By Dr. Sam Roberts, team leader for the Missions Team of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention
During my first five years of serving on the ABSC Missions Team (yes, January 2024 will mark 5 years!), I have often been asked the question, “What do you miss the most about being a pastor?” At the top of my list are close friendships and baptisms.
I never bought into the line of thinking that a pastor should be guarded when it comes to developing relationships with church members. To this day, some of my closest friendships are with those who were members of the churches I was blessed to pastor. Some of those friends, I even had the joy of baptizing. What a tremendous joy to celebrate with the church as a person confesses Jesus through baptism! Over these past five years, I have kicked myself multiple times for not keeping an accurate record of those I had the joy of baptizing. Let him who has ears to hear. . .
One area of continuity between my current calling and my former life as a pastor is helping the local church develop an intentional mission strategy. Recent conversations seem to indicate a renewed desire among Arkansas Baptist pastors and church leaders to reengage the church in actively obeying the Great Commission. This is certainly a welcomed and refreshing change from those conversations in the immediate aftermath of Covid that were characterized by a desire to hang-on, maintain, or simply survive.
Covid accelerated change in our culture. You have most likely witnessed change in your church as well. As I have traveled the state and had the opportunity to preach in a variety of church settings, conversations generally include how the church is just not the same as it was prior to Covid. Those conversations have served as a segue into deeper discussions about the unchanging nature of God and His unchanging call upon the church to make disciples.
No church is omitted from the Great Commission, regardless of size or location. So, how does a church develop an intentional mission strategy?
Define Acts 1:8 for your local church.
This first step cannot be overlooked in the process. As the pastor provides valuable insight into the meaning of the biblical text, he can lead a discussion to help the local church, committee, or leadership team identify their Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.
For churches I have pastored, we chose to keep this process simple and identified four geographical areas: local community, state, nation, and international. A bonus was that these were also supported by our denominational structure. Your discussion may lead in a different direction. Have the discussion and see where the Spirit leads.
Design the mission strategy for your local church.
Although the strategy for being obedient to the Great Commission might change from church to church, I believe there are five components that are common in every effective mission strategy.
Prayer is the foundation for an effective mission strategy.
In Luke 24, Jesus appeared to his disciples following the resurrection and gave them this word, “stay in the city until you are empowered from on high” (v. 49). Jesus then led them to the area around Bethany where he ascended to Heaven. Prior to his ascension he left them with what we know as the Great Commission. After a brief conversation with two angels, the disciples returned to Jerusalem and made their way to the upper room where “they all were continually united in prayer” (Acts 1:14). They stayed in the upper room until the Day of Pentecost when they were filled with the promised Holy Spirit. Only then did they begin to fulfill the Great Commission.
I would encourage you to incorporate prayer into the regular rhythms of the church, especially Sunday School/small groups and worship. When prayer saturates the regular rhythms of the church, prayer will begin to saturate the regular rhythms of life for church members. (You can find an example of incorporating prayer as mission strategy here: https://www.absc.org/articles/leading-your-church-to-pray-acts-18-style).
Intentional prayer is a key component of an effective mission strategy and will also fuel the other components.
Providing opportunities for the church to financially support missions is another key component of an effective mission strategy. As Arkansas Baptists, we have a structure that promotes giving at every level of mission engagement (local church budget, associational support, Cooperative Program, Dixie Jackson, Annie Armstrong, Lottie Moon). As you develop your mission strategy, find ways to intentionally connect your prayer emphasis for that Sunday with the giving opportunity.
An effective mission strategy will also include a variety of opportunities for mission mobilization in the community, state, nation, and world.
The final component of an effective mission strategy is providing opportunities for mission response. Have you ever wondered why church camps are fertile ground for students responding to the Lord’s call to ministry or missions on their lives? Perhaps it’s because there is an intentional invitation given. As your church develops an intentional mission strategy that includes praying, giving, and going, you will also produce fertile ground for mission response within the church.
Develop action plans for each component of your mission strategy.
This is the section of your mission strategy that will be unique for your local church. Asking questions is a great way to develop your action plan for each component of your mission strategy.
- How can we incorporate prayer as a mission strategy into our Sunday School/small group ministry?
- How can we incorporate prayer as a mission strategy into our worship?
- How can we incorporate prayer into each of the other components of our mission strategy?
- What giving opportunities support our mission strategy?
- How can we intentionally connect prayer and giving in our church?
- How can we celebrate the impact of our giving?
- What are the major needs in our community?
- What ministries can we provide that will these needs?
- How can we most effectively impact lostness in our community, state, nation, and world?
- How can we provide opportunities for mission response? How often should we provide opportunities for mission response?
- How can we disciple those who respond to God’s call to missions and ministry?
- How can we celebrate their calling?
- How can we support those from our church who have responded to God’s call to missions and ministry?
If you have questions or need assistance in developing a mission strategy for your local church, your ABSC Missions Team is ready to assist. Arkansas Baptists, let’s go!