Senior Pastor Perspective

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July 2019 | Volume 14 | Issue 7 |

Senior Pastor Perspective

What does global passion look like from the leader’s chair?

Missions is a huge part of the pastor’s job description! My Commander in Chief gave me a commission to disciple the nations. I can’t neglect it or think of my part as just local!
Pastor Jim Leggett, Grace Fellowship Church, Katy, TX

Whenever I return from visiting our global partners, there’s a new fire in me that people can sense; I have a broadened perspective. So being engaged globally also increases my fruitfulness locally.
Pastor Matt Dirks, Harbor Church, Honolulu, HI

My Part Is the Vision-Level Work

Senior Pastor Jim Leggett’s story from Grace Fellowship Church

Missions for a senior pastor has to begin with a realization of our responsibility. If our job description is “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:18-20), then the nations are a huge part of a pastor’s job description.

According to the Joshua Project, there are still over 7,000 unreached groups. I believe that to obey the Great Commission, we have to focus on those who have no opportunity to hear. This realization is a pastor’s first step.

Second, the pastor needs to begin praying for unreached peoples as part of their personal prayer life. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:21). I believe that where your prayers are, your heart is also. If you are praying for the unreached, your heart will follow.

Third, I would encourage pastors to sponsor or host the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course. Take the course yourself, or at least ask others in your congregation to take it. It will start a wildfire in your church for missions.

Fourth, start including missions in your sermons. If you are preaching through Scripture, it will come up naturally and often. Don’t shy away from showing your people God’s heart for the nations in His Word.

The next step is adopting an unreached people group. So many churches just support whichever missionary asks for support. I think that becomes a dog’s breakfast of missions! I would challenge senior pastors to put together a team in the church to evaluate the percentage of their missions dollars going toward the unreached vs. the already reached. Most churches invest 90% to the reached and only 10% to the unreached. I dare a senior pastor to reverse that percentage!

“Most churches invest 90% to the reached and only 10% to the unreached. I dare a senior pastor to reverse that percentage!”

Adopting unreached peoples allows a church to have a laser focus. We have committed ourselves to four people groups—three in Indonesia and one in India. We will focus on each until they are at least 5 percent Christian and have the critical mass to reach the rest of their people.

The last crucial step I will mention is to incorporate prayer for the nations into the prayer life of your church. Every Sunday morning here at Grace Fellowship, regardless of who is leading corporate prayer, they pray for the four unreached people groups we have adopted.

This kind of focus doesn’t require a lot of the senior pastor’s time. You are the #1 cheerleader but not the #1 worker. Your work is vision level—to get people educated.

Each time we have adopted another group, I have explained the process to the congregation. We invite everyone to sign the adoption document, then frame and hang it in the hallway. Today in one of those groups, there is a huge movement to Christ and disciples are being multiplied. But in the very first people group we adopted, progress has been really slow. However, we recently sent off another young couple who have committed their lives to living among and reaching these people. It’s sobering and exciting. Our hearts have gone with them!

I Gain a New Fire and a Broadened Perspective

Pastor for Proclamation Matt Dirks’ story from Harbor Church

Our church focuses on two strategic locations in Asia. One partnership was launched a number of years ago and is a collaborative church-planting effort across Southeast Asia. The other focus is a newer one in Japan, driven partially by the fact that so many people in our church have connections there. My responsibility is to keep the vision strong in our congregation, particularly in light of the fact that we have a lot of new people attending Harbor who need to develop a passion for God’s global work.

My personal involvement in our global partnerships has multiple benefits. Whenever I visit our focus partners, the first sermon I preach when I come back is the one that generates the most affirmative comments. There’s a new fire in me that people can sense; I have a broadened perspective. I’ve also noticed that every time I connect to an overseas partner, one of their comments will catch me off guard because there are cross-cultural dynamics I just don’t fully understand. It’s a good reminder to always be a learner in my own church and community too. There are cross-cultural dynamics I constantly need to be sensitive to right here in Honolulu. It’s one way that being engaged globally increases my fruitfulness locally.

When we started planting daughter churches, we knew we wanted to include a DNA element of global engagement, then leave it to them to decide where they want to engage. At least one of these churches is choosing to partner with us overseas. Justin, the planting pastor of that church, had been on our staff, and his vision was initially ignited by going on trips with us. To our delight, that daughter church is now stepping up to take the lead in one of our partnerships.

There’s definitely a teaching aspect to it, but especially for elders, it has to be “caught” more than “taught.”

