The entire point of leadership is to take others to places they have not been or need to go. As a church leader, you face a congregation that needs insight and direction. At the writing of this article, there are more than 7.3 billion people on the planet. Of those, only 2.3 billion people claim Christianity as their personal faith. Content taken from the Pew Forum. http://www.pewforum.org/2017/04/05/the-changing-global-religious-landscape/ To me, it is unquestionable that we are to lead church members to engage the rest of the world with the Gospel. The church must take the Gospel to places and people where it is not fully known. We face a tragic fact and must take action about it.
But, a problem arises for many pastors on the issue of the global task. Local needs are often weighed more heavily against the ones that are more difficult to see or experience. The vast lostness of five billion people on the planet is hard for anyone to fully grasp. But the commission by Christ that we “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) stands no matter what numerical odds we face. As church leaders, you and I are bound to guide believers to not just understand – as overwhelming as some will feel it to be – but engage the disciple-making task with urgency.
Creating urgency for the global task will require your congregation to embrace the idea of being a global church. As the pastor, you likely hold a wider perspective regarding God’s work. How then can you guide your church to have the same? We’ve got plenty of information. In fact, we are information rich and understanding poor. But we can move people away from merely hearing and casual hacktivism. You, my fellow church leader, can initiate action among church members. You can lead them to be a global church.
Here are a few steps for leading believers to be globally informed and mobilized:
1. Begin by being a leader with a worldwide perspective
As a leader, you should be able to identify with both the historical and global church. We do so naturally in the historical sense because of our ties to doctrine and creeds. But to do so globally means to know about and personally engage believers in other geographic areas. Our commitment is to treat those worshiping Christ on another continent as our brothers and sisters in God’s family. Commit to knowing about them, sharing their struggles, and celebrating their victories. Use the multitude of mission agency, denominational, and other online resources to better understand what is occurring in the church worldwide.
2. Take all of The Great Commission seriously
In Matthew 28:19, Jesus commanded us to “make disciples of all nations.” We readily access the resources available to make disciples on a local level. Many even do it on a national level through domestic church planting. When we ignore the global mandate of the Great Commission, we are disregarding God’s heart for the world. We are all engaging God’s mission; some on local levels and some moving to another part of the globe. Jesus gave the work to the local church, and we should lead out in it. Find your way to personally help in disciple-making for the global church and invite your church along for the adventure of grace.
3. Embrace our neighbors’ greatest need
Jesus told the Good Samaritan parable to drive home that anyone in need is our neighbor and we as the collective church bear responsibility to meet that need. Great church leaders understand that our local church is can impact the illiterate tribe in the jungles of South America and the highly educated professor at the local university. Our church members are able to engage the neighbor across the street and the megacity dwellers on another continent. They all have need of the Gospel and its effects in their lives. Eternity hangs in the balance for all humanity. Whether on the opposite side of the street or the opposite hemisphere of the world, global Christians embrace their role in delivering the hope of the Gospel to any neighbor they meet.
4. Fulfill Acts 1:8 simultaneously
For too long, we have allowed ourselves a missional “Get out of jail free” card about reaching every part of the world. By misusing Acts 1:8’s statement of “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth” as a linear progression of missionary activity, we can leave out so many people. The problem happens when leaders give in to the argument that we have to win everyone in our own “Jerusalem” before we spread out in missionary activity. Jesus’ command was not to work in a linear progression. Equip your congregation to deliver the Gospel anywhere and everywhere. Conversely, help them to be humble that the global church is doing the same thing. God’s mission is from everywhere to everywhere for the sake of the people anywhere.
5. Move the church to a three-level missions strategy
Others have used this simple matrix that I think is easy for all believers to adopt: Serve locally, plant nationally, & adopt an unreached people group globally. There are various configurations that it can take, but the impact can be immediate. Mobilize members to work on all three levels of local, national, and international ministry that declares the Gospel and cares for the needs of people.
6. Don’t worry about homogeneity
The Homogenous Unit Principle teaches that people come to Christ more easily when fewer social barriers must be crossed. For example, a middle-class, suburban-dwelling, married Anglo male with teenage children is more easily won to Christ by another person of the same description rather than by an elderly, lower-class, Asian immigrant who is single. I propose that rather than being a prescription for ministry “success”, use it as an observation of normal human behavior. Otherwise, it was a misstep for the Jewish fisherman Peter to go to the Gentile soldier Cornelius to present the Gospel (Acts 8). Our encouragement to the church must be that all believers are responsible to reach all kinds of people regardless of their social description. Believers should be sensitive to cultural differences but never allow them to be barriers to Gospel ministry.
7. Teach the gain of global ministry
Too many see ministering to other people groups domestically and going to other places internationally, as a sacrifice. It is not. For the early church, it was the normal pace of evangelistic work. The use of our finances, vacation time, or even vocational calling in fulfilling the Great Commission should become commonplace for our churches. After all, as members of God’s kingdom, everything we do is spiritual cross-cultural ministry. It is always beneficial to the church to share the Gospel and care for another person’s needs. Lead your people away from the “I’m sacrificing for others” mentality and into the “We’re gaining new brothers and sisters in Christ” perspective.
You can do this! Don’t be a single church with a global mission. Be a global church with a single mission. Start where you are and with those who will go with you. If some sneer or doubt, let the salvation of souls near and far be the defense of being a global church. As you go, invite everyone to join in. It is a beautiful journey with Christ.