By David Dummitt
The church is the hope of the world. The global church is connected like no other generation before us. This should impact the way churches engage internationally. We live in an exciting time in church history, and we have the privilege and responsibility to grow the kingdom of God well.
Global engagement isn’t a new idea to American churches. Mission programs, global outreach projects, generosity campaigns, and more have been a part of churches in the United States for centuries. Many methods, strategies, and best practices have come and gone, but like everything else, we need to evaluate what we are doing and adjust where we fall short of maximum effectiveness.
Here are three shifts American churches can make to increase global impact.
1. Shift from global “missions” to global church planting.
As American leaders, we can get caught up in believing that the American church is the hope of the world, and that mission work is specifically referencing how we reach out to the nations. But the truth is, the global church is the hope of the world, and that mission isn’t a sliver of a church’s budget or time, but the whole pie.
Building Christ’s church around the globe is the mission. Everything we do, every dollar we spend, every gathering, every outreach opportunity we plan should advance the mission of growing the church locally and globally—and planting new churches is the primary method.
As we consider how American churches should engage with the world, we should focus on long-term impact by supporting, equipping, and empowering indigenous church planters to care for their communities well. Humanitarian aid is a critical part of that care. Local churches should be planted and primed to be the epicenter of meeting needs within impoverished communities. If the American church sends in teams of 20 people for two weeks to feed hungry children, great. But an American church partnering with an indigenous leader to plant or empower churches in impoverished communities over a long period of time . . . that’s powerful!
Our mission work should support global churches in ways that allow local, indigenous churches to be the heroes so that when community members ask, “Why did you give me clean water? Why did you rescue me from sex trafficking?” Jesus, through a local church, gets the credit.
2. Shift from American–centric to global collaboration.
As Americans, we often mistakenly approach global engagement from an elevated position. We make plans based on the belief that the rest of the world needs us. Tragically, we have built some models for global missions that create dependency rather than empowering indigenous church leaders to lead well. But we’re now seeing global partnerships forming for church planting and disciple making throughout the world.
I recently learned of a Chicago church partnering with a church in Nairobi, Kenya, to plant a new church in Sydney, Australia. That is incredible!
Friends of ours in Africa partnered with a church in California to create “Rooted,” an innovative discipleship curriculum. We will implement Rooted at 2|42 Community Church, where I serve as lead pastor, starting this fall.
It is not up to America to grow God’s kingdom; it is up to every person around the globe who professes Jesus as king. We need all parts of the body to do their job, and our global partners have so much to offer! We need to learn from each other, to value each other, and to collaborate in order to effectively move forward together.
3. Shift from lower investment for many projects to higher investment for fewer projects.
I believe our churches can have great global impact by trimming their partnerships and projects, but to support the remaining ones in more significant ways. Trying to do everything everywhere drains resources and limits impact. Rather than giving small portions of our budget to 10 things, we would see greater return on investment by giving large amounts to just a few things, and then sharing the stories of that greater impact. The people in our churches would then feel a greater connection to what’s happening around the world.
By giving greater amounts to fewer global projects, we can build long-term relationships with international church planters and the communities they serve. These strategic investments will allow us to provide more holistic support to our global partners because we will get to know them and serve them in more significant ways. The people in our churches will be more able to build long-term relationships through letters, e-mails, social media, or even by visiting on short-term trips year after year, if they choose.
Such a system would also benefit missionaries. For instance, if 2 churches provided the same support as 20 churches, the missionaries could spend less time fund-raising and writing thank-you letters, and more time reaching the people they are called to reach. Additionally, they would need to visit only a small number of churches during sabbaticals, instead of 10 or 20, allowing them true rest and refreshment during their time stateside.
As we evaluate how churches in America are reaching out to the rest of the world, my hope is we would be humble, that we would seek to love and learn from our international brothers and sisters, and that we would choose to collaborate together for kingdom growth by way of church planting. Join me in praying for God’s heart and vision for global missions.
David Dummitt is the lead pastor and planter of 2|42 Community Church, one of the largest and fastest-growing churches in the country. He is also on the lead team of NewThing Network, a catalyst for reproducing churches worldwide.