By Nathan A. Finn
Dean, School Of Theology & Missions, Union University
As Baptists, we believe that “ground zero” for the Great Commission’s advance is the local church. Ministries, kingdom-minded institutions, and even denominations come and go over time, but the local church will endure until Jesus returns. As such, we argue that being the pastor of a local church is the most strategic ministry role in the kingdom. But it’s not the only strategic role. Aside from local church pastors, I’m increasingly convinced that directors of missions (DOMs) are the most strategic kingdom servants in Baptist life.
Over the years, I’ve met many dozens of DOMs, from several different states, serving in a variety of ministry contexts. I’ve met many of our Tennessee DOMs since moving to Jackson in July 2015. Some serve in diverse metropolitan areas with churches of every shape and size and numerous people groups who need to be reached. Others serve in a rural context with mostly small churches spread out over several counties. Many serve in a setting somewhere in between these two poles. All of them are on the frontlines of gospel advance in their respective regions.
In our polity, DOMs are closer to the churches than most state convention leaders and almost all national denominational servants. They have their “ear to the ground” when it comes to the hopes, aspirations, struggles, and triumphs among the churches in their region. They help guide churches through seasons of transition and even controversy. They are key resources for new pastors who move into an area. They are kingdom networkers who connect like-minded pastors and other ministry leaders to each other. They are often seasoned ministers who help mentor younger pastors who are still “learning the ropes” of pastoral ministry.
Not too long ago, we used to call directors of missions “associational missionaries,” a name that captures the position at its best. DOMs are strategists for regional evangelism, discipleship, church revitalization, and church planting initiatives. They equip, encourage, and mobilize churches to live out Acts 1:8 by witnessing to Christ in their version of Jerusalem, their Judea and Samaria (Tennessee!), and to the ends of the earth. They are soul winners, disciple makers, biblical counselors, and prayer warriors who spend their lives helping churches “own” the Great Commission as their mission. And like any good servant, most DOMs “fly under the radar,” making much of the churches rather than drawing attention to themselves.
As Tennessee Baptists, we’ve adopted five objectives related to our kingdom work in our state and beyond, all of which we hope and pray are realized by 2024. We want to see at least 50,000 Tennesseans annually saved, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship. We hope for at least 500 Tennessee Baptist churches revitalized, thriving spiritually and missionally. We want to plant at least 1,000 new churches in harvest fields and among unreached people groups in our state. We long for our churches to give 10 percent through the Cooperative Program to support the Great Commission work of Tennessee Baptists and all Southern Baptists. We hope the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions reaches $3 million annually. Directors of missions will play a key role in helping all our churches to play their part in reaching these goals.
If you are a pastor or other ministry leader, take a moment today and pray for your director of missions. Write him a note and thank him for the work he is doing. Be an encouragement to him as he encourages others. Your DOM is a strategic servant who is laboring for the health of the churches and the advance of the gospel all over Tennessee and to the uttermost parts of the earth.