A COMMUNITY IN UNITY FOR WORLD EVANGELIZATION`
In recent years a number of citywide ministries have begun independently in different areas of the United States. Events such as a Concert of Prayer, a MissionsFest, and a Perspectives course, help mobilize workers and churches for world missions.
Beginning an Event God wants us to network together. A network is not another organization and it does not disturb organizational lines. Those with differing theologies can lay those aside and learn much from each other about missions. Though we may not fit together on a team overseas, we can team up for missions mobilization here!
The event should be a forum for the sharing of information. This is a place where people with missions interests come together to learn, share strengths, and look for opportunities to partner. As a network, such a ministry should not have an agenda of its own. To work properly, the organizers must be willing to sacrifice their own individual agendas to create an environment of trust and openness for others.
The visionary begins by involving those from other churches and denominations. Invite the chairpersons of Missions Committees that already exist in churches. Gather a core group of organizers. Form an Advisory Council or Board of Reference that is even broader than the core group of organizers. Select appropriate dates and a neutral site. If a church building is used, rotate each year so that everyone recognizes that the event does not belong to one particular denomination.
In Tulsa our four organizers come from four different churches and our seven advisors come from another five churches. A few months before our annual MissionsFest we invite every church to send a lay or staff representative to a breakfast meeting. During this meeting we brainstorm at round tables about possible topics for the workshops. This tailors the MissionsFest to local needs, resources and shares ownership with an even broader group. Some of those attending were amazed that an organization would ask, not just for support, but for input!
Organizing the Work Each core group organizer has a different responsibility: publicity, speakers, exhibits, finances and mailing list. Many agenda items can be handled directly between two individuals. Do not allow meetings to become long or unfocussed. Make prayer a priority. Seek to spend as much time praying together as you do discussing.
Consider raising seed money in advance as well as receiving offerings during the event. These measures allow individuals to attend for minimal cost. An advance registration discount encourages individuals to commit a week prior. This helps overcome distractions that may otherwise keep some away.
The name of your keynote speaker can open doors, if they or their organization are recognized. Regretfully, few in missions are household names. The invitation to a well-known speaker can include invitations to minister in a local church or Christian college during their visit to your city. As possible, invite one speaker who is known to charismatics and another who is known to non-charismatics.
Spreading the Word Publicity is perhaps the greatest challenge. A mass mailing to churches typically yields little response. Skip the mail box and try the front door. The local ministerial association may co-sponsor a citywide event. Look for a key pastor who will contact other pastors. Invite the pastors to a complimentary breakfast or lunch with the keynote speaker at the beginning of the event.
Never rely on just the front door. Multiple strategies are necessary. Look for back doors into churches. Unfortunately, missions is not a bread and butter issue for many Christians. But in almost every church and college someone has a vision for world missions.
How do you reach these scattered individuals? Ask each organizer, "Who has a contact in which churches?" Word of mouth is the best communication. Sometimes a church secretary will respond to a phone call and let you contact their person, lay or staff, who coordinates missions.
Pursue free publicity. Provide a bulletin insert master to churches. Prepare a press release for the religion section of your local paper and for campus newspapers. Distribute flyers in mail boxes at local Christian colleges. Place brochures in local Christian bookstores. Schedule Christian radio stations for Public Service Announcements and time on local talk shows. Ask for space on outdoor message signs at local churches and Christian schools.
God has given unprecedented opportunities to network together to reach every kindred, tongue, people and nation. May we be found faithful.
To receive or share ideas on a MissionsFest, contact John McVay. John serves as Executive Director of the Heartland MissionsFest, held each February in Tulsa, Oklahoma. At the 1995 MissionsFest some 1,400 people came from 100 churches, 12 states and nine schools to learn from 95 mission agency exhibits and 50 workshops. John is the Missions Pastor and Church Administrator of Tulsa Christian Fellowship , P.O. Box 50130, Tulsa, OK 74150, (918)587-2400, Fax (918)587-1953, Internet email@example.com.
..Churches, missions agencies and others involved in the Great Commission are invited to plan towards the next Heartland MissionsFest, February 20-22, 1997, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Those who have given their postal address to the MissionsFest office will also be sent by October a brochure and packet describing how to attend or exhibit...
