Mission-Minded Church - Programme or Personality?

by Tony Kirk
Posted on 1st July 2008

At the start of the modern Mission movement some 200 years ago, few would have anticipated the worldwide Christian presence that we see today. Neither would they have believed the enormous changes that have taken place in technology, culture, communication, travel etc. They, however, took the timeless imperative of the gospel and within their own context created structures, strategies and partnerships that enabled them to respond to God's call as effectively as they could.

That gospel imperative is just as true for us today. God's purpose of revealing His Glory to a waiting world runs from beginning to end of scripture. It isn't restricted to a few summary verses such as Matthew 28:19 but is contained within His whole character and passion. We have no less responsibility than those early pioneers to 'use means' within today's Post Modern, Globalised, and shrinking world to take the message of the Kingdom.

"the time has come for the local church to re-own local and global mission"

The danger however is that of sticking to models and structures that while they have served well for the past 200 years, do not fit into today's reality. I don't think that any would doubt that the Church is God's initiative through which He has chosen to reveal Himself. The question comes as to whether we really believe that it's the local church rather than the universal church has this responsibility? The growth of denominational and non denominational Mission Agencies over these 200 years, while producing an enormous growth in the church worldwide, has had the detrimental effect of allowing the local church to effectively `give away' the responsibility for global mission to these agencies. I believe the time has come for the local church to re-own local and global mission. For it to re-examine how it partners with these mission agencies so that both can truly benefit from this synergistic relationship. At the same time the agencies need to take the bold steps necessary to allow the local church take ownership again and work to serve and resource the local church world wide in its responsibility for mission.


Such a change to make mission the personality of the church is not easy. Many churches wanting to make this kind of change have found agencies reluctant and slow to give up ownership. It is far easier for the agencies to have set strategies and programmes that churches can buy into rather than going down the road of individually negotiating with each separate church. Some churches have decided that it is easier (maybe not better!) to do their own thing either out of the frustrations mentioned above, issues of ecclesiology, or just a concern to keep the distinctiveness of their group. For some churches, `Missions' is by default defined as something that `someone else does somewhere else', and have in the best cases delegated it to a few enthusiasts out on the periphery of the church as just another of our programmes.

What is clear is the need for change for both churches and agencies if we are to see the world reached with the Gospel of the Kingdom! For local churches this means re-owning mission in such a way that we take full advantage of today's world and work out new models of partnership and ministry. This kind of change will not happen unless local church leadership knows it needs to happen and begins to grasp the nettle. Neither will it really happen unless each member of the congregation identifies themselves with their church's local/global mission strategy and takes opportunities for personal involvement using their gifts, skills, experience and training.

Such a change to make local/global mission the personality of the church rather than just another programme of the church is not a quick fix. It will take a number of years of modelling, teaching and brave decision making. Main areas that will need to be addressed are:

  • Strategies - are we being intentional in seeking God for His plan for our church's local and global responsibilities, maybe using Acts 18 as a model (Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, ends of the earth)?
  • Structures - do they really serve our strategies or are we serving them?
  • Empowering the congregation - do we actively provide training, experience and opportunities for individuals to find their place in the Kingdom, locally and globally?

Many other areas include our church wide education; prayer; communication & celebration; short term opportunities; partnerships; finance etc.

Not a quick fix .... Not easy... But it is worth it because I believe it is what God wants to happen!

To support Pastors and Church Leaders in making these changes an organisation called Global Focus has been set up with the sole aim of being there to help. There are no prescribed outcomes as each local church is unique and must discover its own strategy. However, a planned seminar for the church leadership and the opportunity for an eighteen months companionship process can be a real help in achieving the changes desired.

When we all realise that we are part of something that is far bigger than ourselves, or our local church or denomination, it is amazing what God begins to do in and through our lives! Do we really believe that we can change the world? God does!!!

Tony Kirk has served as the Coordinator for Global Focus in the UK. He has previously served as UK Director of Operation Mobilisation and the Area Coordinator for OM's work in Western Europe. Alongside his OM responsibilities he has been involved in local church leadership. Tony is married to Ann and they have two children and four grandchildren.