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The Mark of a Great Church

How Alliance churches reflect God’s mission heart

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Missiologist David Bosch once wrote, “If the Church is ‘in Christ,’ she is involved in mission. Her whole existence then has a missionary character.” More recently, mission leader and Pastor Mike Stachura has added, “The mark of a great church is not its seating capacity but its sending capacity.”

Some spheres today give much attention to the local church’s missional nature—and rightly so. The renewed emphasis on how the church manifests mission in all she does is refreshing. And yet, this emphasis can sometimes reduce mission to the church’s reach in its own location, simply discovering missional endeavors all around us.

The Church was designed for this but for more than this. She is to be fueled by the Spirit to constantly look beyond, toward new horizons—frontiers where the gospel is not known and where the Church will not have impact unless she sends beyond herself. This is the Church’s missionary character. Our heritage in the Alliance family is built upon this understanding of the Church.

The Alliance mission has always been the business of Alliance people and Alliance churches. To this day, our international ministries bear this out. Rather than acting as an independent missions agency that asks the church to get on board, International Ministries of The Christian and Missionary Alliance exists to extend and empower the reach of Alliance churches.

Fruit and Source

God calls the Church to go with Him on mission to the world. We see a great example in the Antioch church in Acts 11, 13, and 14. It seems clear that Luke’s desire, in giving us snapshots of the Antioch church, is to lift up an early and transferable model of the church on mission. The Antioch church was birthed on the new horizon of the gospel’s spread beyond the historic holy land, in a way that included some of the earliest gentile conversions and the first use of the term “Christian” (Acts 11:19–25). In other words, the church was first the fruit of Christ’s mission.

But before long, we see the Antioch church also become the source of mission. In Acts 13, the Holy Spirit speaks to the church about commissioning Paul and Barnabas for the work to which God called them. The church is fasting and praying when they hear the call and, through more fasting and praying, send out the two young missionaries (vv. 1–3).

As the team makes its first journey, it operates with freedom and autonomy to follow the Spirit’s leading in its ministries (13:4–14:25). But when Paul and Barnabas return to Antioch, they gather the church together to report all that happened as a result of their being sent.

In The Alliance today, this missionary-church nature is born out on three levels of our ministries.

1. Our workers come from our churches.

Very similarly to the Antioch model, local churches find that as they seek the Lord with intentionality, the Spirit stirs missionary vision and calling—calling to go and calling to send. Alliance international workers are not people recruited from across the country or who’ve seen us as a good agency to which they can apply. They are our own sons and daughters, raised up in our own churches, called, and sent to fulfill the call given to the Church.

2. Our mission extends from our network.

Within The Alliance we’ve long recognized that we can do more together than we can separately. From the earliest days when the C&MA formed missionary “branches” from city to city to raise up, send, and support those called to go, it tapped the strength of shared sending. Today, churches of The Alliance pool many of their mission resources to send workers deployed in ministries facilitated through International Ministries and Compassion and Mercy Associates (CAMA).

Alliance international workers are prepared in accordance with our churches’ standards, recommended by the leadership of their local churches, interviewed by teams including their pastors and district superintendents, and are appointed to service by the Board of Directors of our U.S. Alliance. There is strength in doing mission as a network of churches. This shared effort means that when one church loses steam or one international worker needs to return to the homeland, others can shoulder the load out of strength.

3. Our goal is new missionary church networks.

The third level on which the Church’s missionary nature is worked out in Alliance ministry is in the outcomes of our efforts. Coordinated mission ministries of The Alliance leverage combined strengths to make the gospel known and to raise up networks of reproducing churches throughout the world—churches that are becoming themselves missionary in nature. This is about gospel access for and from all peoples.

We celebrate commitment to the missionary nature of the Church in our Alliance family. What joy to see churches reflect God’s mission heart in all they do locally and in their sending focus toward new horizons! It takes a missionary church to send, and in the Alliance family we are a missionary church.

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