Tuesday, September 18, 2007

An Article On The Pastor And Missions

I came across the following today. As with all articles from other sources take what you can use and leave the rest. There are some good points.

I also want to thank the pastor's for their interest and feedback. It is very encouraging. May God bless all of you greatly as you serve the Lord.

Over the past 60 or 70 years, the work of missions has been left largely to the sending agencies. I am very grateful for those agencies, and I deeply appreciate their labors. The business of missions, however, belongs to local churches. The agencies have ended up performing many tasks by default simply because local churches and pastors have been negligent.
The church in which I was reared was a mission church with a missionary pastor. He understood missions, preached missions, promoted missions, and exposed us to missionaries of many sorts. I grew up loving the work of missions. From the time I was a child, I have wanted to be a missionary, but the Lord has thus far led into other sorts of ministries.
Why would a pastor not want his church to be missions-minded? Why would he not want to expose his congregation to as many of the best missionaries as possible? Why would he not want the church to support missions generously?
Most pastors verbally agree that missions is important. Nevertheless, the zeal for missions has been on the wane for decades. We now have a generation of missionaries who are retiring from the field, and we do not have replacements to send. The missionaries who are sent are often undersupported, sometimes underprepared, and occasionally undersupervised. The responsibility for this situation does not rest with the sending agencies—they are merely service organizations. The responsibility for the future of missions rests with local churches and especially with pastors.
What can and should a pastor do to foster enthusiasm for missions in his congregation? Some churches seem to think that the answer to this question lies in taking large groups of church members—and especially young people—to faraway mission fields. Whether those trips are worthwhile expenditures of the Lord’s resources probably varies from case to case. Pastors, however, can and should find many ways to promote missions that do not require lavish outlays of cash.
First, and most obviously, every pastor should know the missionaries whom his church supports. He should know their names, their families, and their situation in life. He should know where they minister and what special challenges they face.
For a new pastor, getting to know the missionaries takes a while. He may not see all of the church’s missionaries for several years. But he should begin his pastorate with a personal letter to each missionary family, introducing himself and recommitting himself and his congregation to renewed interest in that missionary’s work. Then he should maintain a correspondence with each missionary. In the old days, we had to use international mailers to send letters to foreign countries. Now we can use e-mail. There is no excuse for a pastor not to be in touch with every missionary every couple of months.
Furthermore, the pastor should encourage the church to be contacting the missionaries regularly. At minimum, every prayer letter (whether paper or electronic) ought to receive an answering letter from some member of the congregation. The church should also send bulletins, sermon recordings, and other information about church events to its missionaries. Most missionaries of my acquaintance would love to be praying for their sending churches—only they never hear enough to know how to pray.
At least once each year, the pastor ought to place a telephone call to every missionary. Needless to say, the call should be made at a time that is convenient for the missionary. A voice from home may prove to be very welcome, and a missionary often will discuss issues with a pastor that he does not feel comfortable addressing in a prayer letter.
As easy as travel has become, in most cases a church should send its pastor to visit each of its missionary families in their place of ministry. Most pastors will return from such a trip with renewed missionary vigor, and I know very few missionaries who would not relish a visit from their supporting pastors. Nothing sparks a church’s interest in its missionaries like a pastor who has actually seen what they face.
Churches who have commissioned their own missionaries have special obligations toward those missionaries, but they also have special opportunities. The church will have to help the missionary arrange housing and travel every furlough, but it has a tremendous opportunity to have the missionary minister within the congregation. If possible, the church ought to provide an office for the missionary, who should be treated as a member of the pastoral staff. The missionary’s travel schedule ought to be planned in cooperation with the pastor, and under the pastor’s direction the missionary should actively promote the work of missions within the congregation. The missionary’s activity will include preaching and teaching, but it may also involve other ministries within the church and community. Who better to train a youth group in evangelism than a missionary who is home from the field?
An annual missions conference is traditional in many churches—and the tradition is a good one. But the pulpit should be open to missionary speakers throughout the year. A supported missionary should be given a whole service or even a whole Sunday. Missionaries should know how to preach a sound, expository sermon, but they should also be able to give the congregation a vivid picture of their field and their work. In many churches, the members will learn most of their philosophy of missions from what they hear missionaries say. Therefore, missionaries should not be reluctant to explain why they do things as they do.
In short, missions cannot be an afterthought. The pastor ought to have a vision for where he wants the church’s missions program to go, for how he wants to approach the unique problems of foreign and home missions, and for the church’s involvement in various missionary enterprises. Communicating this vision is part of the pastor’s ongoing ministry in the church. If we do not wish to see missions die, then it is a work each pastor must take seriously.

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