The Church, Missions & Technology

How Returning Missionaries Can Help With Church Revitalization: Vision Casting

In our last post on how returning missionaries can assist church revitalization I want us to look at Vision Casting. If you are unfamiliar with the term it is basically a way to communicate to the church and community what your church stands for and wishes to accomplish with its time, money, and resources. This is a way for pastors and missionaries to recruit people to join them in executing the vision.


Former missionaries would cast vision in two different ways. First as they would recruit supporters from the states to partner they would cast the vision of reaching a particular people group with the gospel. They would normally explain how great the need is for the gospel and then call people in churches to pray and partner in order to see that vision come to fruition. Second, the missionary would cast vision to new believers of how they can reach members of their own community and country with the gospel. A missionary on the field recently shared what he uses to cast vision among his new believers. “Our Vision is to see a church multiplying itself in every major city of our country.”

There are some pastors out there that can easily communicate the vision and direction that God gave them for a specific church. We are thankful for these men and the time and energy they put into listening from the Lord, asking for his direction. However, in revitalization contexts the church has lost vision and focus and need some help. As we have explained in previous posts, missionaries can easily see the needs in a specific community and how the church can assist with those needs. The former missionary and pastor can help show the congregation the needs and how they feel the church can help meet those needs.

Once the needs are explained the church staff and lay leaders can better understand how the church is going to meet the needs of a given community. Depending on the size of the church you might only be able to meet one need. And that is ok. It is going to be a great start in your community. The important thing about vision casting is that you have to do it often. In the church I now attend weekly I hear the vision of the church about three to four times in every service. It is important for us to remember our role in implementing the vision of the church that we attend locally.

How Returning Missionaries Can Help With Church Revitalization: Doing More With Less

The church is going through several changes and not all of them are good right now. Membership is down and churches are dying. Some pastors are in crisis mode, trying to figure out how they are going to make budget and payroll. This is something that missionaries have faced for over a decade now on the mission field. This gives them a great deal of experience looking at the situation of dying churches and help them to figure out how to do more with less.


This week we are building off of last week when we talked about priorities. Once you have your priorities in place you can redirect your resources to meet those priorities. These resources can be money, staff, and lay volunteers.

I believe that churches are at the point now where they realize they must make a few changes in order to have its doors open and the ability to invest in the lost world around it. One thing missionaries that raise their own support, or are paid from a mission agency have in common is that funds are decreasing dramatically. To stay on the field, missionaries had to make certain changes and find out how to do more than they ever have, with less than they ever have. This is very useful to churches in the states because for most of them they have never done this before. Especially in this generation.

Churches have to figure out what is important to them and then make changes to the budget to reflect the goals you wish to meet. Lets look at a couple of examples of how missionaries can help the process.

We have to work smarter not harder. We have to take advantage of new free technologies that can help us accomplish our priorities and goals. I believe that people in the church are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty for their church. They just need to be made aware of the resources available and told what to do with them. One way to do more with less is if you are paying someone to clean the church. Ask volunteers to take turns cleaning the facilities. Almost every church has retired people looking for some way to serve their church during the week.

After you have reviewed your priorities and you feel that it is not cost effective to mail out a weekly newsletter through the postal service. You can create a newsletter with the help of a volunteer and then email the newsletter for free. You can still make a few copies available in hard copy for those who attend the services on Sunday and Wednesday. You could also have a volunteer hand deliver the newsletter to members that cannot get out of their house.

This last recommendation is something that the pastor can easily do. However, not all of them have experience in doing it. Missionaries are used to creating bible teaching and materials from scratch. This includes Bible studies and small group material. If your church is spending money on the latest Beth Moore Bible study every quarter then it might be a good use of financial resources to not spend the money and create your own.

This list is not the master list of ways a missionary can help your church do more with less, it is just a start. Your church might have a separate list of problems where they can help encourage the church to do more with less.

How Returning Missionaries Can Help With Church Revitalization: Establishing Priorities

Missionaries returning from the mission field understand the importance of setting priorities in order to make the most of their time. Most missionaries understand that they have a limited time in a country overseas so they strive to make the most of everyday. They can assist pastors and churches who struggle with this aspect and are going through revitalization by helping them set priorities and goals.


Dying churches need to have a set of priorities or goals that will help guide them to be healthy reproducing churches. As missionaries we had to choose if we were going to focus on evangelism, working with existing churches, or translate scripture. We had to start with the most important at the time and move forward from there. As the saying goes, “You Cant Do Everything”. It’s true, churches that undergo revitalization are longer able to do all that they did in the past. They now need to focus on the future and the legacy they can leave behind to the next generation of followers of Jesus. Missionaries fresh off the field are able to quickly assess where a dying church is, look at the opportunities the church has, and then help the church put together a plan of goals or priorities in order to move towards being a healthy reproducing church.

I recognize that it is tremendously hard for historic churches to stop doing choir, or Wednesday night worship services. However, if one of our goals as a revitalizing church is to attract and invite members of the community to our worship services then we might need to change the style of music to something they are more familiar with such as a live band. I recognize that your cultural context might look different.

If one of our goals is to spend less money out of the budget, then not having prayer meeting in the church building on Wednesday night might be an option. Especially if there are only 12 people attending. Twelve people can easily fit into someone's home for a night of fellowship and prayer. We have to make the most important thing, the most important thing. The hard part is removing the items that are not the most important. This is when the members of the church need to come together in seasons of prayer and fasting in order to rally together to make the most important thing their number one priority.

How Returning Missionaries Can Help With Church Revitalization: Evangelism

As we continue our series of how returning missionaries can assist church revitalization we are going to look at how missionaries have a strong focus on evangelism.

