I did a brief preview about the book a few days back. David Horners is the pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC (Awesome URL: pray.org). His book, When Missions Shapes the Mission, is a deeply challenging book addressed to pastors and leaders in the church. Because it was written from a pastor within my tribe of churches – Southern Baptists, I was pretty interested in what he had to say.

The book is essentially the presentation of a research project that was born from the conviction that churches have sidelined missions in favor of growing their own local kingdoms. What he presents is disturbing and should bring deep conviction to pastors, church leaders and local church members who do not have the world on their hearts.

Some of his findings don’t surprise me, but the extent of their damage upon the cause of Christ is lavish.

  • Church members are not obedient in giving. Just in 2005, a study revealed that if believers in Christian churches tithed on their after-tax income, it would result in $46 billion (yes, billion) more in giving. (Source)
  • Only .09 percent of people in Southern Baptist churches have responded to a calling to vocational missions.
  • Only 6 percent of money received in local SBC churches makes it out of those churches to support the missions efforts of the denomination.
  • Just over 1 percent of the money given actually makes it to support international missions.

How do these realities square with Jesus’ clear directive in Matthew 28:18-20 to make disciples of all nations? How do these realities mirror your own attitude or apathy toward the call of God to make His gospel known to all peoples?

Horner presents an honest assessment of where evangelical churches actually are today in relation to their commitment to missions. In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins says that one of the marks of great companies is their ability to be brutally honest with themselves about where they actually are. It’s a slow death to believe your own press. What is needed, Collins says is to cultivate a climate of truth. This is essentially what Horner urges churches to do – be honest with where we’re not.

His first section in the book challenged me deeply. Let’s quit patting ourselves on the back for the occasional mission trip or conference. Is a commitment and love for the glory of Christ among the nations embedded in our churches? Does our DNA reflect the priority of God for His gospel to be made known to all people? Do our church members and small group talk, pray and act in ways that are a “conduit and not a cork” to missions mobilization? Are we seeing people from our churches commit their lives to the calling of vocational missions?

Horner walks the reader through a brief and helpful survey of past missions movements from history and identifies nine things that were consistently present in these movements:

  1. Power form God as the Holy Spirit
  2. Passion for Christ
  3. Prevailing prayer
  4. A rich soaking in the scriptures and sound doctrine
  5. Unwavering faith that trusts God to be faithful in all things
  6. Holiness and purity of life (together with deep repentance and an abhorrence for sin)
  7. Eyes willing to see and have compassion on others
  8. A supportive, sacrificial, and generous sending community
  9. Persecution and opposition

Horner surveyed 300 churches that were demonstrating not just a commitment but a culture of missions involvement and from that survey, and delineates how these churches practices align with the elements of past missions movements. By doing so, he presents a helpful road map for an honest and repentant church to begin placing missions back as a foundation element in its mission.

Here are the 10 practices he says that churches today who are “investing in the cultivation of a missions content in their congregations” employ:

  1. Assign clear leadership responsibility for missions (have someone devoted to the effort).
  2. Place a high value on indigenous works.
  3. Maintain regular contact with their missionaries.
  4. Emphasize missions from the pulpit/preaching.
  5. Use both budget and nonbudet funding for missions.
  6. Emphasize both long-term and short-term trips.
  7. Employ an assessment process.
  8. Become involved in international church planting.
  9. Highlight missions festivals (Larger churches from the survey did this more than the smaller reporting churches, he found. But that should not exclude smaller churches from embracing this as a practice.)
  10. Adopt a people group. (He found that a very small majority of smaller churches do not adopt a people group.)

Perhaps one of the most frequent things I’ve heard in ministry when missions begins to be emphasized is how there is such great need for work locally. There are always objections to pouring resources – people, time, and financial – into works so far beyond our city limits. There are trust issues. The adage “out of sight, out mind” seems to dominate our mentality so much more than the scriptural command to “walk by faith and not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5.7)

Is it true that America is “equally in need of missionary endeavors” when over 90 percent of the missions resources in the world are invested here and 90 percent of the world receives less than 10 percent of the resources? (p153)

The book is a reality check, but it’s also a practical tool to help begin somewhere. While we have so much change to embrace in order to refocus our churches and members upon the glorious call to take the gospel to all nations, we can begin. There’s great hope, for so many churches each year are “getting it.” In fact, “there is an overwhelming response to take the gospel to the nations coming from 20- and 30-somethings.” (p153)

While the book is written to pastors and denominational leaders, I would highly recommend it as a tool to help mobilize a new missions team (or existing one) in your church. It’s a resource that’s meant to be challenge but not to leave you challenged. It hopes to transport you and your church onto fields white for harvest as it shows you some best practices to consider implementing as you begin leading your church to allow missions to shape your mission.

Note: I received this book for free to review, and I’m appreciative, because it wasn’t a chore. It was a challenge. Get it into the hands of others.

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