For the past several years our Heritage Missions Team has been moving our missions ministry to becoming more “strategic”. It begs the question, what do we mean by strategic? Strategic means that we’re intentionally working toward a goal, as opposed to letting the missions focus of the church evolve without direction. Let me explain.
Jesus called His disciples to make disciples of all ethnic groups – going, baptizing, and teaching them to obey. This “Great Commission” is from Matt. 28:18-20. We consider our missions ministry to be holistic, meeting physical needs as well as spiritual needs, but our priority is on completing the Great Commission. That’s biblical.
It’s easy for a church to find and support humanitarian needs. For example, currently we’re working to provide 1 million and one meals for the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world now – the South Sudanese refugee camps. In addition, we’ve sent aid to hurricane relief in Houston and Puerto Rico. And, we’re currently building a second floor on our girl’s school in Pakistan. Our hearts go out to those who are suffering, so we respond with generosity as a church family. The primary goal of these projects is to provide practical help to those in need, regardless of their faith.
But our primary calling is to make disciples, not necessarily to help the poor, although that’s a very good thing. The most effective method of making disciples is to plant new churches. Church planting is by far the best way to reach and disciple to maturity unsaved people.
The most important place to plant churches is where people are the least reached. Unreached means an ethnic group or people group where there are so few Christians, they cannot evangelize their own people. So rather than sending missionaries to places where there are already many Christians, missions should focus more where the need is greatest – among the unreached peoples of the world.
Unfortunately, the opposite is true. Check out this link to statistics regarding Christian giving toward missions. (http://www.thetravelingteam.org/stats/) Only 1% of Christian “missions giving” is spent reaching unreached people groups, while 99% is spent reaching the most reached peoples of the world. The same is true for missionaries – most go to places that are already considered reached. Isn’t this upside down?
So for several years now we’ve gradually been shifting our missions support toward “strategic missions” – some combination of missions work focusing in the 10-40 window among unreached people groups (see www.joshuaproject.net), planting new churches and training new leaders. I’m not saying that other ministries are unimportant or not valuable, but we are saying that it’s likely they are less strategic in finishing the task of making disciples of all nations. We’ll continue to support our wonderful missionaries all over the world, whether they’re considered strategic or not, but the shift has begun.
This month marks the beginning of a partnership at Heritage with India Christian Ministries (www.icmin.org). Through their work called Operation Saturation, we’ll be supporting 50 native missionaries in India. Each missionary will be responsible for planting 3 new churches in 3 villages during their first year. The district we’re adopting has about 2,000 villages, 200 of which are unreached. That’s 2.8% of the world’s 6,994 unreached people groups!
And by the way, as people come to Christ, new churches formed and new Christians grow to spiritual maturity, these churches become a source of practical assistance in their local communities. So as it turns out, the focus on evangelism and church planting eventually becomes an effective way of providing for physical needs as well as spiritual needs.
This new partnership with ICM is a good step of progress for Heritage missions. I encourage our church family to explore the India Christian Ministries web site to learn more about their work. I’m excited for the potential of this partnership to “strategically” work toward finishing the task of discipling the nations.