Ministers and Missions

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What is role of the local pastor in global mission? Sam posed this question to Ray Galea, lead pastor of Multicultural Bible Ministry, Rooty Hill (Sydney)…

"The mark of a great church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity."

Pastor Mike Stachura, Grace Evangelical Church USA

As an organisation, we’ve done lots of thinking recently about how to mobilise people for mission to Europe. How do we find the people who have a heart for Europe and a desire to be a part of what the Lord is doing? 

But that’s hard… because mission doesn’t start with a mission agency—missionaries are found in churches. This is because Christ’s command in Matthew 18:16–20 is not just personal, it’s collective. As the Church learns more about the beauty of the Lord, a passion and a desire will flow from that for others to know him and worship him. The Church must send missionaries to us. 

Which poses the question, what is the role of the local pastor in this?

I asked Ray Galea, lead pastor of Multicultural Bible Ministry, Rooty Hill (Sydney)…

What’s the first step in getting a local congregation excited about overseas mission?

First be committed to local mission, because global mission must flow out of local mission, or we’re hypocrites. The Kingdom of God is bigger than the local church and to be committed only to your local focus would diminish the big picture, but you have to start there. It’s like if someone doesn’t look after their own family first they are worse than an unbeliever. 

We are lucky in that God has actually brought the world to our church. There are seventy different cultures represented across our various campuses (hence our name—‘Multicultural Bible Ministry’). So global mission may be easier for us, but our first responsibility is to our own backyard, and then a broader missional focus flows from that. 

“If the pastor himself isn’t excited about overseas missions, then his congregation won’t be either.”Ray2017

What are some of the barriers pastors face in trying to get a congregation excited about overseas mission?

If the pastor himself isn’t excited about overseas missions, then his congregation won’t be either. As you preach the scriptures, I’m convicted by God’s jealousy for the nations to worship him. You see, when we read ‘gentiles’ in the Bible we could really read ‘nations’, because it means all non-Jewish people. God publicly launched his mission to bless the world in Genesis 12, and that involved the justification of the nations by faith, through grace alone. Our passion for the lost has to come from the scriptures, but that’s then obviously up to the pastor to communicate well to his congregation. 

How do you support your missionaries?

We have nine homegrown missionaries and if everyone tried to assume responsibility for all of them, they would get lost. So each missionary connected to our church has their own missionary advocate who promotes them through a bible study group. Essentially, each bible study group owns one missionary. The advocate is to promote their needs, celebrations, prayers, generate prayer meetings for them etc… and this advocate also meets with me once a term. I also have Skype meetings with a missionary family once a month. The advocate organises this for me, and joins me in the meeting so they learn what life is like on the field too. 

On Sundays, we’re on a cycle of praying for a different missionary each week. And they even do that in our children’s ministries! Recently we’ve asked our missionaries to give us a 30 second video to play before we pray for them, which is even better than a photo. But we have also had a Zoom meeting in our services which they have joined in with. I must say that this would break down if it wasn’t for some key high level leaders in charge of this… they keep me on track.

We also allocate 10% of our missions budget to local and global missions, which includes financial support for our missionaries.

‘Sending is just as important as going’—do you agree?

I want to honour both, as they are both necessary and valuable. Not everyone is called to go, as it’s an extraordinary cost and not everyone is able or wired to go. We are all called to bear witness to Jesus but some have the privilege of leaving everything to move for the sake of the Lord Jesus. It’s too reductionist to say one or the other, as they’re both important and people need to be responsible for their commitments either way. God has a big heart and when you look at the billions who are ignoring him and facing a Christ-less eternity, how can you not have a heart for these people? So we tithe our budget for local and global mission and we make sure our eyes look outside our shores.

A lot of it has to do with access to the gospel, as is the case in Europe, do you agree?

Absolutely… we have so many resources here in Sydney. We have two missionaries we support in Malta, and just hearing from them about the lack of resources and the small group of Christians there is astounding. They say 60% of people in Australia are not in a relationship with someone who is a born again Christian. So you can imagine what it’s like in other parts of the world, where it’s so hard to access the scriptures, the gospel, the church... we need to send, we need to go…

What can mission agencies like ourselves do to better foster relationships with churches?

We’ve found that helping the local church own their responsibility rather than deferring to you guys is really important. It’s the church’s responsibility to own their missionaries and their support. What we’ve found helpful are the covenants that our various missionary agencies have developed to outline the expectations, responsibilities, and roles that each of us have in supporting our missionaries.

How do we get more pastors thinking like this?

What you’re doing right now! Churches and leaders need to hear the stories and learn from other pastors, but the main change I think can be achieved is by visiting your missionaries. By actually visiting them, I had the first hand experience which enabled me to better understand what they’re going through and that was so valuable for me. It felt like a luxury to do it even though we see it as part of the mission budget. But it was also amazing, you know, how every one of those missionaries felt so loved and supported. So pastors can learn from other pastors and learn from the experience of others… but it’s certainly worthwhile taking the time and money to visit your missionaries.

Praying is a critical part of that, isn’t it?

You want to share in their struggles, celebrate their victories and learn what they’re learning about God on the field and from that, they start to minister to you and pray for you. Seeing our missionaries as church staff members with me, and taking the time to listen to them and value their contribution, that helps with greater ownership and partnership.

At our Friday night youth group, our young people pray for the children in our missionary families, and that’s been a crucial and vital support to them. Every year, each age group in kids church ‘owns’ a laminated photo of one of our missionaries and the kids get up each week at kids church and pray for the missionary kids and their families. Sometimes, when the missionaries are visiting, they might come into kids church or the kids may stay in the service to learn from the missionaries and hear their stories from a young age. 

Recently, we’ve actually seen the blessing of this first hand: one of our missionaries spoke in front of our congregation and said that he first started to consider the mission field when he was in kids church.

Encouraging new missionaries from within your congregation is a step by step process…

  • Raising up missionaries begins by casting a vision from the Scriptures for the nations and calling on the congregation to consider taking up the offer to serve Jesus in other cultures.
  • Intentionally nurture the mission heart in those who have shown some interest for global mission.
  • Encourage them to serve locally in some mission context such as Explaining Christianity, or ESL.
  • Have them mentored.
  • Keep them on one’s prayer list.
  • Have them join in with or lead the meetings when talking to missionaries.
  • Send them to ReachOut Missions conference.
  • Encourage them to do a ministry training program (Intern, Student Minister or MTS).
  • Send them to Bible college or other appropriate training.
  • Engage them in a short-term mission. 

Please Pray

Please pray for Ray Galea and his ministry team at MBM, that they would continue to preach the gospel and that as a result, his congregation would be stirred to serve the Lord in countries with little access to the word of truth.

This article appears in the Summer 21/22 Edition of ECM News.

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