Penetrating the Frontiers
How Small Churches Can Help
Practically every alert missionminded evangelical in. the country has heard or read of the thrilling missionary conferences held annually at Park Street Church in Boston, or the similar meeting in Toronto's People's Church.
More and more is being written about the huge evangelical congregations in California which havebecome mission training institutes and mission sending agencies with dozens of church members sent to the far corners of the globe vs evidence that big churches have done a big job in promoting the cause of missions, but what about the smaller church?
The initial response to this question might be to question whether or not small churches should even be expected to. take an active role in the evangelization of the world. After all, world evangelization requires resources of people and dollars and time. In the smaller church these scarce commodities are at a premium..Yet for Christian leaders in smaller congregations, the issue is not whether or not the church can "afford." an active missions involvement, but simply obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ who has commanded us to "disciple all the nations."
When we realize that a large percentage of our American churches:: can be classified as 'small" it underscores, the value of seeing each of these congregations as outposts for penetrating the final frontiers of the gospel.; Over half the 330, 000 churches in this country have fewer than 75 worshippers each Sunday. And churches with less than 350 in attendance comprise 95% of the national total.
Historically, in our American evangelical scene, small congregations have been "the fountainhead of foreign missions," as large numbers of mission candidates and mission support were: provided by these churches .
But what about the situation in 1982' What can small churches realistically expect to accomplish and how, can the small church develop an effective mlssionary outreach?
The need for missions around the world has never been more clearly understood or defined than it is today. Mission researchers and strategists at the U. S. Center for World Mission in Pasadena have defined the crucial next step as establishing a viable, indigenous church within each of the (estimated) 16, 750 people groups currently without such a Christian witness.
Each local church, therefore, can better assess its role in the complete task. Dr. Ralph Winter, General Director of the USCWM has suggested that a reasonable goal for each small congregation would be to establish itself as a "Frontier Mission Outpost" with the objective of making a specific contribution toward the penetration of the final frontiers.
Each Frontier Outpost has made the decision to work toward following five objectives:
- A Frontier Mission Fund in the church which is exclusively dedicated to the promotion of frontier missions or to projects aimed at planting new churches within people groups currently without a church.
- A Frontier Fellowship with members using the Frontier Fellowship _Daily Prayer Guide for their daily reading; praying and saving loose coins for the Frontier Fund; and meeting monthly to her exciting news about the advance of the gospel.
- A plan to provide year round inspiration and education through a "Frontier Bookshelf," Sunday School class, or scholarship to the USCWM's intensive training program, etc.
- Plans to "adopt" one hidden people group. (or, frontier missions project) for special emphasis and study, in cooperation with the church's own denomination, or an interdenominational agency.
Successfully sharing the new vision for penetrating the final frontiers with three other churches or Christian groups with which each congregation has a; relationship.
Each of these steps is well within the reach and resources of small congregations., as well as large In. fact; some smaller churches may be more able than a larger church to make the decisions to participate in such an outreach.
However, there are some specific principles of mobilizing the smaller congregation which must not be overlooked.
First, recognize the importance of gaining pastoral support for the project In the smaller church, people look to the pastor not only for vision, but also to take a more active role in carrying out the program of the church. In the larger church, leadership of the missions program may. be delegated to the missions committee, or even to a full time missions pastor, but in the smaller congregation this responsibility will not normally be delegated.
Pastors who are unfamiliar with the area of frontier missions and thematerials which have been produced to help local churches promote frontier vision are encouraged to write the Frontier Fellowship, 1605 Elizabeth Street, Pasadena, CA 91104 and request the Pastor's Introductory Packet.
A second principle is seek to involve as many people as possible in the missions program of the local church not just the vitally interested few. In the larger congregation, laymen can be more "specialized" in their ministry, with some involved in evangelism, others in missions, still others in the church's educational ministry. In the smaller church, members have to do "double" and "triple" duty, filling more than one position or role.
This means that the entire leadership officers, teachers, workers, etc. should be invited to be involved in tharing a vision for frontier missions throughout the church. Rather than running the risk of jeopardizing the opportunity to involve the entire congregation in reaching out to the frontiers, it might be necessary to move slowly at first in implementing the program.Thirdly; seek wherever possible to work through existing programs and structures rather than starting new ones Integrating into the program of the church a vision for starting new churches where no church has previously existed may more effectively involve more people, than setting up a so called "missions" meeting. Seek to involve teachers, children's workers and others in promoting this cause throughout the entire program.
Fourth, be sure that present involvement in missions continues strong The frontier emphasis is. designed to be added to, not to replace, current commitments. The Frontier Fellowship should be presented as a means of undergirding the total missions program of the church with a foundation of daily missions education and prayer.
In many cases, the church's existing missionaries have an excellent opportunity to promote frontier missions, even if they are working in a people group which already has a church. Imparting frontier missionary vision to this overseas group of new Christians is one of the most strategic tasks in missions today. The local church should do everything it can to encourage thiskind of outreach.However the vision is encouraged to grow, we must penetrate new frontiers. The local church can often best help simply by stressing that new, uncommitted funds be designated for outreach to people groups without any indigenous church.
Finally, recognize the importance that a frontier missionary outreach has to the church's overall goals and objectives Unfortunately, some leaders of small churches feel that any mission program is competitive with the local needs of the church. We must help them to see how a vision for the still unreached can bring new life to the local church.
Furthermore, if we truly love our Lord we cannot ignore His concern for the thousands of cultures that still do not know Him. In some cases,'. a con grgatin May itself be in real need and may have to direct most of its resources inwardly for a brief period of time. Ultimately, however, every church needs to also evaluate its ministry and effectiveness in terms of its contribution to the overall effort around the world.
God must love smaller churches; He made so many of them. . Smaller churches love God too. Some of the most fervent devotion to the Lord Jesus comes from these congregations. The closer we walk with, the Lord Jesus, the more willing we are to follow Him as He leads us out among the nations,' calling men from every people, tongue, . tribe and nation into fellowship with Himself.