in the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
We have personally engaged unreached Southeast Asian people. Our small church has labored among them for five years, and the Lord has blessed us with one believer out of them so far. Our prayer is that when we return to visit our new brother in Christ there will be a church among his people.
My missionary friends mentioned above are also fruit of our commitment. They have determined that they were "called not to comfort or success but to obedience." On the one hand, it's hard to release faithful servants.
But on the other hand, we are thankful and find great joy seeing disciples obey Jesus and spread the Gospel to the nations (1 Thessalonians 1:2–10).
So what does it look like to create a culture where sending is the norm in a church?
I believe every church, large or small, can practice three simple principles that will begin to create this sending culture.
Preach about it
The Bible is a story about redemption. It's a true story that has one common thread from cover to cover -- that of a promised Redeemer. The Old Testament is the story of how God prepared a people through whom He would send the Redeemer. The New Testament is the story of that Redeemer, Jesus. Jesus came to release His people from the bondage of sin and death. And He sent them out to proclaim His name and make disciples of all the nations.
This is one of the purposes of preaching. We exhort believers to not only know the Word of God but to obey it. And since all of Scripture points us to the mission of God, preaching about it leads others to embrace and enter His mission.
When pastors see the Scriptures in this light, they can't help but preach Jesus and His mission from Genesis to Revelation. So when one preaches, he should preach the Gospel in every part of Scripture. Preach the full counsel of God's Word with joy and passion. If people are confused about the structure and thrust of Scripture, then they will be confused about the mission of the church. So pastors should preach the Gospel and its practical implications every time they open their Bible.
I have a personal rule in my ministry. I will never ask the church I pastor to do something I'm not willing to do myself. If I'm not willing to regularly get on a plane and go to the ends of the earth with the Gospel in my hand and on my lips, then I cannot expect my church family to do it either. If a pastor wants to create a culture of missions, they need to not only send people from their church on mission but they need to go.
But some might say, "I pastor a small church. I have a small salary. I can't afford to go on a mission trip." While all of these statements may be true, I would venture to say that most pastors probably lead churches that are filled with people who believe it's important to take the Gospel to the nations, even if they don't think they're the ones who should go.
A pastor should ask the church to consider making it possible for him to go by funding those trips. He should ask them to make the sacrifice for him to lead the way. Then he should pray and ask the missionary Spirit of God to change their hearts, giving them a willingness to go themselves.
Plan for it
I once heard that if one wants to know what people care about just look at their checkbook. I would venture to say that many churches spend the majority of their money on maintaining facilities, program materials, salaries and administration.
Unfortunately, many churches do not financially plan for sending people with the Gospel to the nations. They may give a small, or even large, percentage of their budget toward general sending, but it's tucked away in an easily overlooked line item. If a pastor is going to create a culture for sending, he should come up with a creative way of communicating that he is financially and personally planning to take the Gospel to the nations.
Jesus commanded His disciples to make disciples of every nation, tribe and tongue. He told them to teach disciples to obey everything He commanded them. He promised to be with them always, even to the end of the age.
Jesus has given the church the responsibility to do the work of sending. As a person responsible for leading a church toward this kind of culture, preach the Gospel, practice going with the Gospel to the ends of the earth so others might also be sent, and plan to give financially toward sending others with the Gospel. We've discovered this is an effective way to create a sending culture in our church.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article first appeared at imb.org.