What if the local church fully embraced the Great Commission? This question sparked the formation of Antioch Community Church but represents a far more fundamental shift taking place across the Church. For longer than anyone can remember, local churches have outsourced most of…well, the mission of the Church.
International missions, ministry to the poor, campus ministry, and pastoral training are all more likely to be found outside the church than they are within a local congregation. I’ve served 15 years in a church that is committed to each of the above, and as a result, I understand why the church delegated their responsibility to others—it’s hard work!
It’s difficult enough to create a discipleship culture and lead a healthy church. Adding in international missions or extensive outreach to the community feels impossible, even unfairly so. These ministries don’t pay for themselves and demand a level of expertise beyond the skill of most pastors. And that’s if they actually had the time to work on it.
I see the allure of delegating to parachurch ministries, who are free to specialize on one task without the responsibilities of pastoral ministry. It’s easier and more affordable, but doing so creates a vast separation between the church and the mission of the church.
Across America, churches are waking up to reality of what they’ve lost. Church-based missions sending is suddenly in vogue. The role of the church in addressing the social needs of the community is a hot topic among pastors. Pastoral training is even now increasingly shifting to the local church.
I wholeheartedly believe the local church must take ownership of the mission of the Church. We should take the lead in training future pastors who will serve in our congregations. We should take ownership for the needs of our community. We should reach the students we’re so worried will fall away from the faith in their young adult years.
Churches living the Great Commission pull their whole congregation into the mission of God. Prayer, giving, and sending all radically increase when the local church is in the driver seat. At Antioch, around 5% of our church lives full-time overseas. We give away 30% of our budget to international and local missions. We’ve trained and sent 20 pastors to plant churches in America. And we’re not alone; imagine the impact as more and more churches taking this approach.
While I find this awakening incredibly increasing, we also need to recognize that it will prove disruptive at many levels. Seminaries and missions agencies are the among the first to feel the effect. Denominational cooperative funds are in short supply while seminary enrollment is dropping precipitously, and I believe this is just the beginning.
I believe these groups still play an important role, but it will require change. They need to shift to see their mission as supporting the mission of church. Imagine seminaries partnering with churches to train the next generation of pastors through residency programs, imagine missions agencies providing strategic coaching and training while churches take the lead in mobilization and pastoral care.
Churches need to recognize the needed expertise of this organizations, and the parachurch ministries need to honor the leadership of the church. If we make this change together than I have full faith we’ll see a transformative move of God.