The church embodies sentness by cultivating the involvement of every member in the sending vision and strategy through education, prayer, and onramps.
The Sending Church Elements are a framework for growing as a sending church. They point out the strengths and weaknesses of churches in missions. Involving the Entire Church is the difference between having a few passionate members and a whole church that lives to glorify God on mission. This series will address how a sent identity incorporates every believer on mission, how we practically live out sentness as body, and how the process of sending cross-culturally begins with the entire body.
This series is simply another way to help revive your congregation’s desire to reach all nations with the gospel. Imagine having every member of your church thinking and acting like a missionary! It really does have the power to change the world.
Developing a Sending Pipeline
To help make this practical we have developed a three-phase process for churches to use in shepherding people as they grow in their sentness. We illustrate this as a pipeline, funneling church members through identitcation, assessment, and development.
The three phases of the pipeline will be addressed later in the Sending Church Elements. For now, our focus is the top of the pipeline, the grey circle that reads, "The entire church on mission: every member thinking and acting like a sent one". How do you get members into the pipeline? It begins by helping them recognize that they are already in the pipeline of God’s mission by nature of who they are in Christ.
Informing Every Member of Their Sent Identity
This means informing every member of their biblical sent identity (John 20:21). Now I know what you're thinking—'Geez, Upstream just says the same thing over and over.' But this has many practical implications. Informing every member of the biblical sent identity and presence in a sending pipeline means:
- emphasizing identity as much or more than obedience (i.e. "You shall be my witnesses" [Acts 1:8] began with the apostles' gospel-accomplished identity, which then forged their obedience)
- being intentional about the language you use in referring to God's mission and God's people (inclusive rather exclusive)
- teaching the entire church sending vision rather than only those in "the missions ministry" (i.e. unpacking the sending church pipeline at every membership class)
- celebrating examples of everyday local witness rather than only missionary stories (i.e. how a mom strives to share the gospel with her children instead of another Jim Elliot allegory)
- including sentness in the weekly liturgy (i.e. dismissing with "You are sent" rather than "Go in peace")
- valuing sentness in the marketplace as much as in vocational ministry
Including Missionary Thought and Practice in Basic Discipleship
Members of your church can also become aware of their presence in the sending pipeline when you include missionary thought and practice as part of their basic discipleship. By "discipleship" we don't just mean information, like taking a new Christian through a book on basic doctrine. Instead, we mean training. Whatever that looks like in your context—one-on-one meetings, a new believers class, Sunday School, small groups—incorporate practical training on how to think and act like a missionary, how to live as a sent one.
Often our basic topics of discipleship include:
- how to read the Bible
- how to pray
- why to get baptized
- why to take communion
- how to be in community with other Christians
- why to attend church gatherings
All those are critical parts of discipleship. But we suggest you also include things like:
- how to follow the Spirit
- how to understand culture in light of the gospel
- how to be in (and stay in) relationships with non-Christians
- how to look for people of peace (people God has prepared to receive the gospel)
- how to tell your story
It may seem like some of these topics are more fitting for the mature Christian or the missionary candidate. However, waiting until later in a Christian's life may suggest that these are only for elite Christians. Many times it also requires the "mature Christian" to unlearn bad habits, such as not following the Spirit and not maintaining authentic relationships with non-Christians (because he or she has fully assimilated into Christian subculture).
We say missionary thought and practice aren't for an elite group of Christians. Biblically, they are for every Christian, from the beginning of their life in Christ. That's why we wrote Tradecraft and Tradecraft Workbook, which teach nine basic missionary skills. It's up to your church, however, to communicate the fundamentals of a disciple, the expectations of a fruitful church member. How will you involve every member in the mission of God?