The obvious reason for planting a church anywhere in the U.S. is to reach lost people for Christ in those communities. A desperate need exists for biblically sound relevant churches to reach lost people. I’ve been a church planter, as well as a pastor in two other turn-around churches through the years. I’ve seen that wise cross-cultural missions engagement is critical to the health of every church, including church plants.
Consider these seven big wins by engaging in missions from day one of your church plant:
1. You stamp a global DNA into the life of your church. While most church plants are driven by the Great Commission, many can overlook the “nations” element of Jesus’ Command. When Jesus told us to “make disciples of all nations”, he was telling us to be sure we reach and disciple all the ethnicities of the world. If we take the nations out of the Great Commission, we no-longer have a great commission. It’s something, but it is not great.
2. You live in alignment with the heart of God for the world and will be blessed for it. To really love God, we need to love who He loves. “For God so loved the world that He gave….” And then there is the undeniable thread throughout the Bible of God’s love for all lost people. Psalm 67:3 states, “Let the peoples praise you, O God, let all the peoples praise you!” In the Hebrew that word for “peoples” literally means “people group.” Way back then, God’s heart was already being poured out for the lost people groups of the world. When we love who God loves, His pleasure for us will not be restrained. We will experience and feel His favor as a church.
3. You choose to act selflessly and generously as a church. Engaging in missions creates a healthy other-oriented spiritual dynamic that is truly transformational for your congregation.
4. You stir the hearts and engage the giftings and passions of your church. Did you know that between 2-4% of those in every church have the unique gift-mix of missionary? Even more than that have the Spirit-given drive to help see the gospel reach every people, nation, tribe and tongue. Though it is common to be only community focused in church planting, we fail to develop a critical piece of spiritual health in our people if we overlook missions.
5. You develop well-versed, fully mature disciples of Jesus. When people experience the poverty, lostness and suffering of those in other places in the world, they are profoundly impacted deep in their souls. Your church will grow in awareness, gratitude, compassion and lessen the entitlement mentality that we naturally have as Americans.
6. You can holistically impact your neighborhood and city. The world has come to us! This is God’s doing and He wants His church to respond to this reality. We must do missions in our own backyards.
7. You increase your influence significantly. You will begin to bear fruit here, near and far. Your church will become more evangelistically oriented because they are captured by God’s heart for lost people. Every church I’ve led has become significantly more effective at reaching the lost around us because we also committed to reach the lost far from us.
How can we take some first steps into meaningful missions engagement as a church plant? Consider these five strategic actions:
1. Develop your own heart for the world. You already know this: Where your heart goes, your congregation’s heart will follow. You can’t fake a commitment to the nations either. You need to seek God’s heart for the lost peoples of the world and then follow your heart. Read some good books, like Gaining by Losing by J.D. Greear, Something Needs to Change by David Platt, or Miraculous Movements by Jerry Trousdale. Of course, there’s nothing like going on a trip into a least reached people group and let your heart be broken by people suffering in spiritual poverty.
2. Interweave stories of lost people groups throughout your teaching, leadership and conversations. Every time you insert a global illustration or story, you plant seeds of global awareness into the minds and hearts of your people. For yours I did this without even realizing it. When I accepted the role of leading missions for Converge, members of my congregation—one after another—said, “Of course, that makes perfect sense.” They had seen and heard my drive for the lost for years.
3. Do something cross-culturally from day one of your church plant. Invest in a church plant among a people group in need or adopt a missionary to build relationship with, pray for and support (even if it’s fifty dollars a month) or start praying regularly for a people group in your community asking God to show you what’s next. Go ahead, be creative! But do something from the start.
4. Identify your values as a church and set a plan to live them out. If you value missions, be sure you set a plan to engage in and develop your missions participation. Make sure missions is not an afterthought. If it is, it makes a statement about how you view God’s passion for lost people.
5. Let Converge International Ministries walk alongside. Don’t do missions alone. In Converge, we say. “We’re better together!” This is so true in the missions world, too. We have an entire team dedicated to help you discern how God has shaped and wired you as a church—and then help you engage in ways that will be transformational for your church and those who need Jesus.
As every church plant chooses to embrace the fullness of the Great Commission, we will see a God-honoring harvest of new believers here, near and far.