I try to keep my involvement relational and work at empowering others to take responsibility for things like planning short-term trips, coordinating communications, and fundraising. As an influencer, I am always trying to include local and global missions in sermons and discussions with my leaders. There’s definitely a teaching aspect to it, but especially for elders, it has to be “caught” more than “taught.” That means taking them with me to visit our partners so they can put faces with names and build relationships. Then their hearts get connected, and the groundwork is laid for later discussions and decisions about strategy and funding.

During seasons when it seemed like God was not moving in our church, it encouraged me to visit global locations where God was so clearly moving. So whenever I talk to a church planter here who is going through the grind,  I tell them they should go on a missions trip and just get with leaders who are seeing God do amazing things. It will refresh them and recharge them to keep on at their church.

Whenever possible, I take other pastors with me on trips to our focus area. Some pastors want to do training their first time on the ground overseas, and since they don’t understand the culture, they can often do more damage than good. So it’s valuable for them to come with us to learn first. One pastor who has gone with us multiple times is now so all-in that he wants to retire there and mentor church planters.

For a Gospel Coalition Conference we sponsored here at Harbor, we brought over one of the national leaders from our partnership to share his story. He told about the suffering and risk that pastors there endure, and the audience gave him a standing ovation. Then John Piper spoke. It was a wonderful meshing of the Word from a Westerner and powerful personal experience from a person who had undergone extreme suffering.

How You as a Pastor Can Better Shepherd Your Church’s Global Vision

As you read these pastors’ stories, are you wanting to provide stronger leadership for your church’s missions involvement? Even for the ultra-busy pastor, here are some practical ideas.

1. Commit to read/listen to at least one important missions book or podcast each year. Start with the list on the previous page, or choose from those listed in Catalyst’s Best Missions Books for church leaders issue published each December. Global Missions Podcast offers a great selection of audio material.

2. Learn from a peer. What nearby congregation has a powerful global impact? Take the pastor out for breakfast and find out what makes their efforts successful. How does the pastor fit missions into their busy schedule and effectively engage their people?

3. Take Perspectives or Momentum. Follow Jim Leggett’s recommendation and enroll in a Perspectives course locally or online. Not enough time? Watch the Momentum series videos online.

4. Preach a series on God’s heart for the nations. John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad will help you see the bigger biblical narrative and frame a powerful series of messages.

5. Visit the mission field. Travel to see one of your missionaries on location, and while there spend some time with local church leaders too. The best medicine for your soul and your ministry? Visit a church leader who has endured persecution. You will come away spiritually renewed.

How a Missions Team Can Encourage Their Pastor’s Global Vision

1. Match your pastor with one of your missionaries. Select a worker you believe can relate well to your pastor and ask them to initiate a meet-up for coffee. Encourage them to follow up by inviting your pastor for a field visit. Arrange for the church to cover all travel expenses for pastor and spouse.

2. Orchestrate a tag-along trip. Do you know a pastor in a nearby congregation who is passionate about global ministry? Ask them to invite your pastor to join them on a missions trip.

3. Serve your pastor’s vision. Don’t be perceived as having only one agenda. Show your support for other ministries in the church by engaging in efforts your pastor is passionate about. As a result, you may find your cause gains more traction with your pastor and other church leaders.

4. Accept the need for change. Sadly, sometimes pastors disengage from global outreach because they believe that the missions program is no longer relevant for the congregation, especially younger generations. Remain passionate about the Great Commission, but invite younger leaders to shape how it is communicated and lived out.

5. Commend not criticize. Make sure you are not directly or indirectly communicating it’s your pastor’s fault that missions isn’t more vibrant in your church. Remember that missions is more “caught” than “taught,” so concentrate on making your own missions passion contagious and let God change your pastor.

Books that Address Missions from a Senior Pastor Perspective

  • Churches Partnering Together by Chris Bruno and Matt Dirks. Describes how smaller churches can work together to make a big global difference
  • Gaining by Losing by J.D. Greear. Illustrates how churches don’t need to choose between gathering and sending
  • Missions—How the Local Church Goes Global by Andy Johnson. Presents missions 101 from the perspective of a pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist in Washington, DC (9 Marks)
  • Radical Together by David Platt. Challenges congregations to reshape their individual and collective priorities
  • The Sending Church by Pat Hood. Highlights how a church can “live sent” from Tennessee to Thailand
  • When Missions Shapes the Mission by David Horner. Invites pastors to assign their best leaders and resources to mission