the shape of leadership

Missions: God’s Heart, God’s Supply

Reaching the world with the good news

Doug Clay on June 12, 2018

Like so many across our Fellowship, I am committed to personally participating in missions and representing [the Assemblies of God] as a strong missions Movement. That commitment has nothing to do with denominational obligation. I’ve never supported a missionary or a ministry because of a position I have held. When I was a district youth director, my support of Speed the Light was not out of obligation to that position.

When I came to our national offices years ago, my continued support for Assemblies of God World Missions had no connection with my proximity to AGWM’s administration. At every turn throughout my life, supporting missions has been integral to who I am as a follower of Christ. Missions is the DNA of this Fellowship. Missions has powerfully shaped my own personal experience in following Christ. And, most important of all, participating in missions is a fundamental biblical command.

A bedrock concept of Assemblies of God missions philosophy has never changed, and it still works: the indigenous church. AGWM missionaries and ministries address a lot of causes; but opening churches, building Bible schools, and training believers for ministry is really our sweet spot in missions. The staggering growth of the Assemblies of God worldwide has a direct correlation with the Assemblies of God U.S.A. believing that opening churches, building Bible schools, and training nationals is our missional priority.

A lot of pastors today seem to be rediscovering missions. In fact, being “missional” is a popular buzzword. I would submit to you that being missional goes beyond missiological thinking. It’s missiological action. It’s letting God shape our view of missions, and recognizing missions as integral to the healthy spiritual life of every believer and every church.

We naturally consider missions from the classic Great Commission verses. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:18-19, NASB). “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15, NASB). “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you,” (John 20:21, NASB).

In my own times of prayer and Scripture study, I have been challenged to consider our missions mandate from another foundational fact — that all of us are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). That image of God has been stamped on everyone.

The image of God refers to the immaterial part of people that enables them to talk with God. It’s the mental, the moral, the social likeness. Think about it: God has endowed us with an intellect so we have the ability to choose. We have the ability to reason. We have the ability to grow in knowledge. We have a moral aptitude.

Humans are the only one of God’s creatures [who have] a spirit, or a God-consciousness. Our greatest and most distinctive quality as humans is our capacity for knowing God. All people have this ability to know their Creator; therefore, we have an obligation to help everyone taste and see that the Lord is good.

There’s a social likeness. People were created for fellowship, and this is reflected in the Trinity. God, who is love, created humans with this social nature and need for love. You say, “Well, Doug, what’s your point?” Society and culture have twisted and mangled the truth that the image of God resides in all of us. But it does, and since the image of God resides in all people, then all people matter to God.

All people have the ability to respond to God, and all people can fulfill their God-given potential. But to do any of those things, all people must be correctly introduced to God.

Missions breathes life into our churches. The first church I pastored following my years with National Youth Ministries was Calvary Assembly in Toledo, Ohio. Calvary had experienced a series of tragedies and had been deeply hurt by the way in which several pastors had left the church. It was a wounded church. It was a church deep in debt. It was a divided church. It was a church that was struggling to regain trust in the office of the pastor.

I believe that when Assemblies of God churches rally around Pentecost and missions, those commitments act as unifying forces.

When I arrived at Calvary, it was under district supervision. Only a few hundred people were left. But, despite every difficulty, the church had sustained its commitment to missions. During each of the negative transitions of pastors, [the church] never once missed [the] missions commitment to [its] missionaries.

Even when it seemed the doors of that church might be closed, Calvary’s strong commitment to missions — the congregants’ shared belief that expanding the kingdom of God was bigger than any of their own challenges — never wavered.

Missions is about participating in what God is doing around the world. Because Calvary recognized [its] responsibility to God, [the] doors remained open. Today, that church is several thousand strong. It’s a life-giving church. They are engaged at several levels of missions, and I believe it was the high value they placed on missions that stabilized them during a time of transition.

I have witnessed this truth up close and personal. My mom is in her mid-eighties. She is widowed. She is still involved in the work of the Lord. Recently, I was concerned about her financial security and wanted to make sure she was taken care of. She is in good health and will probably continue to live a good number of years. I wanted to be sure she was being provided for. I asked Mom to send me her tax returns. She agreed.

When I looked over her records, there were no initial surprises. Her annual income from Social Security, supplemented by modest interest from a retirement fund, came out to the tune of $27,500. But then I noticed her charitable giving — Mom had literally given more than $19,000 to missions.

I called her. “Mom,” I said, in some alarm, “you gotta throttle that back. Mom, how can you possibly … ?” She interrupted me. “Honey, honey, honey,” she said with complete calm, “you can’t outgive God.” And you know? She’s right. All these years, my mom has had a commitment to missions, and God has provided for her.

I also believe missions has the ability to clarify the identity of what it means to be Assemblies of God. We have passed our first century as a Fellowship, and Assemblies of God churches today look quite different than they did even a few years ago. The growing diversity of our Fellowship is a beautiful thing to behold, but if we’re not careful, it can ultimately lead to a lessening of or a diluting of missions philosophy and in support.

There’s always a struggle between projects and boots on the ground, a struggle between the local and the global, the growth of the national church having the ability to connect with some of our pastors locally. All these wonderful growth pains, if we’re not careful, can put a strain on the indigenous church and the boots on the ground philosophy.

I believe that when Assemblies of God churches rally around Pentecost and missions, those commitments act as unifying forces. Pentecost and missions commitment work together to clarify our Assemblies of God identity regardless of [a] church’s worship style, our ministry expression, or the people groups [a] particular church is trying to reach.

Maybe you’re urban. Maybe you’re suburban. Maybe you’re classical Pentecostal or more contemporary Pentecostal. Our commitment to missions is what I believe is our bedrock for today’s stability and tomorrow’s growth. I have a cause, and I have a passion to see that Assemblies of God ministers and churches fully engage in missions. That’s who we’ve been raised up by the Spirit to be.

Why do I give to missions personally? I started my involvement in giving to missions in high school through Speed the Light, and I have not stopped giving since. I have attempted to increase that giving every year. The fact of the matter is, as Mom so pointedly reminded me, you just can’t outgive God. But why? Why do I personally give, and why do I want this Fellowship to be all-in when it comes to missions?

Well, first, because our responsibility is to make disciples of all nations and all ethnicities, not just in the United States. Second, the business of the Great Commission is to get people ready. It’s not only to get people ready for heaven, but it’s to get people into heaven. Third, I personally participate in missions because money talks, and I want to proclaim the glory of God.

You look at our culture, and I’ve seen money do bad things. I’ve seen money break up marriages, destroy family values. It supports industries that just wreak havoc in peoples’ lives. But I want to use it to bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

I also participate in giving and praying and believing in missions because time doesn’t wait, and I want to respond with my best right now. So it is my prayer that every Assemblies of God church would have, as an integral part of its character, its personal participation in missions.

From Ordered Steps: A Life Prepared to Lead, by Doug Clay (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2017).

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