The Sending Church
I grew up in a conservative Southern Baptist church in Alabama. We had all of the traditional SBC organizations. I went to Sunday School, R.A.’s, Training Union, and Sunday night church. We collected three mission offerings each year: Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, and Kathleen Mallory Offering for State Missions. We had a home next door to the church reserved for missionaries on furlough. So, I had many missionary children as friends through the years as they were living next door to our church.
When I began serving as a pastor, I followed this same missional pattern in the churches I led. I have spent years attending various conventions and mission meetings. In fact, I have just returned from such a meeting—the annual meeting in Texas Baptists. I still love our denominational connections and appreciate the value of our cooperative efforts.
With that said, a few years ago I began to re-evaluate my missiology. Especially as it connects to my ecclesiology. In other words, I began to evaluate the role of the individual local church in fulfilling the Great Commission. I had always trusted our denominational agencies to serve the needs of the mission field on my behalf. I still am a supporter of that particular methodology.
However, I began to sense God’s leadership for our church to begin to take the Great Commission more personally and more seriously. While I was in the throes of this evaluative period, Ashley (a young college graduate – now our Global Ministries Director) shared her desire for her church (us) to directly send her to Asia to serve as a missionary. We had never done this before. (Have you ever heard that?)
We quickly realized we needed to answer this call. We sensed that God was leading us to become a sending church. We worked to get the processes in place. Meanwhile, I was involved with Cindy in launching Global Connection Partnership Network (GCPN -now Restore Hope) as an entity to assist churches like ours in the sending process. We launched GCPN and our church sent Ashley as our first worker to the field!
That has set in motion a movement of God within our church. We now have directly sent workers to live cross-culturally in long-term settings (Cross-Cultural Workers—CCW’s) to live and work in South Asia, East Asia, Niger, Sierra Leone, Japan, Slovenia, and Spain. Currently, we have 7 cross-cultural units out across the world. We are preparing to serve as the missional home church for one of our church families who is headed to Lithuania in January.
It has been a long and winding journey. It has been one of the most exciting developments in all of my ministry life. I love it. I love our church for taking this significant step. We have matured so much in our missiology. God has blessed these efforts. There are significant ministry efforts in place across the world because of our obedience to God’s call on our church.
Take some time this week to pray for our workers who are currently living in Asia, Africa, Western Europe and Eastern Europe. Praise God for their faithfulness. Ask God to lead you to determine how you might be more significantly involved in this grand effort of sending people to the ends of the earth!