Mission Vision Toolbox: Tools for Casting a Great Commission Vision in your Church
I think most pastors have the desire for their church to be more passionate about evangelism and disciple-making, but getting meaningful traction in these efforts can be elusive. Even when you consistently present a missions focus in front of the church, the real or apparent needs of the moment can easily overshadow and disrupt the momentum you’ve built. I have found that having a “toolbox” of resources that can be shared and used strategically provides helpful assistance to vision-casting efforts. This article is essentially an annotated bibliography of tools* for you to use personally or to share with your church members as you cast vision for broader involvement in the Great Commission.
People care about what they know, and if they personally know missionaries, then they are more likely to have a personal investment and involvement in the Great Commission.
Missionaries are your most important tool in casting a vision for missional engagement. Missionaries want to know you, and they want you to know them. Whether missionaries are fully funded through a sending agency or they raise support, what we truly desire most are your intentional, intercessory prayers. The best way to pray effectively for your missionaries is by introducing your congregation to them. Whenever possible, this should be done in person, but Zoom and other virtual media are an acceptable alternative until you can get them in front of your church. Personal presence matters in the church as much as it does on the mission field. People care about what they know, and if they personally know missionaries, then they are more likely to have a personal investment and involvement in the Great Commission.
Great Commission engagement is more than having the right information, but being aware of what is happening in the world can be a helpful tool in casting a Great Commission vision. I highly recommend non-American news websites and apps that dedicate significant coverage to international news. My personal favorite source is BBC, but there are other excellent sources as well. Obviously, each will have its own cultural biases, but they tend to cover global events more than American news outlets do. They also tend to avoid some of the sensationalism that is characteristic of American news sources. Twitter can be another helpful source for those inclined towards social media, but the sources need to be curated carefully.
Great Commission engagement is more than having the right information, but being aware of what is happening in the world can be a helpful tool in casting a Great Commission vision.
If you are looking for more specific information about people groups around the world, then I would recommend two common sources that have reliable and presentable information. First, Joshua Project is a database of people groups collated from various sources and presented in an easily accessible way. This source can be used for the purpose of prayer (see below) or to help you relay the urgency of gospel proclamation and making disciples around the world.
Another source for this information (that is slightly less user-friendly) is PeopleGroups.org. The value of this source is in the interactive maps that provide approximations of where the people groups live with a link to the people group profile.
Prayer is the single most important discipline a church must engage in to cultivate a Great Commission passion. As your church begins to develop personal relationships with missionaries and be more aware of world events, they should naturally begin moving beyond the generic “Be with all the missionaries” types of prayer. Even so, having some specific tools in the toolbox is helpful.
Prayer is the single most important discipline a church must engage in to cultivate a Great Commission passion.
As you cultivate a global vision, facilitating prayer for the people who live around your church might be a good place to start. Bless Every Home is a tool that provides a prayer focus, guide, and log of prayer and ministry engagement in your neighborhood. This web/app resource shows you a map of your neighborhood and each home in it. This tool is one of the best I have used to help me pray for, care for, evangelize, and disciple my community,.
As mentioned above, Joshua Project can also be helpful for facilitating Great Commission prayer in your church. The “Unreached of the Day” app prompts you to pray for a different unreached people group each day with specific prayer prompts and information about the people group.
Operation World was first published in 1974 but has frequently been updated since then, with the most recent edition published in 2010. On both the website and the app, a brief profile of a different country or region is provided each day along with a prayer guide. If you prefer to have a hard-copy resource, a book is available with more extensive country profiles.
Articles such as the ones found here at The Upstream Collective or from Keelan Cook can provide further tools and guidance for how to go about the missionary task. Additionally, books on missions and discipleship, such as Generational-Disciple Making that I worked on with George Robinson and other faithful disciple-makers, can be studied as a group to demonstrate how ordinary people can live life missionally.
The most helpful books I’ve found for casting missional vision are missionary biographies. The response to reading these biographies is often similar to what happens when churches personally know missionaries. When we see what God has done through ordinary people to make Christ known among the nations, we are often inspired to emulate them in their faithfulness to the Great Commission. The author of Hebrews anticipated this kind of response when he wrote, “Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith” (Heb 13:7).
Which Tool to Use?
Deciding which tool to use is going to be based on two factors: which tool is most useful in your context, and which tool your congregation will use. The best tools are the ones that you use frequently and broadly. My suggestion is to begin by choosing one of the above tools and getting it into the hands of key church leaders. If someone is genuinely seeking more resources, then you can show them the rest of your toolbox.
If you have other tools that you are effectively using in your church, please share them in the comments below.
* I am focusing primarily on free resources in this post. There are plenty of great missions resources for purchase that are worth paying for, but providing free resources to your church helps eliminate a potential barrier to engagement. BACK
Matthew Hirt (PhD in International Missions from SEBTS) has served in both pastoral ministry and international missions. He currently serves as missions faculty at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, where he trains aspiring pastors and missionaries to be obedient to Christ in fulfilling the Great Commission. He is a contributing author and co-editor of the book Generational Disciple-Making: How Ordinary Followers of Jesus Are Transformed into Extraordinary Fishers of Men. He is also the author of the forthcoming book Peoples and Places: How Geography Impacts Missions Strategy. You can follow him on Twitter.