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Church, let’s be the Church!


“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8, NIV)

Worship and mission are the reason the church exists.

It is really that simple. A church that is not on mission is often just a vaguely spiritual Rotary Club. It may do some nice things, but it is not really a church.

As Jesus gathered with His disciples one last time following the resurrection, His instructions were clear: get down to Jerusalem, gather in a prayer meeting, get filled with the Holy Spirit, and get on mission in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Then, according to Luke, in Acts chapter 1, having spoken these words, Jesus ascended into the clouds and disappeared. The disciples were left standing there, gazing into the heavens, when suddenly a couple of angels appeared. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand there looking into the sky?” The implication is clear: Jesus has just given you your mission; stop staring at the clouds and get on with it.

Sadly, the vast majority of churches in North America today are not on mission in any meaningful way. Often inwardly focused or lethargic, many of these congregations have mastered “looking into the sky,” but have not subsequently gone forth in the Spirit and power of God to join Jesus in His mission. I do not believe that this lack of missional engagement is due to church people’s lack of desire or willingness. Instead, I think it reflects a lack of clarity surrounding the call to mission, and a concurrent lack of understanding of how a church can mobilize for that mission. And the good news is: that can change!

Finding clarity
Fourteen years ago I moved from Hawaii (where I was suffering for Jesus!) to Florida, answering the call to pastor a church there. In the first 10 years of its existence, this church had grown numerically and spiritually. There were many growing disciples, and the hearts of the people were inclined toward mission, though there was little tangible expression of that. Knowing that the church needed to be on mission, I sought help in mobilizing the congregation. We found that help in The Mission Society (now TMS Global) and its Church Ministries department.

As TMS Global came alongside to help educate and coach us, we discovered that becoming a missional church involves:

  1. calling the church to prayer and focusing that prayer life on the mission;
  2. understanding the biblical basis of the mission and creating a strategic plan for carrying out that mission and a funding model to resource the mission;
  3. mobilizing the people of the church to see the mission not as a “program” of the church, but as central in animating everything the church does.

In an 18-month process, during which we received coaching, instruction and guidance from TMS Global, everything was transformed. We moved through each process listed above to
develop a mission culture. We saw giving to the mission increase in such staggering ways that it almost defied belief, and the number of people engaged in hands-on mission increase from around a dozen to several hundred. We became fully engaged in mission locally, regionally, and around the world. And as the church became increasingly mission focused, we saw every other metric of church life grow as well. Attendance and membership increased. The number of volunteers grew rapidly. And giving to the church budget flourished. Perhaps most exciting of all, the church became known in the community as “the mission church.” There is nothing quite as powerful as a group of people discovering why they exist.

Coming alive
Since that day 14 years ago when I became involved with TMS Global’s church mobilization ministry, I’ve been blessed to witness this same process repeated in literally scores of churches. And each time I do—each time I see a church more fully join Jesus in His mission, coming alive as it finds its true purpose—my heart longs to help more and more churches do the same.

We are devoting this entire issue of Unfinished to the idea of creating a mission culture in the local church. You will find encouraging stories of prayer movements, church mobilization, and life transformation. It is a joy to celebrate the things the Lord is doing as churches become mobilized to join Jesus in His mission.

We hope this issue will also encourage you to believe that both you and your local church can experience a missional transformation. TMS Global is ready and willing to engage you in the process.

The Rev. Max Wilkins is president and CEO of TMS Global.