The Pastor’s role in developing a missions-minded church
By Philip Kofi Tutu
Working among an unreached people group is so important in developing a passion for mission in pastors and church leaders. Someone has said that we will not have a burden for the lost until we experience a “holy discontent”. And that only happens when we put ourselves in the place where we will feel that discontent – where our hearts will be broken for the lost, the least and the last.
My own launch into mission was serving among the Dangme people, who live in southern Ghana near the Volta River estuary. I entered full-time pastoral ministry in 1981, and my church sent me to serve the Dangme.
It was a tough, challenging ministry. When I first went I was not married: I was afraid to take a wife to that place. Voodoo had a strong hold on the people. If you spoke against their gods or idols they might attack you. But God was good and He protected us.
We planted seven churches among the Dangme, and this experience created a passion in me to be very missional in my pastoring. When we left, after ten years, it was so good to see that God’s presence was there.
We returned to the capital where we were involved in urban ministry for two years. My previous experience had taught me that no church will be effective until it has a missionary vision, so I was determined to see every pastor get the opportunity every year to experience mission. Short-term trips are vital, and they should involve church elders too. They return with a new light in their eyes, telling the church about their experience and challenging others to get involved.
In 1993 I joined Gospel Recordings, an organisation that uses audio cassettes, flipcharts and picture books to reach the unreached. It was at this time that I began working alongside SIM among various people groups in northern Ghana. Today I work with International Christian Ministries, training pastors and church leaders, inspiring them to involvement in mission, the ministry or training. I also serve as the Ghana and Africa Director of the Walk Through the Bible organisation. This means I have a great platform to pour out my heart for mission among pastors!
Take the lead!
We must cast a vision for mission from the pulpit. After all, if you believe in something but don’t speak about it, there is a problem somewhere. A number of obstacles may raise their heads. These can include tradition (this is not the way we do things), mentality (we are not ready for this), denominational position (this isn’t church policy); and political barriers (this may not be safe!).
When churches do get switched on to mission, everything changes. Their prayer life is transformed and they begin to have a worldwide outlook, rather than just focusing on themselves. They see the needs around them, and their hearts are broken. And they become more free to release people and finances for God’s work.
The Church in Africa has an internal strength. Some of our biggest congregations did not receive external support. So we can encourage others: a “homegrown” church is possible in any location. And because we are strong, we are able to channel that strength into sending and supporting mission.
Saying that, the West did send many missionaries so that we might hear the gospel. It’s time that we give back, reaching out to others who don’t know Jesus. Africa would not have heard the good news unless others paid a price. Let us be prepared to give up our comforts and also take risks for the sake of the gospel. We serve a missionary God and mission is God’s heartbeat (Genesis 3; Isaiah 6; John 3:16).
Reaching out to the lost will cost your time, your money … maybe even your life. It will cost everything. But if Jesus was prepared to risk, then we must follow his example. Pastors, I encourage you to take the lead in developing healthy churches that are passionate about world mission.
Rev. Philip Kofi Tutu is the Executive Director of International Christian Ministries, SIM Ghana Council Chairman and Associate Pastor of Assemblies of God Church, Madina in Accra, Ghana. In these roles he regularly addresses and teaches groups of pastors on the topics of evangelism and mission. Philip and his wife, Janet, have raised five children, now aged between 32 and 15.