Keeping mission vision alive and growing A quarterly publication of Mission Data International

The Transformational Small Church

Originally posted to Ed Stetzer’s blog, the following article by Nathan James — co-pastor of Epoch Church in Little Rock, Arkansas — looks at various aspects of being a Transformational Small Church.


At times it may seem that small churches can do little for the kingdom because of limited resources. But in reality we are all called to reach the nations, and every church is empowered by the gospel to make a global impact, regardless of size. Nathan is here today to address that very issue.

Mobilizing People For Missions

God can transform your life and show you his heart for the nations if you allow him. I had one of those experiences not long ago when our church took its first international mission trip. I had the chance to lead a team of twelve to serve the Lord in Haiti on July 4th, 2010. I had been on an international trip before, but this was the church’s first. I want to point out something I was starkly reminded of: When you are willing to follow the Lord’s mandate to reach the nations, then it is as if God pulls back the curtains and gives you a wider kingdom perspective. The way you pray changes. When you pray, Our Lord, it has a whole new meaning. The way you worship in song changes. When you sing, “How Great is Our God,” your worldview broadens. The way you see those around you changes. When someone is hurting, you have a keener sense of compassion. Are you willing to allow the Lord to broaden your kingdom perspective?

God desires to broaden all of our kingdom horizons, but unfortunately many people and churches alike suffer from tunnel vision; many churches are ignorant or lose sight of the fact that we are all called to reach the nations (Matt. 28). Some are too comfortable or set in their ways; others seem to be overwhelmed and paralyzed at the thought of reaching the nations–they don’t even know where to start. Therefore, I want to address four biblical principles that compel people to live out God’s kingdom mission. Rather than focusing on one particular method, I propose that we let these biblical principles shape our philosophy for doing missions.

The first biblical principle worth noting is prayer. Prayer is a vital aspect of reaching the nations (Isa. 56:7). In Scripture, you notice quickly that Paul’s letters are bathed in prayer not only for his fellow believers, but also for the purpose of spreading the gospel to all people. In the Gospel of John we also find Jesus praying for the gospel to spread to the whole world (John 17:20-23). Personally, I have been part of a twenty-four hour prayer time for the nations. People signed up for an hour time slot to come and pray. You can learn a lot about reaching the nations and ways to pray for God’s kingdom to come especially at four o’clock in the morning.

Another way to be involved in reaching the nations and those around you is by giving. It is not about how much money you have; it is about whether or not you are a good steward with the gifts you have been given. Scripture is full of truths about giving our lives, money, time and resources for the sake of the kingdom. In 2 Corinthians 11:8-9, we see how Paul benefits from one particular church in hope of encouraging and reaching others.

A third principle we see in Scripture is partnering. We can do more together than we can by ourselves. Our five-year-old urban church partners with a rural church that is over 100 years old. This proves that a church plant and a traditional church can work together. We have partnered a number of times in a number of ways. One example is how we partnered on a mission trip to New Orleans, LA. This partnership continues to stretch us, strengthen us and teach us both more about God’s kingdom. Numerous times in Scripture we see people partnering for the sake of the gospel. Jesus partnered with the twelve disciples and Paul served alongside others, such as Silas and Timothy (1 Thess. 1:1).

A fourth principle worth putting into practice is going. Scripture is full of examples of people going on short and long-term journeys in hope of spreading God’s grace to all people. In the Old Testament we see Abraham willing to pack up everything and go where the Lord was leading, so that he might be a blessing to the nations. In the Gospels we see Jesus going out to a variety of places of various distances to enhance the kingdom. We also see Jesus sending out the twelve for a short time, and later we see him sending them out to the ends of the earth (Matt. 10, 28). Our church has had the incredible privilege of serving the Lord in our city, state, country, and in other countries. By God’s grace, we have sent out three two-year missionaries and a family of six as full-time missionaries.

There are many ways to be involved in reaching the nations for Christ, but these biblical principles are a great place to start. We must be reminded that there are many methods, but one mission. In the end the most important thing is to reach the nations. I am not naive enough to think that going on a short-term trip to Haiti is the only way to gain a wider kingdom perspective. To be frank, going on a short-term mission trip does not guarantee anything. However, it is one of the many ways modeled in Scripture that can broaden our kingdom horizon. How are you going to mobilize people for missions?

Here are a few ways to get your creative juices flowing. Start where you are and with what you have. Create a prayer labyrinth and ask the Lord to send workers all over the harvest. Start a fundraiser to raise money for missions; this could be something as simple as challenging those in your church to not eat out for one month and instead triple your Lottie Moon giving! Meet with another church and talk about ways to reach your city and the nations. Take a team on a short-term trip to Haiti or some other country. Sell everything you have and go be a teacher or nurse in India. I know it is easy to get overwhelmed. Remember, start small, and dig deep! I pray that God would continue to broaden all of our kingdom horizons as we seek to reach the nations for Christ.

Reposted with permission from the author.

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