C. Peter Wagner...is one of several speakers scheduled...Other confirmed speakers include missions authors Patrick Johnstone...Steve Hawthorne...Neil Pirolo...Esther Ilnisky...
..Sessions include Steps to the Field, Support-raising, Cross-cultural Communications, International Business, Medical missions and Missions Strategies. Participants can learn from 50 workshops and 100 missions agency exhibits.
The Heartland MissionsFest is coordinated by volunteers from Tulsa-area churches and ministries. Similar MissionsFests are being planned by local groups in other regions. Arkansas will have their second conference Sep. 25-29, 1996; call (501) 527-3384, Fax 501-659-8831, P.O. Box 642, Lowell, AR 72745, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The first Gateway MissionsFest will be Oct. 24-26, 1996 in St. Louis; Fax 314-721 -1092, 2500 Ashby Rd., St. Louis, MO 63114, E-mail email@example.com. Canada wil l have three Missions Fests in different cities in Feb. 1997; call 604-524-9944, Fax 604-524-4690, 7200 Cariboo Road, Burnaby, BC V3N 4A7, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. See also the file entitled "conferences" for reports on missionfests.
DO-IT-YOURSELF MOBILIZATION "FESTS" SPREADING ACROSS CANADA`
In 1983 the missions committee of Burnaby Christian Fellowship near Vancouver, British Columbia, was musing over the purchase of a curling (ice) rink that would become the church home. Someone said, "With all that space, we could hold a missions conference!" After three or four months of planning, someone said, "I wonder if other congregations would be interested in working with us? We would be able create a stronger conference if we planned together."
Eventually six churches with diverse backgrounds decided to work together to raise awareness of the needs around the world, realizing that world missions was low on the church's agenda. Church representatives decided to invite four speakers so that at least one would be a winner with everyone. One began to make international flags; someone else offered to arrange for ethnic food. No admission would be charged. Speakers such as Don Richardson were booked, and excitement grew. Just as quickly, however, roadblocks began popping up. Many agencies needed to be called three times before they would consent to come. Start-up funds were scarce. A week before the event, one speaker called to say that he couldn't leave Vietnam. Then, just as the weekend was to begin, the parents of another speaker were killed in a car accident in Ontario. The doors opened for the Friday evening showing of the movie Peace Child (based on Richardson's book of the same name), and organizers waited to see if anyone would come. Soon the MacPherson Convention Center was full. The aggregate attendance that first weekend was 3,500, and all expenses were covered.
Thus began a grass-roots, church-based missions mobilization movement called Missions Fest that is impacting growing numbers of Christians in Canada. Other "Fests" are also being held in Canada and the United States. While the different groups cooperate, they are not organizationally related. Missions Fest conferences in Vancouver are based on the same principles of local churches working together to reach out to the world. Conferences are completely outward-focused, and the two full-time and one half-time paid staff members coordinate hundreds of volunteers from sponsoring churches. The churches are in "the driver's seat," and they invite the many denominational and independent missions agencies to work beside them in providing exhibits and seminars. Missions Fest concludes with the registration of people ready to take the 16-week "Perspectives on the World Christian Movement" course, which 160 attended the first year.
Free general admission still exists, and the three to four invited speakers work "in the trenches" and speak from their own experiences and calling. At least one woman is part of this team, at least one international, and one with a strong biblical presentation. This year, an estimated aggregate of 30,700 people attended the three-day Vancouver conference in January. Youth rallies and seminars are a strong component of Missions Fest. In Vancouver, 2,500 young people crowd into the youth rallies while similar numbers attend the plenary sessions and exhibits. Students on Christian school field trips start arriving on Friday morning, and children's programs continue throughout the weekend.
This has been was a banner year for Missions Fest in Canada. Vancouver began the four-week run January 26-28, with subsequent conferences in Edmonton, Alberta, Winnipeg, Manitoba, and, for the first time, Toronto, at Peoples Church. More than 4,000 people attended the Toronto gathering from February 16-18, with about 400 signing commitment cards for further involvement. After Vancouver, each conference was a week after the previous gathering. Each was locally initiated, receiving encouragement and information from the Vancouver staff as needed...
Richard Dodding is the chief executive officer and one of the founding directors of Missions Fest in Vancouver, Canada. He can be reached for more information by calling (604) 524-9944 or e-mailing email@example.com.