What does Ridgewood have to do with Rwanda? What does New Jersey have to do with Papua New Guinea? What does a local church have to do with the nations?
We talk a lot about mission at Grace Church. Specifically, the Christ-centered mission we are engaged in as God’s people, caught up in something way bigger than ourselves. All people everywhere want to be caught up in a life mission, regardless of religious convictions, spiritual beliefs, or lack thereof. It’s why we pack out movie theaters or binge watch Netflix shows that put a character on display that is engaged in a larger-than-life mission, where people depend on them, where they’re willing to give up their lives. Great movies don’t feature people who have the routine of a mundane life that consists of work, sleep, eating, feeding, and cleaning on repeat. Rather, they feature ordinary men and women who were just doing those things until something happened that forces them to do be a hero or heroine, to save someone or something, to sacrifice it all in the name of virtue and victory. We love that stuff, and we want it too.
This yearning for mission amongst Christians, therefore, is not just something for the box offices or living room couches. This is what pushes us to the church, toward playing a part in the most eternally-transformative, life-changing mission the world has ever seen, a mission casted out by Christ himself:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
This mission is not just for the chosen few, it’s for the whole church, for anyone who considers themselves a Christ-follower. When we walk out the doors of the place where we gather, we enter our mission field. “Every member a missionary” is the mantra, and we go out to love and serve a world in hopes that God will use us to be faithful witnesses to the saving work of Jesus Christ.
A word of caution is needed here, however. If we’re not careful, the local church can fall into the trap of thinking that its local context is the only place it plays a part in making disciples. We’re in a culture that promotes self above all else, after all, so it’s no wonder how churches can easily be tempted to just promote itself and its work as opposed to partnering with others for Kingdom work. A truly faithful church doesn’t only see its impact getting to the end of town, but to the end of the world for His Glory. Not just this nation, but all nations. So how can a local church make a global impact?
…By partnering with missionaries and missions organizations that go to places we can’t go, and minister to people we can’t reach. Wait, you may be thinking, I thought every believer was a missionary? Yes and no. Here is where the words we use could potentially get us in trouble, for every believer is a disciple-maker, but there are certain men and women who are vocationally set apart for the work of the mission of making disciples. It’s these men and women whom Paul speaks about in his letter to the church at Rome:
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:14-15
Not to get caught up in semantics, but let’s say there are member missionaries and vocational missionaries. The latter is who Paul is speaking of, those who are sent to preach the good news of Jesus Christ. At Grace Church, we partner with 20 missionary families and agencies that cover the globe, and this weekend is Global Impact Sunday. In light of that, here are 3 ways a local church can effectively play its part well in making a global impact.
1. Consistently Praying for Breakthrough
It’s a shame how quickly the power of prayer gets overlooked in our culture today, even within the church. Any time prayer is lifted high, there is a naysayer who claims, “thoughts and prayers do nothing, only action does” as if prayer is a cop-out, a meaningless gesture that accomplishes nothing. All I have to say is that you don’t know my God. My God can do all things, and he chooses to bring about His good and perfect purposes through the prayer of His people. Action is required by God’s people, yes, but only through the lenses and power of prayer. Prayerless action leads to destruction, but prayerful action leads to life.
In light of this, the most Kingdom-shaping impact a local church can have is praying specifically for its missionary partners and the people groups they are seeking to reach. Pray often, pray expectantly, and trust that God will do extraordinary things through the ordinary prayers of his people.
2. Financially Sowing into Global Disciple-Making Work
There’s an old saying we are all familiar with: put your money where your mouth is. The reality is that in our world today, someone who has no clue who you are could take just one hour looking over your bank and credit card statements over the past year and give a pretty accurate overview of what you love most. The reason is because regardless of whether we put our money where our mouth is, our money will always reveal where our hearts are.
Mission work requires funding, and that funding which sows into Kingdom expansion predominantly comes from those already within the Kingdom. Missionary families and agencies rely on the open-handed generosity of God’s people, of the Church, and we ought to ensure that any giving we do includes a heart for the nations to come to know Christ. At Grace Church, missions will always have a central focus within our ministry budget, because we want to play a part in what God is doing globally, and we want to use that which God has blessed us with to be a blessing to others.
3. Raising Up and Sending Out
One of the most encouraging aspects of the commitment to missions that Grace Church has had over the past 70 years is that several of the men and women we currently partner with grew up and were sent out from Grace Church.
Phil Remmers in the Middle East, Susan Grosser in Costa Rica, Karilyn Mullenix in Ukraine, Nate Rudd in Japan, Nancy Fritz going Worldwide, David Parshall in Nepal, Barbara Harbert in Kenya are all folks that began at a local church in Ridgewood.
A church that is committed to global missions will make it regularly known that it’s our hope for certain individuals within our own congregation to be identified, raised up, trained, and sent out to the nations.
Global Impact Sunday is not the only week out of the year that we talk about worldwide missions, but it serves as a spotlight on a conviction that is always present and working in the context of our ministry. We are a local church,that by the grace of God, have been invited to play a part in God’s work of making disciples of all nations. Let this always be true of us for as long as God allows.