Home David Mays June 20, 2008
Biblical Foundations for Your Missions Strategy
For a variety of reasons church leaders are taking a close look at how their missions resources are being deployed. Many are asking What is our strategy? A strategy is a roadmap to guide you to making the best decisions for responding to opportunities and pursuing ministry that fits your church's priorities.
A number of factors may influence your church's mission priorities. These include things like how you hope to balance your local and global outreach efforts, how narrowly or broadly you desire to focus your efforts, whether you desire to minister to particular categories of people or places, how much effort you place on partnerships, and how important it is for your people to have hands-on involvement. You can find all this in the CD, Developing a Missions Strategy that Fits Your Church by David Mays.
But these priorities are based on four foundation stones:
· What you understand the Bible calls us to do in the world
· The purpose or mission of your church
· The definition and scope of missions as you understand it
· The status of the world and the great challenges we face
Most churches base their missions ministry on particular Scriptures. They may have a written biblical basis statement or paragraph.
However, the missions activities and budget of the church may show little connection to this biblical statement. One can imagine a small house built on a firm foundation, but rooms added beyond the foundation. The house sprawls in several directions, with sagging rooms built on bare ground.
To make your biblical foundation more useful, have your missions or strategy team work together in developing or revising it. Here is a way to do this.
Begin by selecting a number of Scripture verses that might be considered foundational for missions. (See this list, for example.) Write out each verse on an eight by eleven sheet of paper and post it on the wall. Ask the team if they want to add any verses; write each one out; and put it on the wall. There is some subjectivity about this and if you feel later that you have omitted important verses, you can add them. Ask each person on the team to pick their top selections (three, four, or five) and put a colored sticker on each of their selections on the wall.
The verses that most people select will be your missions verses. You may have four, five, or more foundational verses.
Divide your strategy team into two or more groups with at least three people in each group. Ask each group to choose one or more verses from among the ones you selected. Assign all the verses.
For each verse, ask all the groups to write out their answers to three questions.
1. Scope. Does this verse indicate the "scope" of God's purpose? Who all does it include?
For example, Isaiah 49:6b. "…I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." The scope is "the ends of the earth," or all the world.
Put all their responses on a white board under the header, "Scope."
2. Outcomes. What is supposed to happen as a result of missions? Does the Scripture you have suggest an outcome, benefit, or result?
Example: Isaiah 49:6b. "…I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." Result: People receive God's salvation.
Put their responses for each verse on the white board under the header, "Outcomes"
3. Commands. Does your Scripture give us a command?
Example: Isaiah 49:6b. "I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." Command: Be a light (witness) to the Gentiles (nations).
Put their responses for each verse on the white board under the header, "Commands"
Note: Be sure that people are giving answers that come from the verse. We are trying to understand what each verse tells us, not putting into the verse what we already think. So just write down, in your own words, what the verse says as you understand it. Not every verse has every element.
At this point you will have three columns on your white board, a list of Commands, a list of Benefits, and a list under Scope. It might look something like this:
Ask your team to use words from these columns to write a biblical foundation statement for missions. Use a template something like the following:
We are commanded
Here are a couple of examples of what they might write:
"We are commanded to witness for Christ in order to make obedient disciples in all the world."
"We are to be the hands and feet of Christ, offering healing, reconciliation, and salvation, to people of every race and nation."
This will provide the substance for a biblical statement of the end goal of missions. It is more than window dressing. Use it as the first threshhold for considerating mission opportunities. If we undertake this project, partner with this organization, or support this missionary, will we be helping to fulfill what this statement directs?
When the team works together to understand what the Scriptures say and put them into a statement, they are much more likely to use this statement in developing their missions strategy and making their missions plans.
Note: The scope of this statement is likely to be broader than just "missions." It may include, for example, the discipling of believers in our Sunday classes and small groups. This kind of ministry among believers in the church is normally considered "church work" as opposed to "mission work." Mission work is beyond and outside the church. But that will be dealt with when you work with the foundation stone of the definition and scope of missions.
The full strategy development process is outlined in the CD, Developing a Missions Strategy that Fits Your Church by David Mays. See www.davidmays.org