Program or Purpose

Sep 03 2013 Published by under Church, Evangelism, Missions

By Dr. JoAnn Butrin

IMG_3037I travel. A lot. I can tell you the best and worst hotels in US cities and in other countries. I can quote airline schedules. I know the restaurants to visit for the tastiest Indian food (my favorite).


I speak frequently at churches and in other venues where pastors and church staff members come to dialog about missions. I hear many impassioned comments—perhaps because I am a missionary—about how their churches are “doing missions.”


I hear of many great things being done in the name of missions. But what I hear often makes me wonder: is “missions” considered a church program, or is “missions” actually the church’s purpose, built into the DNA of that congregation? I’m pushing for “purpose,” as that’s how God intends it to be!


After all, a program is not a central focus, but is generally just for a few, for those inclined toward that program or fitting into its demographic.


But purpose belongs to every department, to every person in the congregation. Purpose is not an add-on, but purpose is the direction-giving focus, the guiding principle of every department, of every ministry.1


How about your church? Is God’s mission—to seek and save the lost, from every tribe, nation and tongue—just for some in your church, relegated to a committee? Or does every person, from child to senior, have ownership of the responsibility to learn, to pray, to support, to send… to go?


If a local church is to embrace the philosophy that “missions IS the mission of the church,” the pastor must be the one to establish vision and direction. And if missions is to be built into the DNA of the church, to be the church’s recognizable “personality,” the pastor is the most effective one to lead the charge.2


You, Pastor, set the tone for your congregation when it comes to involvement—corporately and individually—in world evangelization.


Do you encourage your worship leader to seek out songs about exalting God’s name before the nations, about surrendering to God’s leading?


Do you provide some instruction for the Christian Education or small group coordinator about Scripture discovery regarding God’s heart for the peoples of the world and dialog about what that means in relation to how a life is lived?


Can you see your senior adults, singles and married adults, teens and children, all praying together for unreached people groups on a Sunday morning?


Have you ever asked a candidate for a pastoral staff position to describe his/her heart for God’s mission and the people around the world who need to be reached with the gospel?


Is your church dedicated to the support of long-term missionaries and mission endeavors, through giving, hospitality and prayer?


Are you releasing your best people to respond to God’s call to full-time missionary service?


God indicates that His mission is the purpose of the Church—and therefore of the local church. Let’s pray together that He will help us evaluate how we lead others into that purpose. Let’s not just “do missions” but actually “live missions” as part of our DNA, leading our churches in support and participation in world-wide efforts to win people to Christ!


1David Mays, “World Evangelism and the Purpose of the Church,” More Stuff You Need to Know About Doing Missions in Your Church. July 2002.

2Dr. Larry Reesor, “The Local Church’s Role in Mission.” June 1, 2000.


Dr. JoAnn Butrin is the director of AGWM International Ministries, which focuses on meeting specific and strategic needs of missionaries and national fellowships worldwide.

2 responses so far

  • Thank you, Dr. Butrin, for your insight! I agree with you that missions is the church’s purpose.

    May every pastor establish the missions vision, may every leader catch the vision, and may every church member assist in implementing the vision.

    As you said, may we not just “do missions” but actually “live missions” . . . .

  • Doug Blue says:

    Excellent article Dr. JoAnn. I hope many will read and reflect on this!