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Overview of Sending Element 1: Cultivating Missions Awareness

A sending church cultivates missions awareness by instilling a holistic culture of God’s mission rather than simply a missions ministry. Rather than beginning with activity, the church fosters a sent identity, a missional lens through which to see all of life. Church leaders first give attention to growth in their own missiology. Then they help their fellow leaders and members to know the local and global calling that flows from God’s heart. - Upstream Collective Sending Church Element #1

Cultivating Missions Awareness begins with just that—missions awareness. This awareness can be catalyzed by any member of a church. Maybe it’s a missionary who wants his church to have a heart for the nations. Maybe it’s a member who took a Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course or went to a conference and now has a passion for the world. It could be the new missions leader of a church, or the lead pastor of that church. God is likely at work in someone in most churches, instilling a heart for one of the key meta-narratives of Scripture—that God is preparing a people for himself from every tribe, tongue, and nation throughout history through Jesus Christ. (Revelation 7:9)

No better passage in Scripture teaches us this than Matthew 28:18-20:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

"Missions awareness starts with you. You can begin creating this awareness by helping those close to you understand God’s heart for the nations."

The missions statement of many churches is to “make disciples,” but rarely does it include the object of this sentence, “Of all nations.” We are missing too often this key meta-narrative of Scripture that the Gospel on mission is not just for our neighbors, it is for the nations. We get caught up in becoming marginally better churches with the increase of our people and resources, but neglect becoming great sending churches to the nations. Our churches today need a revival of missions awareness. If you’re reading this, you may be that important person for your church.

Missions awareness starts with you. You can begin creating this awareness by helping those close to you understand God’s heart for the nations. Consider leading a book study through God’s Heart for the Nations by Jeff Lewis or Finish the Mission by John Piper. Grow in relationship and influence with the leaders and elders of your church, being a voice full of grace and truth, uplifting the importance of the church seeing God’s heart for the nations.

As you grow in influence in your church, help the entire membership understand God’s heart for the world, using means like: worship services; artistic communication; taking leaders on short-term trips; and giving small groups, student ministry, and kids ministry curriculum and opportunities to be involved.

Upstream is here to help you Cultivate Missions Awareness in your church. Here are a few ways:

  • Our book Sending Church Defined provides a vision for becoming a great sending church.

  • A subscription to the resources on our website gives you access to practical ideas for cultivating missions awareness in your church. These are also available on our website for purchase. These include:

  • Our book, Sending Church Applied (Fall 2021), will take a deeper dive into cultivating missions awareness in your church and leading your leadership to this heart and understanding.

  • The Foundations Cohort will give extensive training and personalized coaching to help your church grow in Cultivating Awareness amongst all your members.

God will use you in your church. This will take patience to be sure. Church leadership has a lot on their plate. From youth ministry, to fundraising, to discipleship, and so on and so forth. Global missions is a vital part of the life of the church and mission of God, but it is not the only thing church leaders are concerned about. Take steps to lovingly cultivate missions awareness in your heart, in the heart of those close to you, and in the leadership of your church. We pray that God will bless your work and that we can play a small part in encouraging that work.


Mike Easton is the International Program Manager for Reliant Mission. Prior to that Mike was the Missions Pastor at Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa, for eight years, where he got to experience the ins and outs of being a sending church. He served on staff with Cornerstone 2006 to 2022 in varying roles–from college ministry to pastoral staff to being an overseas missionary sent from Cornerstone for two years. Mike is the Director of Content for the Upstream Collective. Mike, his wife, Emily, and their four kids continue to live in Ames, IA, and serve at Cornerstone.

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Where can I get the book, "Sending Church Applied"

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