A sending church involves the entire church by clearly and consistently teaching its missions convictions, vision, and strategy. This is done in such a way that every member understands their roles and opportunities to participate in God’s mission through the church. This also includes developing an infrastructure of missions leaders who help execute the sending process. - Upstream Collective Sending Church Element #5
Matthew 28:18–20 teaches us that believers everywhere should make disciples of all nations; however, not everyone is going overseas. What role are the vast majority of our members supposed to play in fulfilling this mission? The discussion of sent identity begins with the nature of God himself—God who eternally exists in three persons enjoying perfect communion with one another. In the overflow of God’s fullness, God creates everything and displays for us his goodness. In Upstream’s book The Sending Church Defined, Brad Bell describes our creator God like this:
“He emanates. He initiates. In a sense, he sends. He sends his Spirit to hover over the waters, ready for a word to bring it all to life through the Son. Like so many things in Genesis 1–2, this sets a pattern for how God will keep his story rolling.” (10)
As we get to the New Testament, we see that the church is sent on mission, and the thread of sending that stretches back to the beginning continues on as the church is tasked with going all over the world with the gospel. Brad puts it like this:
“The Sender sends the Sent One who sends the Spirit (Acts 13:4) who sends the apostles (note the Greek, apostolos, meaning ‘sent-one’) who start a chain reaction of sent-ones.” (11)
In John 20:21, Jesus tells his disciples, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you,” which means every believer is a Sent One. Acts 1:8 gives the plan for carrying out this vision of being a Sent One. Before he ascends back to the Father, Jesus gives this charge to those who would follow him: “You will be my witnesses to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
There is no separate charge to “average” Christians to sit on the sidelines while the professionals play the game.
What does this identity of “sentness” mean for our churches today? It means that every member in our churches ought to be participating in some way in global missions. All believers are included in the Great Commission mandate—there is no separate charge to “average” Christians to sit on the sidelines while the professionals play the game. Global missions is not just for the missionary who crosses cultures to bring the gospel to those who haven’t heard; it is also for kids, students, plumbers, teachers, engineers, everyone!
Not every believer in your church is going to go overseas long-term. If that happened, then you’d have no church left! And, realistically, not all believers are equipped to take the gospel across other cultures. However, everyone has the opportunity to be involved. Think of the following categories for how your people could be involved in global missions:
Caring for Sent Ones.
Praying for Sent Ones and the nations.
Giving to the church so the church can mobilize funds to the nations.
Welcoming internationals and refugees in your city. You don’t need a passport or a plane ticket to reach the nations!
Mobilizing future global workers by teaching God’s heart for the world, identifying potential Sent Ones, and coaching them as they are sent.
Going short-term to see firsthand what God is doing around the world.
Going mid-term through a study abroad or a temporary job transfer overseas.
Missions Leadership Team involvement to give vision in all these areas.
Finding ways for your entire church to be involved in global missions will help your people flourish personally as followers of Christ, it will give your church missional vision, and it will have a real impact on the mission field for the sake of the gospel.
This month, our Upstream resources and trainings will focus on on how to involve the entire church in global missions. Our hope is that God will give you a vision for how everyone in your church–regardless of age, stage, or position–can be involved in God’s work of reaching all nations with his gospel and for his glory.
Mike Ironside is Missions Pastor at Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa. He has served on staff with Cornerstone since 2006 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 Cohorts and Content for the Upstream Collective. He also serves as Chairman of the Board for Campus to Campus, a missions organization dedicated to getting US college students connected to church-planting movements among college students worldwide.