“Most Bibles have several maps in the back. If you spent a lot of time in church services, you discovered those maps. When maps are included in the Bible, usually one or more of them trace Paul’s missionary journeys. Paul’s work was not just traveling from place to place. Paul traveled from people to people.
So how did Paul decide where to go and do his “mission work”? Paul’s choice to go was not random or accidental. Could he have gone anywhere he wanted to go? People are people, right? God is not willing for any of them to perish, right? There was nothing random about where Paul, the missionary, chose to do his work for God.
Every church is filled with people who are called to ministry (1 Peter 4:10) and sent on mission (John 20:21). Transformational Churches empower and release people to live on mission, with a missionary mentality, where they are right now – at the right time, following God’s activity and obeying His assignment.
Acts 16:6-10 gives us a snapshot of Paul in action, choosing (or actually being sent) to a specific place: “They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia and were prevented by the Holy Spirit from speaking the message in the province of Asia. When they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, bypassing Mysia, they came down to Troas. During the night a vision appeared to Paul: a Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, ‘Cross over to Macedonia and help us.’ After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to evangelize them.” Paul’s choices were not random. Paul was a mission-minded man sent by our missionary God. There were three important factors behind where Paul went and ministered:
1. Time: Paul’s choice to go to Macedonia included another choice we seldom consider. It was a choice against going to Phyrygia. The Holy Spirit prevented Paul from going there. Paul had a limited amount of hours, days, months, and years. He needed to invest in the right places. He could not go everywhere at once. The assignment of God’s calling is critical to the Transformational Church leader. Transformational Churches understand that they must seize the time afforded to them in the community God has placed and given to them.
2. God’s Activity: God is already at work ahead of where He has called you. The vision Paul experienced of a receptive man from Macedonia was significant detail. God was at work preparing people for a church plant in Philippi. He was at work in the heart of a wealthy business woman named Lydia. He was preparing a demonized girl to experience freedom from bondage. He was even working in the life of a middle-class security guard (the Philippian jailor) preparing him to receive new life. To say no to Macedonia would have been to miss the incredible work of God for people who were hungry for more.
God lead Paul to say no to the right places. Where you pastor or plant a church matters to God because the people there matter to God. Your first calling is to the people of the place of God’s activity. He calls you to a people first, not to do the thing you do. The missionary mentality perceives how God is working in the people He assigned a church to live among.
3. God’s Assignment: God calls every believer to be on mission and an ambassador for Him. The what is settled. The variables are: Where? When? How? God’s assignment can be difficult and involves risk. Paul’s willingness to respond to the Macedonian call resulted in jail time. Paul never confused the Macedonia assignment with a promise of prosperity and success. He was clearly given an assignment and chose to obey. There was a place and a time where God wanted Paul to go and do something. Why? God assigned Paul to Macedonia because there were specific people in whom God was working and for whom He had a greater plan.
Paul is a great example of passion for God’s work. He spoke about the Philippians in these terms, “It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and establishment of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I deeply miss all of you with the affection of Jesus Christ (Phil 1:7-8). The missionary mentality demands a passion for God’s work because it is among a needy people.
A missionary mindset is focused more on geographic terms versus methodological terms. Evangelism, church planting, preaching, and discipling in Transformational Churches are a given. Adjusting their work to the community becomes natural.”