VM Series: Discerning A Local Church’s Work In Global Missions (February 2019)
Missions for Ordinary and Unsuspecting People in God’s Kingdom. This blog piece is part of an ongoing, monthly series, as we journey with Red Bluff Vineyard in their process of discerning the specifics of their global missions engagement
Senior Pastor, Red Bluff Vineyard, Red Bluff, CA
Equipping churches to participate in God's global mission.
In Bill Jackson’s Vineyard history, The Quest for the Radical Middle, there’s a fascinating chapter on how the Vineyard became a church planting movement (chapter 5). John Wimber had a lot of previous experience in the world of “church growth” and it was clear that God had sovereignly prepared him for that work. Wimber had a vision of thousands of churches on a map of the United States, which led him to write, “I am now convinced that God has called me to encourage the planting of these 10,000 fellowships.”
Forty years later that vision and that map are still alive in the Vineyard. Only the map has expanded to include God’s heart for the entire world – every nation, every tribe, and every tongue.
For the past few months, I’ve been sharing our church’s journey of engaging with global missions (part one, part two, part three). Our church has a rich history of being involved in missions work but became less engaged prior to my wife and I stepping into leadership. So after a couple years of focusing on local issues, we’ve begun the process of exploring where and to whom our church is called to partner with.
Catching The Greater Vision
Vineyard Resources has recently released the excellent little Vineyard Missions Booklet, where Mark Fields writes, “As local churches recognize their God-given call to the nations, seek God for direction, and obey His leading, they begin to see the larger tasks through a Holy Spirit lens of empowerment. The church begins to see that what they bring to the table will be multiplied in God’s hands. They glimpse a greater vision. This brings focus that enables the church to be part of a long-term strategy to join God in His work in a nation.”
What a rich vision of the local church that Mark has! And how fitting a call for local churches to embrace! As our missions team has been praying and discussing options on where to go, we’ve been thinking a lot about what our local church has to offer, including finances, time and energy, and any of the unique skills or spiritual gifts that individuals in our church community might bring to the table. I think this is crucial for churches to keep in mind if they want to “glimpse a greater vision.” After all, no church exists as one person; rather, it is a community of God’s kingdom, formed by the unique personalities and Holy-Spirit-inspired gifts that each of the people bring together. In some ways, this is very freeing truth for pastors and church leaders because a church’s global involvement need not rest on a single person alone. Instead, a church’s global engagement is framed in the context of a community full of people being empowered and sent by the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Red Bluff Vineyard’s future mission work is not based simply on the three members of our current missions team but is based on the reality that we have over 500 people who can all hear from God, can be sent by God, and can obey God’s invitation to go to the Nations!
I’ve seen the Lord invite unlikely and unsuspecting people over and over again, so this is not something new. In fact, I suspect God’s been in the business of inviting unsuspecting and ordinary people into his mission for thousands of years (e.g., read your Bible!). This “greater vision” that Mark writes about is foundational to our current focus on joining God’s “long term strategy” of making Jesus known all around the globe!
This is the same “greater vision” of which you may need to catch a glimpse. If you are a pastor, a church leader, or simply attend a Vineyard church, there’s no reason why you can’t begin prayerfully seeking where and to whom God is calling your church to go! I believe that as churches begin seeking God’s heart for the nations, they will hear God’s voice and will see God’s hand at work… no matter how small or how unlikely they may feel. God’s regularly in the business of inviting inexperienced and unsuspecting people to join his mission and partner with the Holy Spirit!
Sharing This Vision Locally
As we step forward in our involvement with global missions, we are facilitating several things in our local church that we’re hoping will expand this vision to the rest of the church community.
(1) We’re hosting a small group on Missions during this next trimester. Michelle Ackley, one of our missions team members, is going to be teaching some basic missiological principles to a group of people interested in global missions. I think this will serve to (a) instill a good sense of what effective, long-term, and sustainable missions looks like and (b) help us find more people interested in being involved.
(2) I’m including more focus on global missions in my sermons. As good preaching has lots of illustrations and calls for application, I’ve tried to use a lot more stories from mission trips I’ve been on in order to provide a glimpse into the possibilities of people’s own engagement in other countries. And I’ve also shared the stories of other people who have gone. This has caused a few people to talk to me directly about how they want to be involved in missions work and I’ve been able to get a sense for people who may be willing to go!
(3) I’m attempting to put together a small and short “look-see” trip to Japan in May. The plan is to spend a few days in Japan meeting Vineyard pastors and seeing what God’s up to in the country of my ancestors. We’ll share more on this as it develops!
(4) Our missions team is trying to regularly meet to discuss and pray and dream. I’m really thankful that we have a few people who are really passionate about missions and excited to see our church get more involved! There is so much truth to the African proverb, “If you want to go quickly, go alone but if you want to go far, go together.” We’re definitely building capacity for long term involvement and that’s something only made possible because of the passion of people being banded together!
So that’s the latest here in Red Bluff… and we’re super excited about what God is going to do next!
To learn more about Vineyard Missions, click here.