When Missions Shapes the Mission by David Horner

When Missions Shapes the Mission: You and Your Church Can Reach the WorldWhen Missions Shapes the Mission: You and Your Church Can Reach the World by David Horner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I would highly recommend that every pastor and church leader read this book.
“Why are more churches not engaged in a more practical and substantial way in taking the gospel to the nations?”
That question is the premise behind the book – finding out why missions is not more of an emphasis in today’s churches in America and then how to go about remedying that situation. The author’s definition of missions is “Missions is God’s plan for reaching all nations with the good news of Jesus Christ by sending His people to tell them about and show them the gracious, redeeming love of a glorious God.”

“The missions mandate of Christ in the Great Commission has neither been rescinded nor fulfilled. What then has happened among His people that we are witnessing a serious neglect of that mandate in how we conduct our lives together in congregations where He is gladly proclaimed to be the Lord?”

After going over a case study of the state of missions in one denomination, the author addresses the hurdles he sees in why missions is not playing a greater role in our churches today.
1. Pastors are uninspired, uninvolved, and uninformed
2. Missing role models
3. Verbal commitments but practical disobedience
4. Divided hearts and loyalties
“Frankly, the state of missions in the church today would be radically different if people would just be honest about the question of lordship. If Jesus is really Lord, He gets to call the shots! He gets to determine how much we should give away and how much we should keep. He gets to decide who should go to the ends of the earth and who should stay in the local context. he gets to tell us what has ultimate value to Him and show us what we are doing that gets in the way of that. He gets to do all of that and much more because He is Lord and we are not! With a passion for Christ comes a passion for the things He loves.”

“Two major issues account for much of the failure to embrace evangelism and missions as essential to the purpose and calling of the local church. We have lost our sense of the place of the Great Commission as an expression of the will of Jesus Christ for all His followers and the power of the Holy Spirit as the force behind our witness to the nations.”

Christ tells His disciples that they are be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. “…this is not intended to be multiple choice!”
“Christ did not call us to be witnesses in either one of three places. He said we would be His witnesses everywhere – no exceptions, no improvising, and no easy ways out.”
“His commission is to make disciples by going to all peoples in all places with all diligence.”

“Entitlement and the American dream of worldly success have trumped absolute surrender and the kingdom value of eternal significance.” We in America are too caught up in our own comforts and affluent lifestyles. A pastor of a church in Alabama said this, “The greatest obstacle to the Great Commission is not our doctrine, or the willingness of candidates to go, but the American dream…” What is really claiming our affections and desires? “Before missions takes hold of the church, a consuming desire for Christ and His passions must be shaped in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”

Some of the obstacles and roadblocks that we face in our American churches are:
1. “Inward-focused churches” –  “What happens is what has happened for thousands of years: we get so absorbed in our own little world that we forget about the rest of the people on earth.”
2. “A trend toward isolationism among nations”
3. “Magnitude of the task”
4. “Compromise of conviction about the message and the masses”
5. “General spiritual apathy”

The author then looks at the factors that have been part of missions movements in the past. What has been evident when missions was an active part of the church? How can we then apply these factors to bring back missions as part of the mission of our churches today?

  • “Power from on high as the Holy Spirit’s work flowed freely”
  • “A passion for Christ”
  • “Prevailing prayer”
  • “A rich soaking in the Scriptures and sound doctrine”
  • “Unwavering faith that trusts God to be faithful in all things”
  • “Holiness and purity of life (together with deep repentance and an abhorrence of sin)”
  • “Eyes willing to see and have compassion on others”
  • “A supportive, sacrificial, and generous sending community”
  • “Persecution and opposition”

