When I came to Mill Creek Foursquare Church in Lynnwood, Wash., in 2006, I had no idea our church would one day be known as a missions outpost. In the past decade, our congregation has sent five people to the mission field, with two more training to go to the Middle East and Belize.
We have also started or adopted five congregations, which required investments of hundreds of regular attendees and many thousands of dollars. To our joyful discovery, whenever we have taken such a step, God has replaced those resources. He shares His authority with us and entrusts us with the task of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And, because I’m not a hyper-intentional leader, what factors can we credit as helpful for these outcomes? Just two: (1) relational leadership; and (2) a missional outlook. Our philosophy is to send people out, whether to the nations or to nearby Everett, Wash., where a member oversees an outreach to Hispanics. Every year, we have between four and six teams traveling to places such as Mexico, Indonesia and Bolivia.
It’s tempting to allow fear to hold us back. It hurts to lose people like Natalie, who went on a missions trip to Mexico as a bright 20-something and so caught the vision she settled there to open an art studio that helps turn kids away from gangs. It was painful to see our former youth pastor, my brother Phil, take a team to the Atlanta area seven years ago to plant a church. Fear can’t win, though. We must be ready to let someone go if God calls them to serve elsewhere. I’m not an owner; I’m a steward. People belong to Jesus.
This is the reality of missions: taking one step at a time and seeing where God leads.
If I’m intentional about anything, it’s sharing authority. We have an executive team of five pastors who make major decisions affecting the church. I’m not the brains behind our missional focus, either.
Missions Pastor Don Cain was here before me, forming a relationship with an orphanage in Tecate, Mexico. Since that began, this work has built a new orphans’ home, started a ministry school and planted churches across Mexico. Located just south of San Diego, Tecate is close enough that we can afford to send teams there every year. Traveling to distant locales is exciting, but the expense limits the number who can go.
Getting people involved in short-term missions trips is a great way to start raising up disciples who may one day be missionaries. We look for the average person who faithfully serves and develops influence within their consistent availability.
Local outreach is a great tool for such observation. We minister to a nearby, low-income community. As members engage with that work, we go a step at a time to see if they want to go beyond our area, talk with them, and encourage them to pursue God’s direction. If they are ready to consider full-time missions, Foursquare Missions International (FMI) offers ongoing training to develop a candidate and ensure their life is in order before they make a major commitment. This kind of assistance is among the reasons I love being part of this movement.
We must be ready to let someone go if God calls them to serve elsewhere. I’m not an owner; I’m a steward. People belong to Jesus.
Pastors who are interested in hearing God in their context also need to keep an open heart and be sensitive to the Spirit. I’ll never forget the time we considered what to do about a fading church in our district that had been through four pastors in eight years. As I drove to work one day, I asked God, “What do we do?” In my mind, I meant, “How can Foursquare help this church?” But I heard the Spirit whisper: “You can do it.”
So, after discussing it with our team, I called our supervisor. I told him our church would be willing to send people and resources to keep that congregation alive. Today it is still on mission with Jesus.
This is the reality of missions: taking one step at a time and seeing where God leads. As the Spirit said to me that day on my drive to work: You can do it.
This article was written with Ken Walker, a freelance writer and book editor in Huntington, W.Va.