When I was a child, missionaries often came to our church where my father pastored. When they came it was one of my favorite times. I was always moved by their stories, pictures, and paraphernalia. They were not necessarily moving speakers but they spoke of the gospel going to places that I had never been. I answered the call to pray and give to missions every time. I told God I would go where he wanted me to go. Our church encouraged us children to save our coins and give monthly through what was called Boys and Girls Missionary Crusade. Families gave to missions. One year, one of our ten-year old boys pledged to give $50 a month to missions. That was a lot of money in 1970. In today’s buying power it is equal to more than $300 a month. What was even more amazing, he fulfilled his commitment. He did this by mowing lawns and doing other odd jobs. His dedication to missions only motivated me as a teenager. Today he serves the kingdom as a pastor; not surprising. The desire for nations was put in my heart early in my life. I want to see the present generations catch a vision for the nations.
When I was in Bible college, Wednesday’s chapel was missions day. Even though I was newly married with little or no money I made a commitment to God that every Wednesday I would give to missions. Even though it might be a few dollars a week I was investing in the nations with a monthly total. I was learning as an adult to commit to the nations. Something was planted in my heart again. This sacrifice to give to missions has continued with my wife and me for more than four decades. This giving is above our tithes and other gifts. Missions has stayed a part of our lives and consequently we have a great missions church today. The mission of the church is local, nearby, cross-culturally and to the nations of the world.
Creating a Missions Culture
The responsibilities of Christ’s Church as a whole should be reflected in each local congregation. What Jesus has called the Church to do should be the mission of each local church in every city. Jesus told us that we would be His witnesses in four areas, beginning in Jerusalem, then to Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth. It can be called the four pulpits of the church. Jerusalem is to the city or locale where God has called any group of people to serve. Judea can be synonymous with a church plant or a satellite congregation near by. Samaria can be identified with a cross-culture congregation and the uttermost, obviously represents the nations of the world. Every great local church should have a passion for all four.
It is easy to believe that we will reach out to the nations someday after we have changed our own cities or at least built up our local congregations. The truth is, however, God did not wait for the early Church to totally impact Jerusalem before they were sent out. It is believed that because of their hesitancy to go to the nations God allowed persecution to scatter them from Jerusalem. To their credit when the early believers were scattered they went preaching the gospel (Acts 8:4). Thus, they went into Judea, then Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the world.
I believe every local church should have a vision for all four pulpits from the very beginning of their existence. To be a great missions church should be the very core of every congregation no matter how small or how new. There is something powerful about accepting the call to the nations of the world and being a part of something larger than your own city. Every new congregation may not be ready to plant a sister church, but every local church can be a great missions church to the uttermost from the very beginning. No matter how small the beginning might be, every church is called to the nations, because it is a reflection of God’s heart.
A heart for the nations comes from Christ Himself. To receive an inheritance means to get something of great value. God sees the nations as belonging to Him and even instructed Jesus to ask for the nations as His inheritance. The Palmists writes, “I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father. Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession” (Psalm 2:7-8). If God’s desire is to have the nations, then he blesses those who partner to take the gospel to the nations.
What a Local Church Can Do
From the first year we began to pastor, we have set up an annual missions weekend or convention at our church to challenge our people to give to missions above and beyond their tithes. We have been blessed to see the fruit of this labor for more than nearly 40 years. Only one year during these four decades have we skipped having a missions weekend. That year, our missions giving went down drastically and consequently our missions effectiveness was greatly altered. Unfortunately, many churches have not discovered this means of missions giving. I often see where churches designate a percentage of their tithe to missions. That is wonderful, until hard times come and the first thing to get cut is missions. I can tell you story after story of missionaries who have suffered greatly because of a church having to cut back on missions support because the tithe dollar declined. I can say to the glory of God, we have never had to do that. The reason is our annual missions weekend. We not only give a portion of the tithe to support ministries and missions but we also give the people an opportunity to give faith promises to missions each year above and beyond their tithe.
Five Keys to be a Great Missions Church
- Plan a weekend for a missions convention. This can include a Sunday morning and Sunday night with guest missionaries giving a challenge. The evening event can be turned into an annual missions banquet. Encourage the speakers to challenge the church to be a great missions church on Sunday morning and then share what they are doing in missions in the evening.
- Receive faith promises for missions. We call it a faith promise and not a pledge. We challenge the people to step out in faith and submit what they will give to missions above their tithe with God’s help and by faith. The faith promise card simply states the purpose and a has a blank spot for how much they will give each month. There is no place for their name. This is between them and God. No one will know who made what commitment just the total for each month. We take these totals and set our annual missions budget. We know that some of it will not come in but with a monthly missions emphasis a large percentage of the faith promises will be given throughout the year.
- Pray for missions. Keep missions and missionaries on the prayer list and before the people. Get reports, pictures, and videos of what is going on with the missionaries you support. Find a place to share these before the church. Let them know what they are investing in as a church.
- Plan for missions. With funds committed through the faith promises, you can pray and make plans where God wants your church to be involved. I would encourage you to give where you have relationships. The needs world-wide are too large, so we must focus where we are given entrance through connections.
- Take missions trips. Go to the nations where you give support. Give to those with whom you can labor. Encourage your people to save up their funds through various means to take trips. Missions trips pay great dividends into the kingdom. The people who go are blessed as much as the people to whom they visit. Missions trips keeps missions before the whole church.
We have discovered over the years that missions giving will not take from the tithe budget or other major focuses. Even when we have gone through our building programs and our people gave sacrificially to the building program our missions giving was never effected. I remember as a young pastor the first time we entered a building program. We had our missions convention within a few months of our capital campaign. I was concerned that the missions faith promises would take from our building program. I was so surprised to discover it did not. Now after three building programs over nearly four decades, we know one does not effect the other.
What is so great about having faith promises for missions is that we allow our people to personally be part of something larger. Together we can do so much more. Our people give weekly or monthly into our cooperative missions program and then we give out the funds to our designated missionaries and missions. Occasionally we have some who designate their giving to certain missions endeavors, but overall, we give into the missions fund to go to all our missionaries and missions.
The fruit that we have to our account in heaven is huge. We have given for all these years. We have partnered with some great men and women for the nations. When people give they also want to go. Each year we have many of our people take missions trips. They do this because they want to be part of a great missions church reaching out with all four pulpits of the church.