“The only impetus that will sustain a missions movement is an overwhelming love for Christ and a passion for His glory to be made known as widely as possible.”
“A missions calling does not send disciples of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth to share ideas and build rapport in order to instill a higher social order. Missions sends people to the nations to proclaim the truth of the Word of Christ so that they might come to Him, put their faith in Him, and know Him and His glorious salvation: ‘So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ’ (Rom. 10:17 NASB).”
“Missions’ first passion is for God to receive the highest praise and the greatest glory…”
In regard to suffering and the possibility of persecution (something we as Americans have not really had to face yet), “Will we welcome the opportunity to suffer for Christ’s sake and give power to our message by our steadfast witness, or will we insist that God keep us safely ensconced within the walls where no evil can touch us but also where the message cannot get out?” (emphasis mine)

The next section of the book deals with the best practices from churches that are doing missions and have a high missions emphasis. Principles that can then be used to help jump-start those churches who wish to make missions a greater part of their body life together. While not all these will work exactly the same in every church, they can be adapted to suit the culture of a particular church who wants to make missions part of their purpose.

Some godly principles that should be evident in a church desiring to follow God (as seen in the example of Jethro instructing Moses):

  • Prayer. Intercede for the people.
  • Scripture. Teach the people God’s Word.
  • Discipleship. Select and train leaders.
  • Model. Lead them to follow the plan.

“Until the power of the Holy Spirit works in us and a transformation of our desires takes place, missions will remain an obligation to duty, not an opportunity for delight.”

Then it’s time for the personal heart check.
Are we willing? “So I have to live ready to go and to live ready to stay, but my will is not my own once I have committed all things to Christ.”
“God’s called-out people must be ready to pick up and go when the Lord indicates that is His will, but they also must be willing to stay, if He shows that to be His will.”
Do we trust God to provide?
What is the primary calling that God has given us? (Gifts, abilities)

“As one who has chosen to read about such things, perhaps you are just the one to take the initiative wherever you serve Christ and determine that you will take it upon yourself to lead those within the sphere of your influence to reconsider the proper place for missions in the overall call to discipleship for all believers.”

1. “Have I Submitted My Personal Ambitions to the Lord and Asked Him to Reveal Anything without a Kingdom Focus, Anything Selfish, or Anything Unworthy of a Servant of Christ?”
2. “Does the Congregation You Serve Care More for Its Own Comfort and Convenience than It Does for God’s Call to Reach the Nations?”
“People talk about what they are excited about.”
“…people who delight in Him as their greatest treasure and see Him as the light and hope of the world will give themselves wholeheartedly to that which will last forever.”
“The only factor that matters in all of this is whether you have allowed your heart to line up with the heart of God so that you long for what He longs for. And when you do, then you will step out in faith, confident that only by the power of the Spirit will you be able to sustain what God calls you to do. If you are willing, then you need to be ready because you already know that He is able!”

“Missions can and should shape the mission of the local church.”
“The church growth movement of the past twenty years will end up falling flat on its face if it does not do something to revitalize a comprehensive view of what the church is called to be – a view that must include missions as an essential and nonnegotiable element of the overall mission of the church.”
“It may be assuming too much to state that we want what God wants, but let there be no mistake about what God’s desires are. Missions has always been central to His plan for His glory to be made known. How can we say we long for the heart of God if we are not ready to embody the characteristics of effective missions movements of the past and live out the principles for missions from His Word?”
“The starting point for becoming the kind of missions-focused church that reflects the mandate of the Great Commission and the might of Pentecost is to learn how to walk by the Spirit. For each follower of Jesus Christ, everything we do is to be done for His glory, and nothing will be for His glory that is consistent with His Word, preceded by prayer, and clothed with power from on High. Therefore, the spiritual state of the church must be healthy before the missions emphasis can be effective in sending out godly witnesses who understand what the gospel is, how to live in the power of Christ, and why the world needs to know Him. If the church is anemic spiritually and knows little of the dynamic of spiritual living, why would we want to export that? But when a church is sound in teaching and godly in character, when worship is vibrant and love is abundant, when Christ is central and the Spirit moves freely, that is the starting point for a new day in missions.”
“…missions is His passion; it must become ours!”

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