Re-thinking Mission

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Dr. Paul Borden
Rocky Mountain Church Network

Taken from Growing Healthy Churches May 2014 E-Newsletter




I recently visited a congregation that over the years had declined from 1,000 people in worship on a weekend to 100. However, the congregation is again flourishing in that there are now over 400 people present each weekend. In fact, many are becoming new disciples for Jesus Christ and the church is looking at becoming a multi-site congregation. What is most intriguing is that this is occurring in one of the most difficult regions of our nation to reach with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Obviously, God’s blessing is on this church. It is also clear that the pastor and many of his key staff members are leaders. However, there was another factor that came through loudly and clearly as I spoke to him.

This pastor and those on the staff I interacted with saw themselves as missionaries. They understood that the local body of believers does not exist primarily to serve the believers. Rather the Church is God’s missional arm to be leveraged to reach lost people. Therefore, it was important to learn and understand the micro-culture in which the church exists in order to develop strategies God might bless to communicate the Good News of life in Jesus Christ.

The pastor and the elders understood that all traditions must be placed on the altar of mission to be sacrificed if such traditions are hampering our Lord’s commission to His Church to go and make disciples. Some of those traditions are its structure, its budget, its name and other related issues that often hinder congregations from becoming truly missional. A number of key sacrifices have been made and the result is a growing church in an area where most churches do not grow.

The pastor believed God had called him to this most difficult mission field in our nation in order to make a difference. He and his staff members are not there to fulfill the traditional roles of pastor and pastoral staff caring for the demands of consumer believers. Rather they are developing leaders and leveraging the gifts of the Body to help the lost become new disciples of Jesus Christ.

We must remember that shepherds lead sheep, not for the sake of the sheep, but for the sake of the shepherd. The Church of Jesus Christ is the incarnate body of Christ today carrying out the same mission Jesus Christ carried out over 2,000 years ago. That mission is to seek and to save those who are lost. We are called to lead sheep to serve the Shepherd, not the sheep.[/text_output][/vc_column][/vc_row]

4 Replies to “Re-thinking Mission”

  1. Brothers, Thanks for the insights in this article. One concern I have is that often the sheep of the congregation are not being “shepherded” as in 1 Peter 5. It is fine for the church to reach out but newcomers need patient shepherding and older sheep need help as well. Many times that help is simply non-existent in the effort to reach “new” people. In Acts we see the local bodies ministering to their own as well as reaching out to community. I see older people who cannot do what younger people can do, and so they sit and survive as best they can. There seems to be little opportunity for them to continue to grow in grace and faith as they age and vegetate. They are told to “get busy, make some friends, reach out to others”, by people who have no idea at all what is involved in trying to move their old bodies and do things that were easily done 25 yrs. ago. Our feeling is that we have outlived our usefulness and should now simply sink into the woodwork and disappear. I believe some in our generation have something to contribute to the local body but in general they are not being used. Anyway, just some thoughts at 85. God bless. Julian C.

  2. As I understand the Bible there is no one primary command. We are to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. We are to make disciples. We are to love one another. We are to bear one another’s burdens. The list goes on and on. Jesus’ repeated command to Peter to feed his sheep seems to focus on his sheep and not Peter as the undershepherd. Certainly we should remove all unnecessary obstacles to making disciples but sometimes it feels like there is little difference between many churches and the world. And it often feels like bait and switch. We make it so easy to enter the church community that when we finally talk about what it means to follow Christ, to take up our cross and follow him, these new people have no concept of what we’re talking about. I worry about that old term “easy believism” and the lack of discipling that needs to take place in the body of Christ. Believers at every level need to be nurtured and discipled. The body of Christ is after all made up of believers who best make disciples when they are being discipled. Back to the old description found in Acts 2 of how the church functioned under the apostles’ leadership. The natural fruit of godly discipleship is both sharing and demonstrating our faith in a lost world that leads unbelievers to faith in Jesus.

  3. I love what Paul writes: “We must remember that shepherds lead sheep, not for the sake of the sheep, but for the sake of the shepherd. ”


  4. Great conversation! I heartily agree that we must have a “both-and” approach to our focus, not just reaching the unsaved but continuing to nurture one another. Pastoring a small older congregation, I am careful not to give the impression that those already saved now take back seat in the kingdom. We all agree Christ continues to love and delight in the saved following their conversion, but in missional articles it’s almost as if we must apologize for ramping up discipling efforts among those within the church. I wonder if discipling within the existing congregation can be done even as we adopt a missional mindset? I think we can, with the result of more effective missional thinking.
    On a slightly different tangent, has there been any theological discussion within the CB circles about what missional discipleship would look like for someone with a conservative dispensational-ish framework? (A am currently serving and NAB congregation). All of what I have read about missional church life has been either from what seems like liberal social-gospel sources, or more orthodox but reformed frame of reference. Thanks for any thoughts on this.

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