Written by Larry McCrary, Co-founder and Executive Director
It was the 80’s when I first realized that God was calling me into ministry. In time it became apparent that this would be my vocation. How did this come about? Obviously, there was a lot of prayer and Scripture that influenced me. But I also remember one of my pastors speaking into my life significantly. He said he could see God someday using my talents and giftings specifically as a pastor. He recognized my service in the church and the fruit that I was bearing. He planted the idea that there could be even more.
In a bit more time I settled on a sense of calling to vocational missions. I remember hearing a sermon about international church planting and it gripped my heart. I was a pastor at the time, and I remember the painful conversations that I had to have with the leaders in my congregation. It was heart-wrenching to consider leaving the church we had planted and led. Eventually we did leave and move overseas.
My experience, like many who are called to go, was reactive. We discern a deeply personal conviction to go, and then we tell our church. However, through my own journey in calling I have realized the need to be proactive rather than reactive. Christians need their churches to be actively challenging them to be sent into the neighborhoods and the nations. So in this article I want to share a few thoughts about how churches can proactively identify potential sent ones.
As pastors we must fight to remember that God is working among our church members at all times. Weekly gatherings are a great time for our people to be specifically reminded of their “sentness”. In Acts 13 the church at Antioch was gathered for worship and fasting when the Spirit called Barnabas and Saul on mission. I absolutely love what happens next--the church went right back to worshiping and fasting! We do not know if this was a season of prayer and fasting or if it was confined to one gathering. Regardless, what is important here is that the church was central in the discernment of the call. It was not that Saul and Barnabas heard independently from the Lord. Their calling was affirmed in the context of the church.
When your church gathers, are there moments where you ask people to respond to the Great Commission? Do you ever remind them not to merely be recipients of the Great Commission, but participants? Have you ever given them a clear, attainable next step? Try it at the end of a gathering and see what happens.
As I mentioned earlier, a significant part of my calling was the pastor who spoke into my life and challenged me to consider ministry. Recently, a missions pastor who was participating in one of our coaching cohorts shared something he called “ICNU conversations”. In other words, these are are conversations with church members where he says “I see in you...” He proactively affirms the giftings and potential of people. I love this! As pastors and leaders in the church, we have the opportunity for ICNU conversations with our people all the time. Affirming the fruit we see in their lives leads beautifully into suggesting a deeper commitment to God’s mission.
Another way to identify potential sent ones is what I call mobilization pools. It’s simply networking different affinity groups. The advantage is the binding effect these groups have based on common interest, skills, and even life stage. Here are some possible groupings:
- Marketplace workers
- University students interesting in studying abroad
- Theological educators
- Vocational missionaries
- ESL teachers in your city
- Non-profit workers
- Missionary care servants
At my church every month during the school year we provide something for the groups called Missions Chat. Since all the groups are invited, it’s a perfect opportunity to cast vision for entering our sending pipeline. We also pray for different parts of the world and our sent ones, and discuss an important missional topic. It helps us shepherd our people through the discovery of their involvement in missions.
As you think about your church and increasing its sending potential, what on-ramps are you providing for people to consider missions? What ways are you being proactive identifying potential sent ones? Are you having “ICNU conversations” with members who are already doing well in disciple-making? What mobilization pools already exist in your church? Interested in learning more about this? Check out our download called Developing a Sending Pipeline or contact us for a free 30-minute consultation.