I am passionate about seeing local churches fulfill their God-given role in reaching the nations. Through my experience of coaching hundreds of churches across the United States, I have found that outside help is often critical in generating an honest assessment of a church’s current mission reality, bringing focus, implementing needed changes and engaging the entire church congregation in a compelling vision.
I want to start with a story about a friend of mine who served as an elder at a large church. His church believed in missions and had a long history of generously supporting missions, but they had never really been proactive about reaching the world. They had basically developed missions’ commitments without strategic integration. He longed for more and knew his church’s potential to reach the nations was not being realized.
My friend arranged a couple of meetings between their missions pastor and me. I explained the missions coaching process and its benefits to help them develop a Christ-centered, endemic global vision with the potential to engage every member of their church. The missions pastor seemed to resonate with what I was saying but then without any explanation, he brushed me off. Nearly two years later, the phone call from the missions pastor came, “I need your help. After I heard about your mobilization process, I thought I could do it myself. But I just keep banging my head against the wall. I am not sure if I am asking the right questions and no matter what questions I do ask, people seem to take them personally.”
This illustrates the following key reasons why it is important for churches to ask for help in mobilizing their people to be on mission:
- Unbiased Perspective – This is no surprise, but usually, there are unhealthy biases within a church keeping people from being mobilized. I regularly work with churches that have not yet developed a strategic, church-based missions vision, but they do have ad-hoc missions committees. These committees consist of well-intentioned, big-hearted people who are often lobbying to get support for their pet-projects. Therefore, missions’ team members tend to have a bias towards a particular mission agency or missionary who is often a family member or a friend. Frankly, this can cause a conflict of interest, especially when the missions’ team is responsible for determining who and what to support. When a church has a strategic missions vision it moves them from asking, “What missionaries are we going to support?” to first asking, “What mission has God called us to undertake together?”
- Fresh Eyes – Someone from the outside can often see what those on the inside cannot or choose not to see. This includes not only the seeing of the unpleasant things but also the encouraging things. For example, it may be tough for a church to face the reality that their missions program is relegated to just a few people, or that they are supporting missionaries with whom they have little relationship and do not even know what those missionaries are doing.
- Courageous Questions – Sometimes churches know in their gut what questions they should be asking. Sometimes they do not. However, it is usually fear of how others will perceive those questions that keep them from being asked. Someone from the outside can more easily ask the tough questions without fear of reprisal. For example, “What are you currently doing poorly in your missions approach?” or, “What is it about your current missions approach that frustrates you the most?”
- Varied Experiences – Typically, someone from the outside also brings experiences from the outside. For example, over the last 20 years I have helped mobilize hundreds of churches and though I never encourage a church I am coaching to “ape” another church’s successful missions vision, I am able to share learnings from other churches that are sometimes highly beneficial.
- Gentle Pressure – I once worked with a church and after several months of walking alongside them, the missions pastor told me one of the greatest benefits of the missions coaching process was accountability. He said, “Knowing that you were going to periodically touch base, motivated me to implement our plans.” Sometimes missions’ plans are not implemented because of the pain that real change requires or a church may dream a vision but fail to identify the key objectives to get the vision moving forward.
- Preservation of Relationships – When a church goes through a mobilization process that is facilitated by someone from the outside, it can preserve relationships, especially when that process leads to changes in the way things had previously been done. For example, a missions team member was lobbying for a particular mission in Africa, but this focus was not emerging as something the church was going to support. This was becoming obvious to everyone, even that team member. Had the decision to cut support to Africa been made without a process from an outside party, it could have been taken very personally.
Back to the story that I started with…the mobilization process at this church was a bit messy, courageous questions were asked, the changes that needed to be made were at times painful, but in the end, a clear, heart-grabbing missions vision was forged. This church engaged the Silver Palaung people of Burma. The church partnered with a few key agencies, funded a recording of the recently translated New Testament, launched strategic Short Term Missions Trips and even sent some of their own to plant churches. Asking for help mobilized more people to be on mission with God than this church had ever known.
President and Church Missions Coach
Sixteen:Fifteen exists to help local churches discover and use their unique gifts in partnership with others to make Christ known among all nations. If you would like to know how Sixteen:Fifteen Church Missions Coaching can help unleash your church to reach the nations, please visit us at www.1615.org or call to talk to a Church Coach at 505-248-1615, or email us.