If you want to get fired up about how a local church can develop a culture of sending its members on mission, go read the Gospel Coalition’s profile of Summit Church. Titled How One Baptist Church Has Seven Times More Missionaries Than Anyone Else, Sarah Zylstra details the history of Summit: From a church plant, to quickly growing, to plateaued & declining, and then to revitalization and exponential growth, the focus isn’t on the numbers attending the church but the pipeline of leaders and workers going out to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. In the 17 years since the church called J.D. Greear as senior pastor, the church has been on an amazing journey.
Some of the highlights:
- Middle school students encouraged to do a short-term, domestic mission trip with their families.
- Early high school students encouraged to go on a mission trip “somewhere in the Americas”.
- About 10% of their high school seniors will spend 3 weeks living overseas with missionaries.
- College students asked to give one full summer to missions.
- Summit has planted 40 churches in the U.S. and over 200 overseas whose combined attendance (10,171) now eclipses Summit’s own attendance (9,973).
- The number of IMB missionaries serving from Summit is 7 times higher than the next-highest SBC church.
- Summit spends 17% of its budget on missions.
- Every month they commission the next group being sent. Every month.
- Services end with pastors giving the charge: “Summit, You are sent.”
Even reading about this culture that’s been intentionally developed gets my mind thinking about how our church can be more involved, orienting our church and members toward a mindset and lifestyle like this. Summit’s sending pastor, Todd Unzicker, is quoted throughout the piece:
‘About 48 percent of our people doing local outreach ministry have been on a one-week international trip,’ Unzicker said. ‘The people who tithe the most, who are involved in small groups, who are involved in their local community—it all came back to one thing. They’d been on a short-term trip.’
Unzicker and J.D. Greear work together weekly to make sure at least one church planter or missionary is highlighted in Summit’s service. J.D. served himself with the IMB before becoming Summit’s pastor, and says he never felt called off of the mission field, just to a different role:
‘When God directed me to pastor this church, he never relinquished my call to the mission field,’ Greear said. ‘He showed me I was supposed to reach the nations by mobilizing the American church.’
Make sure to head over to The Gospel Coalition’s website and read about the work that God’s doing in the Raleigh/Durham area and across the world through Summit.