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Discipleship & Missions - The Connection That Will Grow The Church

September 24, 2018
by Tom Gerborg

Discipleship Illustration - One red origami paper boat leading other white boatsI was on my first mission trip to South Africa. Our team had travelled really far, and we ended up at a night service in a tent in a small neighborhood in the northeast corner of the country. A whole crowd of neighbors sang and celebrated Jesus in a way that I had not experienced before. We had a week of serving alongside local church leaders. I got to witness them in action serving their communities. It was challenging and inspiring. Towards the end of this nine-day journey, I was walking alone and talking to God, praying for the people we got to serve alongside and the pastors we had met. During that walk, I felt He was inviting me into a life “on mission” for Him. For me, venturing out of my comfort zone, going to a foreign land and serving others really served me and grew my relationship with Jesus. I had discovered that a missions experience could be vital for my spiritual growth and for growth as a person. It was an “a-ha” moment for me. I hadn’t expected that a missions trip would have discipleship impact. It was a catalyst for my spiritual growth. God had helped me see the strong connection between missions and discipleship.

Is that your story? You may have discovered this too in your life’s journey and that’s probably why you are engaged with Reach Beyond. Perhaps you’ve seen the transformative power of the task, and God may have used it to make you into a more effective disciple of Jesus. Yes, engaging in mission can be a catalyst for tremendous discipleship growth. Believe it or not, it can also be a catalyst for numerical growth in the Church, because mission is contagious!

I saw that in my last assignment. As a missions pastor for the last several years, I saw people, the church and discipleship grow because of missions. I saw Scott, who wasn’t engaged in serving at the church, reluctantly go on his first mission trip, pray out loud for the first time, and then step into lead one of the volunteer teams on Sundays. I saw a mission experience in Haiti challenge Kevin to recruit and lead his own mission teams in the following years. I saw our church become engaged globally, and it sparked a new level of caring for the local community, which helped non-believers be more open to the message. Disciples were multiplying globally and locally, and the Church grew as a result.

We’re all familiar with the Great Commission, which says, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20). The God of the Bible is a sending God.

Disciples are intended to multiply. This was Jesus’s design from the beginning. Before the Great Commission, there was the calling of the disciples. Matthew 4:19 gives a vivid picture. Jesus is walking along the beach, and he comes up on two brothers who were fishing. “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people.” For Jesus, discipleship begins with mission, just as it results in mission.

So, if we know the transformative effect overseas mission work can have on growing disciples, why don’t we see more churches leverage the potential power of effective missions involvement? There are some incredible examples of churches who are transforming the globe, and their global strategies are tied to their discipleship strategies. Tragically, however, there are far more examples of churches who consider missions as an item to check off the to do list. We believe that this is the result of a disconnect between missions and discipleship.

It’s easy to understand why this occurs. Pastors are busy people. They’re leading their leaders and congregation, studying for the next sermon, counseling troubled parishioners, dealing with all the various demands of ministry. The mission(s) of the Church can get lost in the mechanics of doing church. Unfortunately, missions often gets outsourced to agencies who function independently of the Church. There has to be a better way, right?

That’s where Reach Beyond comes in. We would love to foster the connection between missions and discipleship and help churches grow. We seek to partner with pastors and churches who want to grow their discipleship-impact by reaching the lost globally. God gave His mission to the Church, and it’s our job as an agency to come alongside the Church and help her accomplish the task God has given her. We will work creatively to train, resource and encourage collaborative sending partnerships with churches – to raise up and send their own career missionary workers to the unreached areas of the world. Once churches have this burden to raise and send their own, we hope to form partnerships of churches – each partnership of churches functioning together to adopt a particular Unreached People Group, with a shared burden to send short-term teams, pool resources, shape strategy on the field, build congregational ownership and eventually send career worker teams.

This is where you come in. If you’re a donor giving to missions or a missionary on the field with us, you have a unique perspective that needs to be heard. God has already captured your heart in His mission. Our challenge to you is to think about how God may want to use you as a catalyst to your sphere of influence, to spread dedication to His cause. We encourage you to connect your church leaders with our team to explore the best ways to partner. If you’re a pastor, we’ve been praying for you, for your church and for its impact. We’d love to engage in a conversation with you, have you join us for a Pastor’s Gathering, or come with us on a Vision Trip. We’re here to serve.

What if, together, we could spark a global movement of reaching people who have never heard of Jesus, creating profound impact both globally and in the local church? Wouldn’t you want to be part of that?