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Less Than Half of Christians See Missions as Mandate from Christ —Barna

Research found that pastors and laypeople have different views when it comes to missionary work.

Barna, together with Mission India, published its findings on the perceptions and behavior of Christians in one of Christ’s greatest commands. The Great Disconnect: Reclaiming the Heart of the Greatest Commission in Your Church revealed that 85 percent of pastors, but 46 percent of Christians believe “missions is a mandate for all Christians.”

Barna said the 39-point gap is a profound difference. “Pastors could lean in to better understand and shape how congregants interpret missions. Does their participation mean donating money, praying, educating, evangelizing, relocating or something else?”

Matthew 28:18–20, or commonly referred to as “the Great Commission” describes Jesus’ instructions to His disciples.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

This passage is the foundation of evangelism and mission works. Among Christians who know the Great Commission, 61% of them view missions as a mandate.

It’s interesting to note that pastors and Christians don’t see eye-to-eye when it comes to missions.

Pastors and Christians also have differing views on what’s most important in mission works. Data showed that 86% of pastors say it’s more important for missions to train local leaders to spread the Gospel as opposed to missions to be short-term at 6%. Meanwhile, only 46% of Christians believe that equipping indigenous leaders is more important, and 18% for short-term missions.

Christians see addressing the needs of communities to be more important (40%) while pastors, not so much at 17%. Pastors prefer building relationships with communities at 50%, for Christians only 33%.

In addition, the study found that pastors prioritize spreading the gospel over promoting justice (77% vs. 15%). To Christians, both aspects are nearly equal in mission works (43% vs. 37).

Barna noted that Christians are more likely than pastors to be neutral on several points:

  • 35% of Christians, but 9% of pastors, are neutral on which is more important between equipping indigenous leaders and short-term missions;
  • 24% of Christians, but 17% of pastors, on transforming the health of communities in need and transforming communities in need of Christianity; and
  • 20% of Christians, but 8% of pastors, on spreading the Gospel and promoting justice.

“Some disconnects exist, but many opportunities are also present—for the Christian, the pastor and the Church,” said Barna.

In conclusion, church leaders and members differ in mission values. Barna said Christians’ neutrality on different points suggests that they lack the information and guidance needed on the subject.

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