Many dying churches today have not experienced a baptism celebration in several years. We have to ask a couple questions when this happens. Are people no longer receptive to the gospel message? Have the people in the community changed the way they communicate and congregate? We also need to ask how church members are sharing the gospel. Taking a look at these questions can help the church going through revitalization reshape the way they share the gospel.


There are communities where the gospel message is no longer well received. People for whatever reason are leaving the church and not returning, unlike past generations. For some it is culture change in America and for others its younger generations disgust with un-authentic relationships. A recent study showed us that 40 percent of the greater Knoxville area is done with church. This means that they once upon a time went to church but now do not attend a church. In these communities missionaries can assist churches by developing new ways to share the gospel based on the changing culture in the community.

Another question we ask deals with how we communicate the gospel message. Former missionaries monitor the new ways people communicate with friends and family. The digital forms of communication have forever changed the way we interact with each other. After investigating how the church and members of the church are communicating we have to see if it matches with current forms of communications in order to make sure that people in the community are able to see and hear our messages of gospel proclamation.

The last question we need to ask church members deals with how they are sharing the gospel. One of the most effective forms of gospel proclamation is what we call mouth to ear evangelism. So from one speaking mouth to one listening ear. However, it is super important that we make sure that our members are sharing the gospel in a way that can be clearly understood by the members of the community. Even small town cultures in the South’s Bible Belt are changing. This is another great place for missionaries to assist because they have done this before. Some missionaries had to listen and study a new culture in order to find ways to bridge the gospel.

As a bonus question, we have to ask if our members are sharing the gospel at all. We assume that as followers of Jesus they regularly sharing the gospel with unbelievers but we have found that among dying churches, Christians are not sharing the gospel with anyone outside the church building and only inside the church building among children. We must find out why these members are not sharing the gospel. If it is fear, we need to address it and hold them accountable to sharing. If it is because they do not know a lost person we need to help them expand their sphere of influence. If it is out of not knowing what to say then we need to train them how to share the gospel and disciples new believers.

For those Replanting and Revitalizing churches, it is so important that to have a strong focus on Evangelism in the community and I believe returning missionaries can help us succeed as we look out into the community to make disciples that make disciples.

How Returning Missionaries Can Help With Church Revitalization: Understanding A New Culture

As communities change and demographics of cities change over time the communities surrounding churches have changed. I would go as far as to say the church members also change over the years. Even though they might have the same name and the family unit has been attending the same church for years, they have still changed.


When we look at re-planting churches we have to take a look at the culture of the church inside and out. Former missionaries can help replanting churches in two major ways. First, they are a new set of eyes trained in observing cultures in order to share the gospel with them. They see communities in ways different than a local pastor. This is a solid win win for a dying church. In the mission community we call this mapping a city or mapping a community. Churches need to know about the people and places around the church building that need assistance. They need to be able to invest back into the community, especially if the community is dying too.

The second way they can assist is inside the church. Like I was saying church culture changes. Missionaries just returning from the field are aware of the clear differences in church members now and the time that moved away from America. Trust me on this one, they are studying this group closely because they are trying to fit in with it. Missionaries are well aware of changes made in the attitude of members of local churches experiencing decline. As missionaries assess the followers in the pews they can quickly survey which ones are making disciples and which members just fill their pew every week. The way we communicate the gospel today is very different because of the culture in the community. Missionaries can help train church members to share the gospel in a new way. Most people don’t think they can share the gospel at their place of employment, but they can share stories of life that can assist people who struggle with life and their current situation. Most church members just need a little coaching on the best way to form Jesus centered stories to communicate the gospel. Missionaries who have done this before in another language can quickly find creative ways to share the gospel in any context.

New Series: How Returning Missionaries Can Help With Church Revitalization

If you haven’t heard, churches across America are dying at a super-fast rate. Churches are no longer bringing in new believers except through birth and so as the older members are literally dying off the church can no longer support its current ministries and staff. When I went to seminary over ten years ago students talked about going to plant new churches, or serve with existing churches. Now in seminary no one talks about serving with existing churches. One of the main reasons is that none of the existing churches are hiring new staff right out of seminary. It’s is a fast changing time for those of us in vocational ministry.

As churches have been dying off, a new passion has arrived from young and old pastors to revitalize or re-plant these dying churches. However, as you know in the church world, everything has to move super slow. So as state conventions and local church networks strive to find new ways to help dying churches thrive alive again it really is a very new process in the church world.


As we look for people who will knowingly walk into a dying situation we really need some of the people in the world to revive these churches. I have spent the past few weeks reading and listening to those in the re-planting community as they talk about the characteristics needed for church re-planters. They talk about them as though they need to have the desire of a new church planter and that of a pastor. However, they go on to say that it is more complicated than church planting because you have those in the church who want to keep all of their baggage from the other pastors who have served over the past few years at a church.

So now that I have looked over the characteristics needed for ministers who desire to re-plant a dying church, I looked up and saw something incredible. About the same time, we see a large need for people to walk into dying churches, we see a massive flood of missionaries returning from the mission field. I often thought that there would come a day in my lifetime where missionaries would be called back to the states to help churches. Now, I am not claiming this is what happened. Many of our missionaries retired and felt that the lord was telling them it was time to move back to the states.

So as I continued to read about Re-planting I saw similarities in missionaries that I had worked with for years. About that time a light bulb went off. What if we placed some of these seasoned church planters in dying churches? The more I thought about this the more excited I got. If you know anything about missionaries, they never really retire. They have a large untapped wealth of knowledge when it comes to serving an unreached community. Over the next few weeks we will look at 5 different ways former missionaries can help re-plant existing churches in order to Engage A Changing American Culture, Focus On Evangelism & Discipleship, Cast A New Vision For The Church, Know How To Do More With Less, and Develop Partnerships With Volunteers.