How can pastors lead their congregations to embrace a missional lifestyle?
By Ed Stetzer
Mission is the opposite of self.
That sounds simple and obvious, yet the sad truth is that we revert to non-mission—or self-centered life—very simply and very obviously.
One way Satan undermines the missional effectiveness of pastors and leaders is luring them into idolatry that looks like mission. That means we must identify the idols that tempt us, resist their pull on our hearts, and truly live the mission—to make it about God’s glory and His agenda.
How do we lay our temptations and inclinations before God and lead the people God has given us into true mission? In today’s post I want to draw your attention to a two part series that I penned earlier this year. We will look at focussing on God’s mission, Being with Him and reflecting that to others, and finally we will look at the importance of ceasing to live for yourself.
How do we lay our temptations and inclinations before God and lead the people God has given us into true mission?
Focus on God and His Agenda
Oftentimes we get so busy in the work of the Lord that we lose focus on the Lord of the work. Don’t allow your other pastoral duties and inclinations, however important they may be, to distract you from the more important things of God’s glory and His agenda. In my post Mission, Self, and God’s Glory Part 1, I examine how valuable it can be to cease being obsessed with out agenda and embrace God’s plan for His glory. This is Gospel self-awareness, seeing ourselves in the light of God’s glory, we are spiritually prepared to forsake our agenda and embrace God’s agenda. Pastors can have agendas, plans and strategies, but nothing will be as contagious or effective as having a experience with the living God and operating in light of His revealed agenda.
But how can pastors lead their congregations to embrace this type of missional living? That leads us to my second post in this series.
Reflect the Encounter, Die to Self
It is important that we focus our lives on mission for the glory of God. But how do we lead our congregation in practical ways to accomplish this mission? In Mission, Self, and God’s Glory Part 2, I draw our attention to two very practical ways this can be done.
The church doesn’t have a mission so much as the mission has a church!
First, reflect being with God.
What does that mean? In Israel’s early days, Moses would return from the mountain with his face glowing from the glory of God.
This was an encouragement to the Israelites, but Moses had to start wearing a veil so they wouldn’t be discouraged when the glory in his face began to fade. Paul makes an important connection between this story and the glory of God in the presence of Jesus in 2 Corinthians 3:16-18. There we learn that in Christ the veil has been removed, and as a result, when you are spending time basking in Christ’s glory, it will be evident to others.
Spending time with God, will keep our focus on mission for His glory, but we must do more to fight against the temptation of self obsession. Hence my second point.
Second, we must no longer live for ourselves.
No longer living for myself sounds a bit like seeking God’s glory and agenda, but it is more systemic. It is how you get to that focus.
Paul speaks to “first things”—the root issues of our idolatry and the fertile soil for worship of God. He says we are “compelled” by Christ’s love and we have died to ourselves in him. This is the wondrous work of the Gospel in our hearts.
What would your ministry look like if you took more of yourself out of the equation and factored in more of Christ? We are instruments of God’s glory, made for His glory and to proclaim His glory.
The key concept is not “we” but “God’s glory.”
Remember, the church doesn’t have a mission so much as the mission has a church!
If we will take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Jesus, we will have fulfilled the call of Christ on mission in the world, and avoided the idolatry of self-centered mission.
Ed Stetzer is the Executive Director of LifeWay Research Division.
Originally posted at christianitytoday.com/edstetzer.