by Sur del Rosario
The words “structure” and “missions” seem to be contradictory when applied to the church. Structure somewhat paints a picture of the institutionalized church using all its organizational scaffolding to grow and strengthen it. Missions, on the other hand, connotes movements similar to fire: spontaneously consuming with potentials to set ablaze everything on its way.
It may appear to be an oxymoron to think of the church being “structured for missions”, but a closer look reveals a dynamics that should be evident in the way the church carries out its tasks. Structuring the church for missions is focusing all its efforts toward its real reason-for-being: to reveal God to the world. This aptly synthesizes the facts that the church is both an agency of God and an organization of men. The church is no different than a sailboat, where organizational structures were the sail that interplays with the wind, allowing the boat to cruise along. However, the wind is the Holy Spirit whose action upon the sail is what really moves it forward. As the Spirit breathes life to the organized church, it becomes a formidable missions movement affecting the world with the Gospel of Christ. The Spirit that moves in the church is the same Spirit that structures it. He moves in the hearts of believers so that they can wield their resources together and funnel the same towards kingdom-advancing initiatives.
The infant church in Acts show this structure-for-missions dynamics. At a time when problems arose with regards to food distribution, church leaders appointed deacons to serve so that the Apostles can give priority to the proclamation of the gospel. While gathered in a prayer meeting, the Spirit revealed to the believers that Paul and Barnabas were to be sent out. Believers then were organizing initiatives so that work of the apostles can continue. From all angles, the New Testament church was structured for gospel propagation.
More modern history shows the ingenuity of churches structuring for missions. One inspiring example is the story of the five Williams College students, namely, Samuel J. Mills, James Richards, Francis L. Robbins, Harvey Loomis and Byram Green. All five were students at Williams College, and at one point they were debating on the theology of missionary service. A thunderstorm interrupted their discussions, forcing them to take shelter under the haystack until the sky cleared. That waiting turned into a prayer meeting, giving birth to a movement popularly known as Haystack Movement. As an offshoot of that meeting, the five students organized to become a missions sending organization. “Samuel Mills became the Haystack person with the greatest influence on the modern mission movement. He played a role in the founding of the American Bible Society and the United Foreign Missionary Society… In its first fifty years, [the Haystack Movement] was able to send over 1250 missionaries.”
Our movement, the PGCAG, is a by-product of endeavors to structure the church for missions. From the Pentecostal fires of Asuza, the fire that birthed the Assemblies of God fanned across continents reaching our shores with the Gospel of Christ. Now, we celebrate 75 years of powerful gospel proclamation with over 2000 churches moving unrestrained to preach Christ here in the Philippines and to the nations.
Needless to say, the church is to be structured for missions, with the latter serving as the impetus that necessitates the former. It is the drive to preach the gospel that should be our motivation for structuring our churches. We organize to mobilize. We strengthen our ranks so that we can continue knowing Christ and making Him known.
Organized to Mobilize
How then should the church structure itself toward missions? Below are some suggestions on how the church can organize to mobilize:
Review all programs if missions-focused. A comprehensive review of the church’s programs and priorities should be made to determine if the church really is missions driven. Objectively, and with caution, eliminate activities that are not really producing fruits and may not be aligned to the missions thrust.
Board to clearly establish the church’s priority is missions and discipleship movement-making. The Board has to be clear that the mission of the church takes the lead in all its undertaking. When all decisions are hinged on this conviction, it will be easier to establish priorities and allot resources.
Organize to mobilize everyone to be a missionary. Encourage everyone to preach the gospel whether individually or together as church. Equip everyone to have the confidence to share the gospel and have the burden to reach for souls. Expose everyone to church planting, outreaches and missions.
Create a culture of obedience which flows naturally into a culture of missions-mindedness. Obedience is what enables us to follow Jesus. On the other hand, disobedience stifles any desire to honor God. Pray hard that God would cultivate the hearts of everyone so that each one can joyfully follow Jesus. Although building culture takes time, and the Holy Spirit is the real one that changes the hearts, obedient believers will enforce God’s will without reservation. Once the obedience is set, it would be easier for people to respond to fulfilling the
Establish simple and transferable discipleship/equipping system. Structuring for missions entails creating discipleship pathways that could serve as an equipping track. This equipping track can be standard training program and sequence used to prepare and deploy people to become “missionaries”.
Connect with missionaries at all times. Other than praying for the missionaries, the church needs to strongly commit to support them. Regular updating with missionaries does not only allow the church to be informed with development on the missionary’s side but it will also deepen the burden the church has for the missionary and the people he serves. This will also open up opportunities to extend any form of help which may bless the missions work.