How to refocus a church for missions


Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the Spring 2024 issue of Southwestern News.

In recent years, Tim Keller, JD Greear, and others developed the Missions Manifesto. In it they ask: Does the church have a mission or does God’s mission have a church? The answer speaks to the very existence and core of the church. If the church has a mission, then it’s one of the things that they do among many other activities. Or is the church by definition, God’s missionary agent in the world? God is a sending God, and as God sends the Son, the Son sends the church (John 20:21). Does this then mean that the church does missions and we do not need called-out missionaries to go to the ends of the earth?

The key is understanding and being active in what Jesus commanded in the Great Commission– “make disciples.” This is the heart of being a church that God uses for His mission. This means the church I belong to should be defined by how it makes disciples. If we have a significant area that cannot be connected to making disciples then we need to question its relevance. Does your church have a mission statement that is defined by discipleship? Ask all the areas of ministry to be directly connected to this.

Part of being defined by discipleship means a church membership that understands each person’s place in making disciples seven days a week. The leaders model and teach the members how to live out their faith throughout the rhythms of their lives daily. One way to promote this is to weekly profile a member who is taking their faith into the workplace.

The church will be actively involved in making disciples locally, while simultaneously having a concern for the ends of the earth. This means sending those who will cross language and cultural boundaries to make disciples to the ends of the earth. Sending means prayer, encouragement, support, and short-term trips to help. If a church is small with limited resources then it cooperates with others – the beauty of how Southern Baptist churches work together in missions. An action step is to be sure you are involved in giving and supporting Southern Baptist agencies like the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board.

The answer to our question then is that the church does missions by actively involving its members in disciple-making locally as well as sending out disciple-makers who will plant their lives in another language and culture. When this is what defines a church we can say that God’s mission has a church.

Dean Sieberhagen is the interim dean of the Roy J. Fish School of Evangelism and Missions at Southwestern Seminary.