This week on ChurchPulse Weekly, Rick Warren joins Carey Nieuwhof to discuss why he’s focusing on missions in this next season of life and shares some practical tips for churches looking to activate their people around missions work.
On Familiarity with the Great Commission
Barna found that nearly half of U.S. churchgoing Christians (48%) say they’re unfamiliar with the term “The Great Commission,” while another one in four (27%) says they’ve heard of this term but can’t recall the exact meaning.
The Great Commission has been a central part of Warren’s ministry perspective from the beginning of his time in church leadership. He notes, “Every church, even a church of 25 people, is called to fulfill the Great Commission. It’s not just for megachurches; the Great Commission is for every Christian and for every church.”
He encourages listeners to take a global perspective as they evaluate the success of missions work, saying, “Yes, things look bleak in America, but that is not the picture of the world. When we’re myopic and we see nothing’s going up in America, we think that’s representative in the world. No, revival is going on in many places! By 2030, there will be more evangelical Christians and more English speakers in China than in America.”
On Reaching Unreached People Groups
When Barna asks Christians how unreached people should be reached with the gospel, one in three respondents (35%) says unreached should be reached by sending Christian missionaries to share the gospel. This option ranks higher than others, including translating the Bible into the unreached people’s language (28%), praying for unreached people (25%) and planting churches (18%).
Warren offers some practical principles he’s learned about missions from the instructions of Jesus. He shares, “Jesus says when you go out, don’t take a purse. […] Don’t throw money at it.”
Warren continues, “What Americans typically want to do when they go overseas is they want to buy and build. What you do when you buy and build is you create dependency, and you rob [those you are planning to reach] of their dignity. […] You create almost a colonial attitude of people as partners. The harvest has the resources needed for the harvest.”
Another command from Jesus instructs his disciples to not take a staff with them. Warren explains, “A staff is a symbol of authority […] Don’t go as authority; go as a servant. Ask, ‘What do you need us to do? How can we serve you?’”
On Activating Your Congregation around Missions
To be a missional church, Warren suggests leaders reverse the mission education process. He says, “When I was growing up, I was taught mission education was this: pray for missionaries, study, listen to missionaries, study, give, and maybe someday go.”
“What we did at Saddleback was reverse that; don’t pray, don’t study, don’t give, just go. […] Why? Because I knew that if people go, when they come back, they’d want to pray. They’d want to study. They’d want to give,” Warren says. “They cared more about their neighbor. […] What I believe we need to do is what I call the Great Reversal.”
Warren also emphasizes the importance of activating the unique gifts of individuals within your church, noting, “Everybody in your church can reach somebody nobody else can. Some people speak the language of mothers of preschoolers. Some people speak the language of sales. Some people speak the language of accounting, or art or music.”
He concludes, “In a missional, purpose-driven church—in a church committed to the great commission—you use every language and every communication tool possible.”
About the Research
Missions data: Research for this study, conducted in partnership Mission India, is based on an online survey of 2,000 U.S. Christian adults, between June 8 and June 28, 2021. The error rate of this data is +/- 2.0 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.
Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.
© Barna Group, 2021