Over Eighty years ago, a missionary would travel to Jamaica’s island nation and begin to share his faith with those he encountered. As he approached a small dilapidated house with a dirt floor, he could see chickens running around in the yard and hear the laughter of children play off in the distance. He would be viewed through the owner’s suspicious eyes, peering from a small garden next to the house. God would soften the man’s heart to hear out the missionary and change his family’s line forever. One of the children from that family would grow up faith-filled and on fire for God. She would first move to Canada and then the United States and begin attending church in a small town in Southwest Florida after she retired. In her late sixties, she was the church’s mission president sharing her passion with others. In this church, I would capture the vision that the church needed to catch the mission-mindset, all because a missionary shared his faith with a family decades before. Through that prism of understanding, the passion has taken hold, and it has become my driving force inside the local church. Over the years, three simple words, connect, serve, go, have become the missional DNA that I see more and more churches need.
Connect with the vision that God has for your church.
God has a plan and purpose for the local church. He has equipped her to be a beacon of hope in a world becoming increasingly challenging and more hostile to the gospel. God is resourcing his church to become the beachhead for missional outreach worldwide and in the local neighborhood in which the church serves. What is the vision that God has for the local church? For many churches, it is different depending on context and local needs. Where is God already working in the community? Where are your members serving or donating to in the community? Find ways to come alongside your member and the organization they support and connect with the vision.
Far too many churches try to develop programs that duplicate services in the community. God wants the church to use its resources to expand upon ministries and the gospel footprint, not compete. Connecting with the vision that God has for your church is relating to the community’s needs holistically by resourcing all that the body has to give to help make the community better over the long-term.
Serve others as the hands and feet of Christ.
Spend some time driving around your community and see the need around you. View the world as Christ would see it. Where do the lost hangout? Who is struggling to seek help? What organization is serving the underprivileged? As you are driving around, begin to take in the church’s mission field and ask God in prayer where he wants the church to begin. See it as an opportunity to serve the community right where the greatest need is in the churches’ shadow of the steeple. Serve others as the hands and feet of Christ, with love, grace, and understanding. With limited resources and the people’s power, the promises of Christ can infect the DNA of the church and transform her overnight into a missional community.
Through pastoral prayers, sermons, mentoring, and future group leader development, the pastor, can begin to infect the church’s missional promise. It may take time, but God will begin to place the right people in the right situations to lead these ministry teams into the community if the pastor holds to the promise. Over time, the teams will begin to recruit their members, raise resources, and expand the God footprint.
Go into the mission field; it is never too late to do something.
As a leader who has a passion for helping the church be more like the community, you have probably heard, ‘Pastor, I just do not know what to do?’ What a unique opportunity to help your members become the missionaries God is commissioning your church to be. It is never too late to do something, but do something even if it fails, as there will be a life/spiritual lesson found. Christ has called the church to ‘Go, make Christ-like disciples in the nations’ (Matthew 28:19), but far too many churches have chosen not to help the need next door, much less the nations. While the Word has challenged the church for centuries to ‘go,’ it seems more and more say ‘no.’ It is in this context that the DNA of the church has to be transformed by willing hearts, prayerful spirits, dedicated hands, and Christ direction.
The going part of the mission may be hard at first, but God will provide the people to lead and participate in these missional endeavors over time. At one time, the local church you serve in was a mission field; that is why it was planted. While you might never know why the church turned inward, you have an opportunity to lead them outward by strategizing, developing a team, and leading the first team into the community.
Over time, through connecting, serving, and going, the members will begin to become what God has called them to be. The church that seemed destined for decay and closure will become a missional community center in all aspects. As the pastor, you can help infect the church’s DNA by leading them forward, but are you willing?
Dr. Desmond Barrett is lead pastor at Summit Church of the Nazarene in Ashland, Kentucky.