Step one in becoming a good "missions church" is becoming a good church. I don't mean churches should take care of themselves first, so to speak. I mean that true global vision emerges from an awareness of what God is doing everyday locally. Good churches have embraced God's vision for reaching their community through them. This initiates a "flat earth" theology–in which God cares about all people, not just the people in my community. I have yet to see this work in reverse. Churches don't usually come to believe, "Well if he cares about people in Africa, I bet He may even care about people here in Plano." It usually goes the opposite way.
Embracing local evangelism is like learning the alphabet when it comes to becoming a globally conscious, "missions church." If we don't care about the people next door, we probably don't care about the lost in Indonesia that much either. I'm not saying we don't feel guilt about the lost in Indonesia. I'm saying we don't really care about them the way God would want us to.
I'm defining "good church" (though I prefer "great") theologically by it's faithfulness to Christ and His mission. "Good church" practically means healthy and at least moderately effective in reaching it's own community. You don't have to be big to be a great church. But, being a good church is usually a prerequisite for building a strong missions ministry over time. As I said yesterday, good "missions" churches have what God is doing globally in their DNA and awareness…not just in their budget. Many churches who give a high percentage of money to global missions don't really care much about it.
Becoming a good "missions church" is actually quite similar to becoming a "good church," because good churches think globally. Thinking globally, however, doesn't make you a good church.
When a church is truly struggling, it can be difficult to build enthusiasm for visionary ministry abroad. Why? Sadly, the scarcity mentality embeds itself in the church psyche like a tick. It's fair to say that sometimes new ventures abroad can defibrillate a dying congregation. Odds are, such ministries will never get the chance. The church can only think of survival. They cannot imagine new initiatives–like a family on the verge of bankruptcy has difficulty envisioning their dream home. If you're in a church like this, trying to get buy-in from leadership on continuing to grow in global mission will be exhausting and depressing.
A more effective overall approach to the problem is to stay vigilant about local ministry while casting global ministry as akin to it–an extension of it. It's all evangelism. God cares about all people. Global missions is not more important than local mission. It's a vital part of being a Kingdom Church. Big difference. A healthy local ministry will allow for the funding, vision and "want to" for new global initiatives. It rarely works in reverse. Maybe it should. But, it usually doesn't.
Do you agree?