Great Commission

3 Ways Pastors Can Lead Their Church To Participate in Missions

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I grew up in two Southern Baptist Churches, and to my recollection, neither one was particularly active in missions. Sure, the churches encouraged families to give to the Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon offerings, the pastor delivered an occasional sermon on the Great Commission, and the Women’s Missionary Union (WMU) welcomed all the ladies to participate in their monthly gatherings. However, the churches did not create a culture which equipped, empowered, and encouraged members to participate in missions. Sadly, church members could faithfully attend and serve in these churches for decades without ever engaging in making disciples cross-culturally.

Ironically, when churches neglect missions, they deny their very identity as God’s people. As Michael Goheen argues, “God’s people are a so that people; they are chosen so that they might know God’s salvation and then invite all nations into it.”[1] The church is “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness and into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9; emphasis added). Missions is not just something the church does but a part of who we are. To call ourselves the church and then ignore our mission is an oxymoron. Therefore, since God called pastors to oversee his people, pastors must keep their church focused on mission.

We lead our church to live out its identity by praying for missions, giving to missions, and going on mission.

Pastors and Missions

Like a shepherd overseeing his sheep, pastors are responsible for feeding, guarding, and leading their congregation. But I wonder how many pastors recognize the essential connection between shepherding their church and missions. Consider this. In preaching the Word, we feed our members so that they know their God, understand His mission, and are built up into maturity through receiving and obeying the Word of God. We guard the mission of the church so that making disciples of all nations remains central to the life of our people. We lead our church to live out its identity by praying for missions, giving to missions, and going on mission. As pastors, failing to recognize how our call to shepherd relates to the church’s mission will result in serious consequences.

If God has saved and set apart the church to participate in missions and has set apart pastors to oversee their church, here’s the question that must be answered: how can pastors prepare and send out their members to join God on mission through making disciples of all nations? Here are three practical ways pastors can lead their congregation to be involved in missions.

Show Them God’s Mission in Scripture

The Bible tells the story of God’s mission from creation to new creation. More specifically, the pages of Scripture reveal God’s mission to redeem all of creation from its bondage to sin and death, a mission that climaxes in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, one vital aspect of God’s mission is consecrating a people for the purpose of making disciples. If we want to empower our congregations to participate in missions, let’s start by pointing them to the vast, glorious mission of God found throughout the Bible.

How many of our people realize how saturated God’s Word is with mission? Moreover, how many in our church understand how important the mission of God’s people is to the biblical storyline? When we preach the whole counsel of God, we can take advantage of weekly opportunities to explain and apply God’s mission to our people. Our people need to see how the Scriptures relate to Jesus and the proclamation of the gospel to all nations (Luke 24:44–47). Through the preaching of the Word, our hearers can learn about the mission of God and their role in it.

Pray, Pray, Pray

Another way we can lead our church to be involved in missions is through praying for missionaries, unreached people groups, and the nations. Passion is contagious. If we desire for our congregation to pray fervently for missions, we need to be an example for them. Praying for missions during Easter and Christmas is not enough. Crying out on behalf of missionaries and the lost around the world must become a part of our church’s culture.

Through prayer every member of our congregation can be involved. As a pastor, how might your children and youth ministries begin praying for specific missionaries each week? How could you connect your small groups to unreached people groups for the purpose of prayer? Could you devote time in your worship services to lift up the lost in your community and around the globe? And have you ever challenged families to set aside a night each week to “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2)?

We know that God works through the prayers of His people. As pastors, if we really believe in the efficacy of prayers, we must lead the way in cultivating a culture of prayer for missions in our church.

Equip Your People

Finally, pastors must prioritize equipping their people to join God on mission. Paul writes to the churches in Ephesus that Jesus provided His body with shepherds for the purpose of “[equipping] the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:11–12). The work of ministry is broad, but it certainly includes missions. Therefore, shepherding the flock of God includes equipping Christians with the knowledge, resources, and skills needed for making disciples of all nations.

I wonder if too many pastors naively assume that their members already know how to participate in missions. Taking a step back, I wonder if too many of us overestimate the number of members who understand that the Great Commission applies to every Christian. We must do the hard work of developing a culture that teaches what missions is, empowers believers to participate, and equips them to use their gifts for the spreading of the gospel in our communities and all over the globe.

Pastors can equip their congregations for missions in numerous ways, but an essential one is equipping them to share the gospel, especially with those from other cultures. Many Christians do not share their faith because they feel ill-equipped. Sharing the gospel with those of another culture can add an additional level of intimidation. As pastors, we can equip our people by taking the time to provide them with tools for sharing the gospel, even to people of another culture. Whether we set aside times of formal training or go the informal route, training and instruction can go a long way in helping our people become comfortable sharing the gospel.

God is a missionary God, and the church is His missionary people. As pastors, we have the opportunity to join God on mission by using our gifts and position to lead our congregation to participate in missions.


[1] Michael Goheen, A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), 31. Emphasis original.

  • Great Commission
  • Pastoral Ministry
Philip Crouse

Philip Crouse Jr. (PhD, SEBTS) lives in North Carolina with his wife and four children. He currently pastors Germanton Baptist Church in Germanton, NC. He also teaches as an adjunct professor at Carolina University. Philip enjoys reading and writing on pastoral ministry and the intersection of missiology and preaching.

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