Unfortunately, many local churches make missions decisons on a whatever-is-blowing-in-the-wind-at-the-moment basis. This could be whatever the popular trend is, who the applicant knows, a vague local tradition, denominational pronouncements, the geographical distribution of pins on the missionary map, and so forth. Effectiveness is often degraded. Feelings get hurt. Confusion sometimes reigns. Hence, it is my contention that every local church needs a basic document that establishes the broad principles that will guide its missions enterprise.
So, I offer for your perusal the Missions Strategy document of the church I ministered in for several decades. I have modified it, albeit only slightly. It is not without its shortcomings. It should not be adopted by other churches without considered analysis. ne size fits all generally does not work. However, you may find the document helpful in evaluating your own situation.
Our mission statement asserts that First Baptist Church desires to “glorify God by evangelizing lost people.” Our philosophy of ministry develops this further by stating that we are committed to accomplishing this by “fostering involvement in and encouraging congregational support of global missions.” Though First Baptist Church has historically had strong policies and procedures regarding missions, we have not had an effective strategy to help us say "yes or no” to the many prospective missionaries contacting us for support. This document is designed to further delineate FBC’s approach to missions and to establish some critical factors for “funneling or “filtering” missionary candidates once an inquiry for support is made of FBC. It is the principal goal of this document to propose and implement a strategy that will ensure that we are good stewards of the resources God has given us.
A working set of definitions will prove helpful in understanding our strategy.
Indigenous - Working with and through people who permanently reside in the geographic area. A local church is thus built by those who are fluent in the native language and understand the endemic traditions and customs. An indigenous missions model, therefore, focuses on growing churches that are self supporting, self-governing, and self propagating under national rather than foreign leadership.
Un-reached - A people group or geography where there is no viable indigenous church movement.
Un-evangelized - A people group or geography where the vast majority have never heard the gospel. Generally a geography where less than 5% of the population is evangelical would be defined as un-evangelized.
Restricted Countries - Those countries where, by law, missionaries are not allowed.
Church Planting - The establishing of local, indigenous churches in un-reached areas or in un-evangelized areas.
Leadership Development - Strengthening and equipping existing indigenous churches through the training of local leaders.
Support Ministries - Ministries that provide support services to aid those engaged in church planting or leadership development. These ministries may include activities such as translation, administration, medical work, aviation, compassion, community development, etc.
Missions Agency- A ministry involved in the training, mobilization, placement and oversight of missionaries.
Church Consortia - A cooperative effort among churches of like faith and vision in getting missionaries to the field more effectively, efficiently, and with great energy for ministry.
Core Product - The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the core product.
As one author has stated, "There's a lot of dirt and grime on the current missions machine." It becomes clear as one surveys the current situation that there are issues in a number of mission strategies currently being employed. This has much to do with changing world trends.
There is a growing trend in nationalism as indigenous peoples are becoming increasingly devoted to the interests of their own nation and culture. Thus, there is evidence of the subtle and damaging effects of well-intentioned missionaries who do their work "the American way" because it is good, quick, and impressive. In effect, however, these strategies have removed the burden from God's people within the country leading to detrimental effects including dependency. This ‘old’ mode has often discriminated against these indigenous people because of their lower technical know-how. Further, the need for a comfortable Western lifestyle has led to segregation between missions personnel and the indigenous community based on financial and personal habits. In the end, we have often become like parents who provide everything, make all the decisions, and overly protect their children from the consequences of wrong choices. In many ways we have ended up with "adult children" who are unable to function on their own.
Although the day of foreign missions is certainly not past, it may be past time for American churches, mission agencies and missionaries to re-evaluate their role in the missionary enterprise. No, the message never changes, nor does the imperative of Christ's command to go. However, it may be time for a radical change in methods. In light of this understanding many are preaching and teaching the long used "indigenous principle" of missions. Simply stated, this strategy means that those who receive the Gospel must bear the burden of responsibility to pass it on. The missionary today must learn to get out of the way and give locals the chance to prove that they have the capability and the will to get the job done. In effect, we must learn to appropriately "let go" at the proper time. Said another way, there is a great need to clarify not only what we are mandated to do, but the limits of our mandate as well.
As a result, any missions strategy must operate carefully in countries with a strong national church. National and local leadership should be consulted before initiating new projects. There should always be a concentration on missionaries doing only what the nationals themselves cannot do.
Many also are pointing to an ever-increasing need for the re-evangelization of America. There are undoubtedly pockets of new ethnic groups springing up without any gospel witness. Further, a significant number of students from restricted countries come to our shores to be educated in our institutions. Both provide an opportunity for evangelism.
This summarizes the dramatic changes that have occurred during the past 60 years. It must be the goal of our strategy to understand these trends and to exploit the appropriate opportunities they afford.
-Our primary goal with respect to missions is to obey the scriptural mandate set forth in Matthew 28:19-20:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
We believe that God desires the local church be the primary means of sending workers to make disciples throughout the world.
Our primary objectives relative to establishing a missions strategy are to:
-To support high quality candidates.
We believe that we are good stewards of God’s resources when we invest in the highest quality candidates.
-To support appropriate indigenous missions models.
We believe that we should channel our resources where there is a focus on helping churches grow to become self supporting, self-governing, and self propagating under national rather than foreign leadership. Further, we desire to allocate resources to candidates who operate as close as possible to ministering the Word.
