What is the mission of the church? That’s a big question, and it’s one that I won’t even attempt to fully answer in this post. After all, entire books have been written on that topic! But a quick summary is that the mission of the church should focus on the task of making disciples of Jesus Christ who can multiply themselves by making more disciples of Jesus Christ. In other words, the church should exist to make disciples who make disciples. And that mission applies both locally and globally.
That’s the heartbeat of most pastors and church leaders that I know. But, it’s not necessarily the heartbeat of most churches. In fact, it’s a common observation that churches tend to drift from an outward focus toward an inward focus over time, unless intentional steps are taken to maintain an outward focus.
So what do you do if you find yourself in a church that has experienced this “mission drift”? How do you help change the culture slowly back to an outward, missional focus? Consider some of these ideas to help get you started:
- Pray for a missional focus. We often have not because we ask not (James 4:2). Spend time begging the Lord to stir the hearts of your church members toward a greater missional focus. Use part of your weekly prayer meeting to specifically pray in this way. Consider sharing missional opportunities (both locally & globally) to pray for during these times.
- Assess your church’s current missional focus. Ask good questions. What are some of the missions activities in which the church has had direct involvement during the past few years? What percentage of the church’s budget is being spent on evangelism and/or missions?
- Rediscover your church’s mission (if necessary). Get a group of leaders together and talk about the mission of the church and how the church has been engaged in that mission in the past. It’s probably the case that the church once had a very active missions/evangelism ministry. Learn those stories, retell them to the congregation, and rediscover together what God has called your church to be and do.
- Continually raise awareness of lostness, both locally and globally. Share lostness stats and stories as often as you can and in as many settings as you can. Make sure to describe the numbers in terms that are easily understood. For example, instead of saying that your community is 92% unchurched, you could share that 11 out of every 12 people don’t go to church on any given Sunday. You are saying the same thing, but in a way that is easily understood.
- Make organizational changes as necessary. Notice that this isn’t step #1, but it may be necessary to make some organizational changes. Don’t make these decisions on your own, but build consensus that these changes are necessary to help accomplish your church’s mission before actually making the changes.
- Start small & create some easy wins. If you are not already doing so, involve your church in local missions projects. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or pregnancy care center. Pass out free bottles of water in the park. Contact the local schools to see if there are any needs that you can help with. Start small and build some momentum for missions!
- Develop strategic missions partnerships. Take Acts 1:8 as your missions roadmap and develop local, state, North American, and international partnerships. Lead the church to pray, give, and go.
- Publicly recognize and celebrate members engaging in mission. I have heard it said that what gets celebrated is more likely to get emulated. If you know of church members that have actively been engaged in missions & evangelism, make sure to tell those stories to your whole congregation!
- Anticipate opposition. Not everyone in your church will be happy when you begin to move from an inward to an outward focus. Don’t be surprised when the opposition comes.
- Keep moving forward. Don’t be resistant to make changes or adjustments to your missions strategy if one particular missions initiative doesn’t produce the desired participation levels or faces significant opposition. But, also don’t give up either! Keep praying! Keep sharing about the needs! Keep providing opportunities to engage in mission! Keep moving forward!