I remember leaning over a fence with Harold Ens—my former boss and the Latin American Director, before he became the General Director, of our mission board—and telling him that if for some reason my wife Esther and I didn’t return to Bogota, Colombia, as missionaries, we would plant the best missions-supporting church ever in North America. The mission did stop sending people back to Latin America, and we planted Mountain View Church in Fresno, California, in 1993. We sent our first short-term missionaries out before our first gathering which was May 1, 1994. Our first long-term missionaries left eight months later for Lithuania on January 1, 1995. I don’t think we actually have become the best missions-supporting church ever, but still strive toward this God-inspired goal. Let me share with you seven ways we have sought to be a church on mission.
Burn with Passion for the Glory of the Lord
When we choose to seek the presence of God we get a glimpse of His glory. When God does grant us a glimpse of his glory, he reminds us of the wonderful truth of his goodness and faithfulness, that “nothing is impossible for the Lord.” As the Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” When we are overcome with the glory of the Lord, we want to see that glory come to the nations. We read the Bible and see that God’s heart is to save the world. He is a missional God. That affects everything we do in our personal life and in the life of the church.
Prioritize the Gospel
There is nothing worth preaching besides the gospel—that Jesus truly is the way, the truth, and the life. We are headed to eternal death apart from the death and resurrection of Jesus, but Jesus died in our place to pay the penalty for our sins and take on the curse of sin, the wrath of God, for us. This is the good news! Thus, it is up to us to proclaim this gospel in word and in deed through every aspect of our lives. All is that we do to help and serve people is the outworking of the gospel, not the gospel itself. This laser focus keeps all we do centered on God’s glory and reaching the world with his gospel of grace.
It has been said that “prayer moves the hand of God.” I would add, “Prayer is where we get our marching orders from the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” It is our conversational lifeline to our headquarters. Living the mission God has given us includes three parts: going (living the Great Commission), giving (funding the Great Commission), and praying (empowering the Great Commission). We have to be people of prayer, people who pray. We accomplish this mission on our knees, spending uninterrupted time with the King of Kings, listening to what he tells us to do. To be missional means being a church that is a house of prayer for all the nations—not a house of action! We need to be a “Mary” church sitting at the feet of Jesus, not a “Martha” church running a business-type power organization. Prayer is about the presence of Jesus—we need his presence.
Prioritize People Coming to Faith in Jesus and Sacrifice Everything to See it Happen
All that we do must focus on the goal of people saying yes to Jesus. If we love God and love people we have to tell them the truth of where their eternity lies. We are compelled by love to share the only hope any of us have which is turning from our sin and turning toward Jesus. Therefore, every activity and program in the church must be evaluated by its effectiveness in reaching people for Jesus. We do whatever it takes to reach people and put all we have into it.
That does not mean we don’t prioritize discipleship—we know that the true disciple lives under a passion to glorify God, and that happens best as people come to faith in Jesus. If there is no passion for the lost to be found throughout the globe, then discipleship has not happened. Hence, we call people to salvation at every Sunday gathering, we train people to know how to share Jesus with their friends, we share faith stories on Sundays, and we take time to pray for the wins and losses of the body of Christ throughout the world. This “missions moment” each gathering is a way to highlight what the Lord is doing as we go, give, and pray, and it also helps create a missional DNA throughout the faith family. Missions weeks, conferences, and local events are key in engaging the church in their own spheres of influence and the world. We want to live out Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:15, “All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.”
There is nothing that we are not unprepared to give up for the sake of lost people. It is an honor to give up our time, money, and abilities for the global lost.
Do Church Planting Among the Unreached and Least Reached
We want to go to the hard places, where there are 2% or less evangelical Christians. When God calls us, he calls us to those who have never heard his good news. All the easy places are taken. Only the places where it is hard to see people come to faith are left, where other false religions are entrenched and hostile to followers of Jesus. God is calling us to play a role in leading these people to Jesus.
Say “Yes” to Each Opportunity God Brings to You, Walk by Faith and Take Risks
God brings us opportunities, however, we have to say yes to them. We ask God, “who do you want me to minister to today?” Saying yes means living in risk and faith, being ready to embrace the mystery of God. God owes us no explanation, but we owe him our obedience. Jesus was not in the habit of explaining to the disciples why he wanted them to do what he asked—he expected them to walk by faith and obey. It is the same today. We should never, ever say no to Jesus!
Celebrate What God is Doing
We should celebrate what Jesus is doing. We should yell, clap and cheer when people get saved, when great reports come in, when miracles happen, when the good news is shared, when churches are planted, and so much more. We should be a place that celebrates the victories of God in the world. What we reward, celebrate, and champion, we get more of. Let’s celebrate reaching God’s world for his glory.
If you would like to join us for our Live The Mission Conference, which will include speakers like Tracy Evans of iReach Africa, Stephen Mairori of International Christian Ministries, and Dick Brogden of Live/Dead, you can find more information at mountainview.org Let’s live the mission together.
Fred Leonard is the lead pastor at Mountain View Church in Fresno, CA and serves with his wife Esther who is the pastor of prayer. His passion is for the gospel to be proclaimed throughout the world-locally, nationally and globally, for the lost to come to salvation, and for churches to be planted. Mountain View Church partners with 406 assets (national workers) in 36 countries.