Extending ministries

Engaging Hearts

How one senior pastor leads greater involvement in missions

For four years now, Andover, Minn., has experienced a direct link to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That connection has been fostered by the believers of Constance Evangelical Free Church, with their senior pastor encouraging this relationship. We spoke with Pastor Randy Discher about Constance EFC's connection with ReachGlobal, other U.S. churches and the Evangelical Free Church of the DRC.

Why did you go? Surely your commitments as a senior pastor keep you plenty busy enough at home.

I do have plenty of commitments, and it is easy to get comfortable and be a homebody. And let's be honest, being part of missions trips and what God is doing globally takes a lot of time and effort.

Once we landed in Bangui, Central African Republic, we all knew that we were in a developing country. When we crossed the border into the Congo, we entered the second-poorest country in the world*, where we had little electricity or running water.

Yes, it would be easier to stay at home and focus solely on my commitments as senior pastor. But being part of what God is doing in the lives of people in other countries is also part of my calling. It's important for my heart to be stretched. It challenges me to become more dependent on God. When I communicate this from the pulpit, the hearts of others are somehow stretched through my experience as well.

What motivated you to go a second time when you could just let others do it?

Once you have connections and personal relationships, you want to see what God is doing in people's lives. And it's important to remember that this relationship is not one-sided. As partners we can do something we couldn't do on our own.

Together with consortium churches, we had provided a well-drilling machine that had taken more than three years to get to its destination. So in January, a well-drilling training team went to Congo, and our Constance team joined them to see the first wells being drilled. I'm so glad I didn't miss that moment.

Some churches start on the road with a consortium for a while, then drop off the map. Often it's because they don't truly have the backing of their senior pastor. Do you agree?

Anything that's not on the front burner in a church will fall off. Church leadership has to determine what its priorities are, so that they become reality. To me, missions outside of yourself is a priority, whether it's in your backyard, in the region or internationally. You get behind God's kingdom anywhere, and that enlarges your church.

What would you say to other church leaders who might be thinking,"I just leave the missions stuff to our missions team."

I really encourage pastors to go, but not just randomly, to get emotionally charged up. I encourage them to get connected with a ministry or location and put a plan together, so that their ministry can produce good kingdom fruit.

A pastor can't always go, but he always has to support the work of his missions teams. He always has to find ways to have his heart connected and enlarged through missions.

Why wouldn't pastors back missions?

Maybe the pastor feels that he doesn't have a big staff and if he's gone that the church will suffer. Maybe he hasn't built a foundation so that his church has a vision for missions.

As churches get bigger, pastors can become inward-focused on programs and buildings. In all honesty, a lot of pastors would never say this, but they think that the money given toward missions will take away from their local ministry.

The exact opposite is true. Put a program and structure in place so that your church's heart can be enlarged, and then wholeheartedly support and pursue that vision. Stand up and tell people, "Give to this. Give yourself away. God will take care of us if we are faithful to Him."

As leaders we must consistently communicate the importance of our involvement in global partnerships. If we don't, our congregations will think they are optional add-ons to an already busy church life.

Our involvement in the Congo has brought energy, life and an enlarged heart to our church. It's exciting to see the heart of our congregation unified around the work that God is doing in the Congo. And we're excited to see how God is going to continue to work there and in our lives as well.

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