I started wearing glasses in the fourth grade. The optometrist whispered to my mom, “He’s nearsighted in one eye, farsighted in the other—with an astigmatism.” I had no idea what any of that meant. But it sounded like life was about to change.
Then I remember walking into school for the first time wearing my oversized, thickset glasses. As I passed by one of the popular kids, he whispered to my classmates, “Bifocal!” I had no idea what that meant either. But from the sound of the laughter, life had definitely changed.
My ministry is basically like handing out glasses.
Lenses Change How We See the World
Don’t worry. Thanks to contacts (and tremendous improvement in fashion glasses), I’m not bitter about it. In fact, I’m down with it. My journey with glasses has taught me a lot. Namely, I know how lenses can literally change everything about how I see the world. I put them on, and even without consciously thinking about it, they filter all of life for the better.
Perhaps this is why I often use the language and symbolism of lenses in my role as a pastor. I want every church member to “see all of life through the lens of the gospel.” I want them to know that by his blood, Jesus purchased not just part of their lives and stories, but all of it. I want them to see his purposes and his presence in their location, vocation, recreation, tribulation—everything! That means I pour my effort into shaping their identity, so that it can then inform all of their activity. My ministry is basically like handing out glasses.
Helping church members put on the full set of glasses means cultivating people who are both inwardly and outwardly oriented at the same time.
And if I do this well, then it has endless missional implications. If one side of the glasses is like the gospel lens that draws us near to God, then the other side is like the gospel lens that sends us out with God. We often try to live with one lens or the other, but you other legally blind folks know how that works out! We must put on the full set of glasses to get the visionary benefits. Helping church members put on the full set of glasses means cultivating people who are both inwardly and outwardly oriented at the same time. And that’s exactly what the New Testament describes anyways.
How to Hand Out Glasses
Ok, enough analogy. What does it look like (no pun intended) to foster a missional lens in every church member? How do you hand out these glasses? Here are a few practical recommendations:
First, foster a missional lens through teaching:
Plan sermon series through books that emphasize God's mission (Genesis, Jonah, Acts, Philippians, and 3 John are especially effective)
Strategically adopt and utilize missional language (e.g., God is a sending God, we are Sent Ones, thinking and acting like a missionary, goers, senders, stayers, etc.)
Describe and lament specific examples of local and global lostness—not to induce guilt, but to express genuine grief
Share your personal experiences of living on mission (both the successes and the difficulties)
Emphasize examples of church members faithfully living on mission in normal, everyday life
Second, foster a missional lens through prayer:
Pray for specific missions needs during Sunday services and small group gatherings
Pray “sending prayers” for different groups in the church (e.g., teachers returning to school, families on summer vacation, students going off to college, etc.)
Compile and distribute missionary prayer cards and prayer requests
Utilize a tool like Who’s Your One? to encourage church members to begin praying for lost people in their sphere of influence
Develop a liturgical component of your worship gathering that is explicitly missional (such as the benediction—“You are sent!”)
Third, foster a missional lens through discipleship:
Define discipleship clearly and talk about it often (in other words, demystify it and present it as something everyone—not just pastors or missionaries—can do)
Celebrate stories of simple, daily discipleship in the lives of church members
Take a group of people through the book Tradecraft and practice each chapter together (in other words, disciple them!)
Lead the church to memorize 2 Timothy 2:2 together
Establish a metric for how many church members have been trained to provide basic discipleship
Demystify discipleship and present it as something everyone—not just pastors or missionaries—can do.
Finally, foster a missional lens through missionaries:
If your church hasn’t sent anyone globally, then help the church to develop and maintain a relationship with at least one missionary
Regularly allow missionaries to share at worship and small group gatherings
Invite visiting missionaries to study your context and speak into the strategy of your outreach ministries
Encourage missionaries to provide occasional handwritten letters to be read to the entire church (similar to the concept of New Testament epistles—except for, like, the whole divine inspiration part)
Facilitate your children's ministry to connect with missionary children, and missionary children to connect with your children's ministry (photos, letters, videos, etc.)
Alright fellow leader, go hand out some glasses!
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.