Leadership must be concerned with the people who are directly in front of you. But the concern of a leader must not end there. It is especially true for the church leader. We must be the ones who have a wider perspective regarding God’s work and guide the church to have the same.
Here are a few steps to take in leading believers to be globally informed and concerned:
1. Start with becoming a global Christian who has a worldwide perspective
As a believer, you should identify with the global and historical church. Those who worship Christ on another continent are your brothers and sisters in God’s family. It is our responsibility to know about them, share their struggles, and celebrate their victories. Use the multitude of mission agency, denominational, and other online resources to better understand what is occurring in the church worldwide.
2. Take all of the Great Commission seriously
In Matthew 28:19, Jesus commanded us to “make disciples of all nations.” Every Christian and every congregation has a responsibility to be a global mission agency. Jesus gave the work to local believers like those in our churches to make disciples of every people group on the planet. When we disobey the global mandate of the Great Commission, we are disregarding God’s heart for the world.
3. Fulfill Acts 1:8 simultaneously
We have for too long allowed ourselves a missional “Get out of jail free” card about reaching every part of the world. By misusing Acts 1:8’s statement of “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth” as a linear progression of missionary activity, we can leave out so many people. The problem happens when leaders give in to the argument that we have to win everyone in our own “Jerusalem” before we spread out in missionary activity. I believe that Jesus’ command was not to work in a linear progression. It is the responsibility of the church to deliver the gospel to all places simultaneously.
4. Commit to three-level missions
Others have used this simply matrix that I think is easy for all believers to adopt: Serve locally, plant nationally, & adopt an unreached people group globally. There are various configurations that it can take but the impact can be immediate. Mobilize members to work on all three levels of local, national, and international ministry that declares the gospel and cares for the needs of people.
5. Use homogeneity sparingly
The oft-stated principle from the Church Growth Movement known as the Homogenous Unit Principle should be an observation of normal behavior rather than a prescription for church growth. At its core, it teaches that people more easily come to Christ when fewer social barriers must be crossed. For example, a middle-class, suburban-dwelling, married Anglo male with teenage children is more easily won to Christ by another person of the same description than by an elderly, lower-class, Asian immigrant who is single. Though descriptively true, it is not a prescription for ministry. We must infuse into the church that all believers are responsible to reach all people regardless of their social description. Believers should be sensitive to cultural differences but never allow them to be barriers to gospel ministry.
6. Embrace our neighbors’ greatest need
Jesus used His parable of the Good Samaritan to drive home that anyone in need is our neighbor and we bear responsibility to meet that need. Great church leaders understand that our local church is responsible for the illiterate tribe in the jungles of South America and the highly-educated professor at the state university. Our church members are responsible for the neighbor across the street and the megacity dwellers on another continent. They all have need of the gospel and its effects in their lives. As global Christians, we work on the opposite side of the street and the opposite hemisphere in the world.
7. Teach that global ministry is not sacrifice but gain
Too many see ministering to other people groups domestically and going to other places internationally as a sacrifice. It is not. For the early church, it was the normal pace of evangelistic work. As members of God’s kingdom, everything we do is spiritual cross-cultural ministry. It is always beneficial to the church to share the gospel and care for another person’s needs. Lead your people away from the “I’m sacrificing for others” mentality and into the “We’re gaining new brothers and sisters in Christ” perspective.
Philip Nation is the Director of Content Development with Lifeway, and serves as Teaching Pastor for The Fellowship, a multi-campus church in Nashville, TN. His latest book is Habits for Our Holiness: How the Spiritual Disciplines Grow Us Up, Draw Us Together, and Send Us Out. He is also the coauthor of Compelled: Living the Mission of God and Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow.