According to recent study, short-term “mission trips” are increasing dramatically. And while it seems like good news for the “Good News”, other research is shedding light on growing problems within many missions-minded efforts.
For instance, in Brazil, a wall built at a soccer field at a children’s orphanage had to be torn down after the mission teams left. It simply wasn’t needed.
In Mexico, one church was painted six different times in one summer by different mission groups.
In Ecuador, mission teams built a church that was never used by the community. People in the village said it wasn’t needed.
A 2006 in Honduras study showed that short- term missions teams spent an average of $30,000 on their trips to build one home…a home that could be built for $2000 by the locals.
According to many, these are just the tip of the iceberg. Clearly, something needs to change in the world of missions. Having the correct vision, goal, strategy and methods, guided by the Holy Spirit, are critical for any ministry.
MISSION vs. VISION
Successful ministries begin by developing a vision rather than a mission. Missions tend to focus on going to a location to do a work for a short period of time with little, if any, followup. A vision, on the other hand, has a long-term outlook. There is a goal, a strategy and methods to reach a long- range purpose. It is constantly examined and reexamined to see what needs changing or tweaking to make sure that vision is successful.
THE RIGHT GOALS AND PURPOSES
Once a vision is established, it is important to develop goals with the right purposes. Successful ministries constantly ask questions such as “What is the goal of this ministry?”, “Is this ministry needed?”, “Is God calling me to this ministry, or, is this being done out of my own will?” and most importantly, “What does my ministry do in expanding the overall goal of reaching others for the Kingdom of God?” These are simple, yet critical questions. Not knowing the goal and purpose of a vision will lead to disaster and even dishonor for the kingdom.
A vision should have some specificity to it. Too broad of a vision and the ministry flounders. Too narrow of a vision and needs go unmet. Jesus gave his disciples specific charges; “Go unto the world, make disciples, baptize them and teach them what I have commanded you.” The Apostle Paul began with a vision to take the message of the risen Christ to his Jewish brethren. However, after continually rejecting the good news, Paul received a new vision: taking the message to the Gentiles. Everything Paul did was in support of that vision. Jesus Christ’s vision was to bring life to a dead world. The “way, the truth, and the life” taught spiritual truths designed to strip away the old man and replace it with a new spirit.
Having a goal and purpose is good. However, it is just the beginning. It is crucial to have a strategy. Jesus had several strategies. His wanderings through Israel were not haphazard. They were timed to meet the purposes and goal he was entrusted to keep. A strategy is a long-range plan to reach a goal or aim. Delivering school supplies to a third world country is fabulous. However, if it doesn’t have a strategy behind it, it can quickly become haphazard and rambling.
Our strategy for 2012 and beyond focuses on going to unreached places throughout the Asian continent, primarily the countries of Myanmar, India and Nepal. These countries are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of people wanting to come to Jesus Christ. By going to strategic cities and villages in unreached places, Back to the Master can “plant” the seeds of discipleship and assist local church leaders “water” those disciples in their relationship with Christ.
The strategy is to target areas where spiritually hungry church leaders are hungry for discipleship and rarely, if ever, get the opportunity to attend any training or teaching. Targeting these leaders and locations will give us a strong foothold in helping spread discipleship. The strategy of “targeting” as opposed to “shotgunning” is very important.
Targeting allows us to research areas and leaders who will do the most with the resources given to them. It relies on wisdom and stewardship.
Shotgunning, on the other hand, often produces little fruit or followup. It’s like shooting skeet: a few pellets hit the clay pigeon while most of the others miss the mark. And while local leaders can (and must) scatter the seed of the Gospel to their peoples, it is imperative Back to the Master is wise in choosing the right leaders for the right purpose. This way, we can assist those specific leaders in their goal of spreading the Good News to all people.
Another strategy is the use of discipleship “networks”. These networks are small, yet closely tied circles of Christians led by mature leaders. Their goal is to help mature 5 to 10 other people who each then mature another 5 to 10 people. This helps multiply the kingdom in an exponential way. Imagine the possibilities if each person was to concentrate on just five people, who in turn, concentrate on five others. The kingdom would grow in ways we can only imagine! Understanding and utilizing the principle of multiplication is critical in expanding the Kingdom.
Another, yet the most important strategy of this ministry, is to teach the commands and teachings of Jesus. Jesus gave specific commands and teachings designed o help us achieve the full life described in John 10:10. They bring life to thirsty souls and help us live life in the way God has designed us to live. By concentrating on the teachings of Jesus we can help church leaders see and better comprehend the writings and teachings of the apostles and writers of the New Testament. It is vital that leaders learn the commands of the Master. In fact, it’s the main goal of this ministry.
THE RIGHT METHODS
Finally, while a successful ministry must have a vision, goal and strategy, it must use the right methods. These methods must be tailor-suited for the right circumstances, for the right people and at the right time. What works in one situation may not work in another situation. Just as a commander in the field must be ready to change their tactics, so must the minister working in the Kingdom of God. Back to the Master’s tactics include holding discipleship conferences and seminars. However, these are also subject to change at a moments notice.
For example, in one Asian country, we could see a situation developing among church leaders. By quickly assessing the situation and verifying it with trusted local advisors, we quickly changed directions and began to address the immediate need. By doing so, we are able to confront and solve a serious problem. Not only was a problem solved, we uncovered a deeper issue which was addressed and resolved in another visit. Today, after 20 years of infighting, both groups now live in peace and work closely together in the Kingdom!
If we would only do such things in our own churches!
We also work closely with established native Bible schools. They hold the key to reaching their community. These Bible schools have vast networks of people throughout their nations. By tapping into this network, we can have a huge impact on those leaders who are already working in their communities. They provide critical advice in how to reach people and in what methods to use. Their value in laying the groundwork for our ministry vision is priceless.
Another area this ministry is exploring is in assisting to provide economic opportunities for disciples in impoverished countries. It is an area that is being prayerfully considered and developed. While our primary goal and purpose is discipleship, we also see the need in helping local people with their short and longterm physical needs.
Most of the places we visit are extremely poor with little in terms of finding employment. One simply doesn’t go out and “Get a job.”. Very few of these Christians are looking for a handout. Instead, they want to work and provide for their families. But finding employment in places where Christianity is barely tolerated is next to impossible. Having dedicated groups “targeting” these needs will have a dramatic affect on these people’s lives. This allows local Christians to become self-supporting and frees resources to help expand the Kingdom of God into the deepest parts of the world that have yet to experience the Gospel of Christ.
Imagine the possibilities if we all were to become “visionaries” instead of “missionaries”.
So many church leaders I speak with in foreign lands are eager and ready for a
vision within the borders of their countries. Plenty of missionaries have come and visited. They have done great and wonderful work. Now, the people want a vision. They desire a vision that will give them life.
As Proverbs 29:18 states: “Where there is no vision, the people perish….”
The right vision, goal and purpose, strategy and methods make a ministry work in powerful, wonderful and exciting ways.
To be a part of God’s work of taking the message of Jesus Christ’s promise of a new life; to be a part of the Lord’s work in fortifying and strengthening the body of believers brings great joy.
It is not our work, but His work.