Ask-a-Missiologist is a series in which we do just that ask a missiologist a current pressing missiological question. This week’s contributor is Ken Winter (@kenwinter), senior associate pastor of Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond, VA. He also served for nine years with the International Mission Board as the Vice President of Church and Partner Services. This week he addresses the question,
Does a Pastor Really Have a Biblical Responsibility in Global Mission?
Pastor, you are a gift! Not because of your eloquence. Not because of your excellent ability to lead. And certainly not because you have it all together! You are a gift because you have been called by God through Christ and given by Him to His church. And He has given you to His church for one express purpose: to equip and edify His people to do His work. As Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus,
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12 NLT).
And lest there be any confusion, Jesus defined the work.
Jesus came and told His disciples, I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20 NLT).
The very last thing Jesus told His disciples before He ascended to the right hand of the Father was that they were to go and make disciples of all the nations, and teaching them in turn to do the same until the end of the age. The end of the age has not yet come. The work is not complete. It still remains. There are disciples still to be made of all the nations. As a matter of fact, the global research department of the International Mission Board reports that there are about 7024 people groups that they would define as being unreached with the gospel, and to the best of their knowledge, about 3178 of those people groups are not being engaged by anyone. That means no one is actively engaged in making disciples among those people groups.
Jesus Decides Who is Responsible
So who is responsible to make disciples among those people? Is it the church down the street? Is it some other church? Or is it the responsibility the mandate that Christ has given to His followers that comprise the church you pastor? Jesus didn’t say, “Make disciples of the people right there around you.” Jesus said make disciples of all the nations. He wasn’t directing His comments to only large churches with more people and resources than yours. There were no large churches when He said it. He wasn’t speaking to churches that were well-established. He was speaking to churches that had yet to be planted! He wasn’t speaking to solely one generation. He was speaking to His followers no matter their season of life. He was speaking to people who look just like those who make up the church that you pastor. And in truth, He was speaking to the very people you pastor.
So if each person in the church you pastor has a responsibility in God’s global mission to make disciples of all nations, where does that leave you? And if Jesus defined making disciples of all nations as the work we are to be about, where does that rest in the priorities of the church you pastor? Where does that rest in your priorities? The church you pastor will probably never go where you do not lead her. So as the under-shepherd, the responsibility rests with you.
Please understand, I have recently returned to serve and pastor in the local church. I understand all of the priorities that are competing for attention. I understand the limitation of resources to accomplish all that we believe God has placed before us. I understand the massive opportunities that are before us right here in our own community. But we don’t get to define the mission. Jesus defined it. He said all nations. Our Lord has a mission and it is global. And He has a Church and His mission for His Church – including the church you pastor – is also global.
Not What But How
How He leads your church to engage in His global mission will look different from how He leads the church across town. He has uniquely equipped your church most notably by the unique way He has equipped the individuals that make up the church you pastor. But no matter how He leads, it will involve prayer – the body actively and personally joining with God in His mission through prayer, interceding for those people who have yet to hear, and partnering through prayer with those who have gone to work among them. It will involve the giving of financial resources to support and undergird the work in partnership with those who are living and working among the nations. It will involve active personal participation of your members in making disciples at home, but also going elsewhere with the intention to work with those who are working among the nations. And it will involve sending. Just like the church of Antioch, your church will be sending out some of the best leaders in your church body and you will be supporting them through prayer and finances so they can go, encouraging and partnering with them in the work. I would be so bold as to say, if your church is not sending people out, you are not leading your church in global mission. A church engaged in the mission will not be content to stay at home!
Pastor, global mission is why the church you pastor and I pastor even exists. The question is not: are you to lead your church in His global mission? Jesus settled that! The question is: what adjustment is He calling you to make to shepherd the church you pastor in His global mission?
The Upstream Collective is made up of pastors and missionaries who can help you do just that!