-To foster congregational involvement.
We believe that the local church should be intimately involved in missions work and that our people should be encouraged to use their talents and abilities directly in the missions enterprise. Our desire is to build true partnerships to the degree possible.
-To nurture our own.
We believe we should be active in encouraging, motivating and challenging our own people to serve in missions.
-To focus our resources in areas of greatest need.
We believe that we should commit our resources in those areas of the world that are either un-reached or un-evangelized. We will propose avoiding involvement in areas with strong national leadership, or areas where much missionary activity is already taking place.
Selection of Candidates:
There are various factors that will be considered in determining how resources should be allocated. These include geographic factors, ministry factors, candidate factors and financial factors that parallel and ensure the above objectives are met.
We believe that our goals will be met if the missionary candidates we support meet the following criteria.
A. Quality Candidates - The following criteria will be considered in determining if the candidate in question is a quality candidate. These criteria answer the who question.
We will support candidates who have/are:
--Clear profession and evidence of salvation.
--Theology and philosophy of ministry in line with those of First Baptist Church.
--Proven experience (may include short-term missions; language and culture proficiency; etc.).
--Approved and supported by an approved missions agency, church consortium or local church.
--Physically, emotionally, and mentally fit.
--Strength in marital and family relationships.
--No gender issues given the local culture and customs.
B. Missions Model - The following criteria will be considered in determining if the missions model is an effective indigenous one. These criteria answer the what question.
We will support missionaries:
-Who have a solid understanding of the local missions environment
-Who propose a model that fits the local environment and is indigenous in design.
On a preliminary basis, the following models are deemed most appropriate:
--Church planting in an un-reached area.
--Church leadership development in an immature field which has identifiable local leadership.
--Viable support ministry in a restricted area.
C. Greatest Need - The following criteria will be considered in determining whether or not to invest in a given geography; these criteria answer the where question.
We will support missionaries:
-In un-reached and un-evangelized areas
-In areas where we perceive there to be minimal to non-existent missionary activity.
-Who make disciples of people who live in un-reached and un-evangelized areas or who are working with people from un-reached or un-evangelized areas in settings such as universities.
D. Financial and Resource Factors - The following criteria will determine the level of financial support for a given candidate. These criteria ensure that we can develop a true partnership with the missionary and that there will be a minimum the number of supporting churches. This also allows furlough time to be used most effectively. These criteria answer the how question.
--FBC member who meets A, B and C criteria above: 50% of needed support
--FBC member who meets A and B criteria above: 15% of needed support.
--Non-FBC member who meets A, B, and C criteria above = 20% of needed support if support from his/her home church is >/ = to 30%.
--Non FBC member who meets B and C criteria above = 0% of needed support.
Nurturing Our Own:
We believe we should be active in encouraging, motivating and challenging our own people to serve in missions.
First Baptist Church is committed to short-term missions. Is our intent to support a short term assignment if any of the following goals are met:
--There is a meaningful contribution to the local missions enterprise and approval from that ministry is sought and received.
--It is being used as a legitimate means of learning firsthand what missions is really all about.
--It is being used as a means of assessing whether one should commit oneself to full-time missions work.
We will recognize three levels of short term missions:
1-3 years: Level 1
1-3 months: Level 2
1-2 weeks: Level 3
The following criteria will be in a place for approving candidates for short-term missions:
Parental support of a minor
Plan for financing the short-term assignment
Ongoing and meaningful ministry in the local church
Proven competence in the area where the missions work will be performed.
Interview with the appropriate ministry leader(s)
Successful completion of any training or preparation required
Support for short-term missions will be as follows:
Levels 1 and 2 - Equivalent support percentages as outlined in the strategy above: 50% or 15% depending on the geographic and ministry factors.
Level 3 - $400
The current missions budget of First Baptist Church is equal 12% of the total church budget. In the future we plan to increase this amount at the discretion of the elders during the yearly planning process.
The missions budget shall be allocated roughly as follows with the goal of ensuring a presence both domestically and internationally:
-10% General and Administrative including funds for short-term missions projects, ad-hoc needs etc.
There are a number of ways in which the congregation of First Baptist can be intimately involved in missions:
-Education: It is our desire that members of First Baptist learn more about missions through exposure to our strategy and ongoing communication with our missionaries including prayer letters, extended visits during furlough, e-mail's, and occasional phone linkups.
-Prayer: It is our desire that the members of First Baptist Church pray for our missionaries. This will be facilitated through distribution of prayer letters, inclusion of our missionaries needs in our prayer sheets, as well as scheduling our missionaries for intentional prayer during corporate prayer sessions.
-Service: It is our desire that the members of First Baptist Church take advantage of opportunities to minister to our missionaries. This may take the form of short-term mission's trips that put the skills and abilities of our people to direct use, or through work the can be accomplished locally and yet meet the needs of our missionaries.
It is our goal to periodically review the status of the missionaries we support to ensure their fit with our strategy. As many of our current missionaries may not fit with the strategy outlined above, we will go through a transition period of eliminating support for those that do not fit with the strategy and moving forward in adding others that do.
After our review, current missionaries that we will continue to support will have their support increased to the levels outlined above as appropriate and as needed over time.
If a current missionary is not a fit with our current strategy we will inform them that we will continue to support through the completion of their next furlough. There will be no support upon their returning to the field.