By Chuck Lawless
I believe every church ought to send their pastor on at least one international missions trip, including paying his way (and his spouse’s way). Here’s why:
- The Great Commission (Matt. 28:18–20) is for all churches, and pastors most influence the direction of the church. I have never found a strong Great Commission, missions-minded church without a pastor who sets that agenda. Send your pastor overseas on a short-term trip, and your church will likely turn its heart toward the world.
- The church is responsible for calling out and sending out missionaries. Churches who take this responsibility seriously are led by pastors who take it seriously. They’re willing to send their church’s best to the nations.
- Many pastors will struggle going unless the church helps cover the costs. Sure, they can raise funds on their own, but the wise congregation will be willing to make this investment in their pastor. The dollars spent will be few compared to the benefits gained.
- Pastors will experience the heart of God on the missions field. That’s not to say they can’t do that in North America, of course. Something often happens though when pastors see nations and people groups with the eyes of God.
- The nations need the training that pastors offer. All around the world are believers and church leaders longing for biblical and practical training. Your pastor can help provide that training.
- Pastors model faith and courage by taking a trip. We will not win the world to Jesus with only pastors doing the work; we must have laypersons ready and willing to go both short-term and long-term. Pastors set the example for their congregation when they go.
- They will have a greater global perspective. The world is much, much bigger than North America — and leaders who exposit, illustrate and apply God’s Word every Sunday need a global vision.
- They will likely be more cross-culturally evangelistic when they return. The nations of the world now live among us. Send your pastor on an international trip, and he will be more aware of internationals living in your community.
- The church will pray more for missionaries. That’s what happens when church leaders spend time with Christian workers on the front lines.
- Pastors can gain perspective on issues in their church. A trip to the nations will help a pastor see global needs and vast lostness — and the petty things of church life that often burden them lose some of their force.
- They may see and hear unexpected evidences of the power of God on the field. When you hear about or see God’s power over idols, demons, sickness and death, you cannot remain the same when you return to the U.S.
- The Lord calls pastors to become full-time missionaries. I don’t know many congregations who hope their pastor is called to missions, but the strongest Great Commission churches are open to this possibility.
Often, the pastor’s calling begins with a short-term trip — and the church later rejoices at God’s calling.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Chuck Lawless is dean of doctoral studies; vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers; and professor of evangelism and missions at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.
Camp is ‘sending’ too
A church’s willingness to send kids and teenagers to camp is a good indicator of its investment in its future church leaders and is critical to their spiritual development.
According to a 2019 Lifeway Research study, 2 in 3 American young adults who attended a Protestant church regularly for at least a year as a teenager say they also dropped out for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22.
Camp attendance throughout adolescence and teen years helps campers continue to grow spiritually and serve so they do not fall away from the church once they graduate high school.
The lessons and skills students and kids learn at camp can be used when they get back home to make a difference in your church and community.
One of the goals of camp is to equip campers to do ministry at home. This is especially true with missions camps.
Students learn they can visit a nursing home in their own city — not just at camp.
Students may grow in leadership skills, discover their spiritual gifts or find their passion for worship and creative ministries — all of which can be used to serve in their churches when they get back home.
Lifeway Christian Resources
Everyone needs ‘spring cleaning’
I love the green of spring. Everything seems to have come back to life after a long winter’s nap.
The fresh hues of green are highlighted with bursts of vibrant colors from the blossoms and blooms.
Spring is also the annual time of deep cleaning. While the phrase “Cleanliness is next to godliness” is not a direct quote from the Bible, the concept is biblical.
My mama believed in both cleanliness and godliness. I’m fairly convinced that she scrubbed a couple of layers of skin off the backs of my ears.
We never had much of a house, but what we did have was clean. Every spring, we pulled things from the house and hauled them outside. I gave thanks during those days that we didn’t have a lot of things!
Quilts and bedspreads were hung out on the clotheslines. Even mattresses were given a good dose of sunning.
I had to help lug them outside and then back in at the end of the day. I mumbled and murmured, griped and grumbled, as children will do.
To add insult to my injury, while all those things were outside being “cleaned” by the sun, guess what we did on the inside. Mama said with the house so empty, it was a great time to “deep clean” inside.
I would ask Mama, “Why do we have to do all this?” She answered, “Because everything needs a good deep cleaning every now and then.”
I’ve come to realize that she was right. I’ve also come to realize that “everyone” needs a good deep cleaning every now and then too — and not just the kind that comes from soap and water.
Research has shown that people who regularly attend [Bible study] groups share with others how to become a Christian and invite people to church more often.
“Serve where you are … be faithful in that and God will open the doors along the way as He wants to open them, where He wants to open them and when,” said Catherine Renfro, NAMB’s director of evangelism. “At the end of the day there’s one person who deserves to be famous, and that’s Jesus.”
Presidential biographer and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said this about the importance of empathy: “It is the most important quality in any kind of setting — to listen to different points of view and really hear what people are saying. Some people are born with it, such as Lincoln. Others can develop it.”
How can leaders learn to be more empathetic toward those they are called to lead? Here are five suggestions:
1. Take a genuine interest in other people.
2. Ask questions to understand the perspective of another person.
3. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
4. Be understanding when mistakes are made.
5. Disagree with others without debating them.
All Christian leaders are growing leaders, and our growth in empathy will make us a greater blessing to those we are called to lead.
Kentucky Baptist Convention
Failure is a refusal to learn from mistakes. All of us mess up, and no leader is fully free from regrets.
President and CEO
Lifeway Christian Resources
God has provided the technological tools to reach the world, tools no other generation has ever had. It’s an exciting time to live.
Southern Baptist evangelist
From the Twitterverse
I know that pastors (like me) love pics of rooms filled with people worshipping Christ. Not apologizing for that.
I wish we had pics of the REAL heroes that help make days like Easter Sunday happen: parking lot volunteers, preschool workers, facility crews, production, etc.
“Let us be careful that we never exalt any minister or sermon or book or friend above the Word of God.” —J.C. Ryle
There is more to being pro-life than just being against abortion.
God sees the very “crawl space” of our lives, what we hide from others but cannot hide from Him.
Under the law of Moses, the sheep died for the shepherd, but under grace, the Good Shepherd died for the sheep!
Give Jesus every bit of your life. He will do more with it than you could even dream.
The Bible contains a coherent worldview rooted in God’s divine revelation. It rightly frames all of reality and cultivates love for God and neighbor.
The biblical worldview animates a rightly ordered ethics that glorifies God and promotes authentic human flourishing.
If you grow deeper in theology and become more callous, bitter, judgmental or just plain mean, something went wrong. The goal is not to showcase what you know, but to share with others how Christ can be known.
The world says it’s over. God declares not until He says so.
The world says give up. God says look up.
The world says all is bad. God declares He turns bad into good.
God is with you. He will not leave you, and He absolutely will see you all the way through this.
Pastors, an important part of caring for grieving people in your church is your ability and willingness to connect to your own sadness and grief.
Only then can we “weep with those who weep.” We don’t fix people’s grief, but enter into it with them. That is true empathy.