In this article I want to convince you of two things: that missions decisions can exhaust you, and that missions convictions can refresh you. Let’s go.
Missions Decisions Can Exhaust You
I’m a leader. I like to make decisions. Aside from the apocalyptic decision fatigue of 2020, it’s cool to be the one to make the call on important things.
Since you’re reading this article, I suppose we agree that missions is one of those important things. As missions leaders in American churches, we get to steward a buffet of resources (people, time, money) and steer them toward a buffet of strategic opportunities (local, domestic, global). There are SO MANY possibilities! There is SO MUCH excitement!
That is, until there isn’t.
Consider just three words that can make these decisions exhausting:
Fear—the fear of saying yes to the wrong thing, or no to the right thing.
Guilt—the guilt of having to tell good people no, or watching a decision you made blow up later.
Shame—the shame of feeling like an incompetent leader, or basically being told as much.
During my years in leadership, I have overspent, underspent, approved Sent Ones who imploded, invested in a strategy that fell apart, felt like I was running a benevolence fund, disappointed my boss, been pressured by factions—need me to continue? These things have a way of chipping away at your energy. And before you know it, you’ve entered a state of mental overload—taking an awkwardly long time to pick out your clothes, wanting someone else to choose the restaurant, scrolling endlessly through Twitter when you need to make a call on something. That, my friend, is textbook decision fatigue.
Missions convictions are a short list of statements that represent a church’s focus.
Missions Convictions Can Refresh You
Thankfully, this article is about more than just commiserating. There is something to lighten the load. At Upstream we call it “missions convictions,” and establishing them can bring fresh energy to the many decisions you have to make.
Missions convictions are a short list of statements that represent a church’s focus. They can be developed by answering the question, “Based on who we are as a unique expression of the body of Christ, what are our key convictions that will guide us in missions?” The answers then combine your church’s theological passions with its culture, DNA, context, giftings, etc. The result is that your missions convictions act as a guide and filter for all your missions decisions.
Establishing missions convictions can bring fresh energy to the many decisions you have to make.
Let me give you an example. When I developed missions convictions at my church, one of them went like this:
Because God owns everything and gives freely to his children, we give sacrificially to his mission as we are guided by relationships.
Because we have established this mission conviction, when it comes to the many people and ministries to whom I could designate strategic resources, I can in good conscience narrow them down according to who has the closest, most reciprocal relationship with my church.
Perhaps even more importantly, this means when I say yes or no to someone, I do so with convictional vision. So my conversation with someone who requests funds might go like this: “Thanks so much for sharing with us about your ministry. One of our guiding convictions is that we partner on the basis of deep relationships, so since we don’t know each other well, we can’t participate at this time. But we would love to invite you to get involved in what we’re doing. A good first step is . . .”
I don’t know about you, but I walk away from a conversation like that with much more energy than when I offer a fumbling no or an obligatory yes.
Of course, you don’t have to use the above example as one of your convictions. Create your own, and make sure you represent your church well. It might take some time (and delay some decisions) to write them, but I promise it will be worth your while!
For more resources on missions convictions, visit our webpage on Sending Church Element 02: Establishing Missions Convictions.
Bradley is a missiologist, pastor, and trainer. He has been at Upstream since 2014, producing blog and social media content, authoring The Sending Church Defined and Receiving Sent Ones During Reentry: The Challenges of Returning "Home" and How Churches Can Help, and serving as a board member. He is also the lead pastor at Antioch Church. As a former global Sent One, Bradley reflects on missions and formation at Broken Missiology.