According to study.com, the textbook definition of a “growth strategy” is “the method that an institution uses to achieve their goals for expansion.” Generally, it involves at least three things: an internal adjustment, an external focus, and risk. Does your church have a growth strategy? Do you sense that our denomination has one? And are we ready to risk it for Jesus’ sake?
Fittingly, at the Council of Delegates meeting in February, Zach King, director of Resonate Global Mission, reminded those in attendance that “we are all missionaries.” It seems to me that such a phrase conveys the heart of God’s growth strategy: the Great Commission (Matt. 28). It also conveys the overall strategy for growth that Jesus placed upon the church in Acts. And it is, for us as the Christian Reformed Church, the fourth milestone of the Our Journey 2025 ministry plan.
That milestone is this: “We desire to be congregations and communities that share the gospel, live it missionally, and plant new churches in our neighborhoods as we discover how to connect with our local and global ministry contexts.”
As Canadian ministries director, I see this desire being lived out in so many places across Canada. I see it in Destination Church in St. Thomas, Ont., which converted an old bar into a ministry center and transformed the town around it. I see it in Bridge Church in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., which launched a completely online church that includes dedicated pastoral leadership, community, discipleship, and small groups. And I see it when you or I invite a friend into a deepening relationship with Jesus. This is missionary work!
Within Canada, CRCNA missionary efforts also expand nationally to places like our three Canadian Indigenous Ministry Centres in Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Regina as they embody the gospel with and to Indigenous communities in their midst. The missionary staff have become frontline workers during the pandemic as they serve meals, provide hospitality and fellowship, and care for very vulnerable urban populations. That’s missionary work!
The Centre for Public Dialogue also worked with key partners in 2019 and 2020 to extend grace to recent immigrants so that their financial debts to the government are further minimized. This too is missionary work!
And around the world, as Resonate, Reframe, and World Renew bring the gospel in word and in deed to places far away from North America, they do so in ways that bring people to Christ and carry out mercy and justice. That’s missionary work.
Yet even with all of these success stories going on, I know there is a lot more we could do. Every part of our denomination needs a growth strategy. Every church needs a growth strategy. Perhaps seeing ourselves as missionaries is the place to begin.
That’s the thinking behind Our Journey 2025. As we go into this five-year stretch, imagine what God could do with and through our denomination if we all took this call to be missionaries seriously.
Theoretically, it should be easy for us Reformed types. After all, God has called us to embody gospel witness everywhere and in all areas of life. This includes practicing the way of Jesus in our neighborhoods and the world and dedicating abundant resources of time, talent, and treasure to this cause.
Granted, there are myriad challenges in our churches right now. This is not the place to name them. But challenges will never cease. What must rise above the challenge is a real, practical, comprehensive growth strategy. I look forward to seeing how God will use us.