1. Prayer. Any Christian enterprise is probably nothing more than prayer followed by living into prayer's fruits. To spread the gospel, however, prayer is essential for two reasons. First, our intercession opens up the way for God to draw those he is calling into his Kingdom. Jesus' saving work is reconciling all creation back to God, and our prayer is the spiritual work cooperating with God's love to bring it about in our time. Second, prayer is the only way to open our hearts up to love the lost in the world deeply enough to make the sacrifices necessary to take the good news to them. We see many Christians and churches today that have not spent enough time in prayer to cultivate a deeper longing for the healing and salvation of the world than they have for their own comfort and convenience. Without significant prayer, no missionary society is going anywhere except, perhaps, to tea.
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3.Focus on Making Disciples. A successful 21st Century Missionary society will not be one that has established the most churches and religious institutions, but the one that has created the most disciples who have changed their lives, follow Jesus, and are able to reach others. The work of discipleship is the work of multiplication, not addition, meaning it starts slow and builds over time. Jesus had thousands of people come to hear him preach and attend his feeding programs. But the primary discipleship work took place not even in his small group of the twelve, but in Peter, James and John who were with him at key points in his life, learned by experiencing how Jesus handled things, and became the leaders who could carry on once Jesus left. Successful missionary societies will be patient enough to do the slow groundwork initially to have a powerful impact over the long-term.
4. Accountability. Members of the missionary society will be accountable at a deep level to one another to do God's work. Part of Billy Graham's success came because the four people on his leadership team were an accountability group for one another. They made sure that everyone was focused on what was important and that no one got not distracted by the temptations that accrue during long road trips and successful ministries. How many evangelists have fallen into the pits of power, sex and money? The old adage, "What is measured gets done," is true. If we regularly ask each other, "Did you share the good news with anyone today?" we look for ways to do so. If we are asked, "What have you done today to show forth the glory of God?" our lives gradually take on the kind of character that God's glory shines through. If we are honest with one another about our own struggles with whatever would turn us aside from our life of discipleship, we gain the freedom to live lives of evangelism and love beyond anything we could ask or imagine. Non-believers start to notice God in our life, and we have more stories to share.
When these five marks form the foundation of a missionary society, any number of structure can be built around them, and those structures will stand a much better chance of being both beautiful and successful.
This post is a participating post in the Acts8 BLOGFORCE on "What does it mean to be a 21st century Missionary Society?"