SAN ANTONIO, Texas – At September’s Connecting Mission Leaders conference, Enock DeAssis, pastor of outreach at Bel Air Presbyterian Church, in Los Angeles, Calif., led a workshop on mission Leadership 101.
He talked about his ministry at Bel Air, and how it began – with the need to cut some of the ministries of the church. At the start of his ministry, Bel Air had 108 mission partners, he said. “There were places where we were sending money without any kind of relationship.”
He said that now, the church has 30-32 partners, and is sending 25 percent more money than it did before.
DeAssis told the church when it first began to talk about the need for cutting some mission partners that, “We need to look at Jesus as the model for our mission … so we looked at the Bible.”
Following six months of Bible study, the group discovered nine areas of Jesus ministry.
“Some like healing the sick and casting out demons; we Presbyterians are not good at that,” DeAssis quipped. So the list dropped to five, and then, following their own sense of calling to three.
- Sharing good news of Gospel
- Compassion and justice
- Leadership development, or discipleship
In one weekend, 62 partners were cut, he said. “We learned a lot about being vulnerable,” he said.
10 practices to help mission leaders
He shared with the mission leaders attending the workshop 10 things from his almost 30 years of ministry, which he hoped would help them.
“These have been the most impactful in my life and some of them, the most challenging to do in ministry,” he said. “Right now, we have one of the greatest times to do ministry in the way of Christ, than ever.”
- “Work hard,” said DeAssis. “Never lose the idea that this is God’s mission not yours … You have to work hard, but understand that you are not the Lord of the mission, but God is.”
- “Do not ignore the institutional needs as you lead a movement,” he said. DeAssis added that mission has to do with movement, and while the institution asks questions about how to preserve, movements ask how can we change, and sometimes that creates tension. “There needs to be a healthy balance between the institution and the movement,” he said. “When we think about a denomination that has sent out missionaries for 175 years, we need to pay attention.”
- “Leadership of mission is more about invitation than command,” he said. People see mission leaders as people who are passionate about Jesus. “People won’t change because you tell them to change,” he said. People want to be inspired … For you to influence someone, it is about the invitation, ‘Come with me.’”
- “Go fast forward, but not too fast,” cautioned DeAssis. He spoke of a church that supported one foreign missionary, and later increased that number to 53 missionaries. “It was too fast,” he said. The church could not sustain that level of mission support.
- “Embrace ‘glocalization.’” It’s a new term DeAssis made up that is a combination of “globalization and localization.” He encouraged mission leaders to “help your church and yourself know that God is at work in the neighborhoods of China and in the neighborhoods of our churches … Bring global passion for missions to the local level.”
- “Pay attention. Realize and make decisions as if the global church is different from what it was 20 years ago,” he said. The global church has grown, he said, but sometimes U.S. churches will work with them and look at them as if they are little brothers and sisters. DeAssis said that Bel Air has seven overseas mission partners that he tries to visit once a year. When he does visit, he shares with them Bel Air’s budget, asks them to look it over, and then shares their inputs with the finance committee of the church. “Our mission becomes their mission, and their mission becomes our mission.”
- “Real partnership requires a deep sense of accountability,” he said. “It’s a two-way street … Sometimes we don’t ask the questions we need to for fear of offending; because we are partners we can speak the truth to each other; because we are partners we can ask the questions.” It’s not only about money, he said, but about mission, theology, decision-making and sense of calling.
- “Good missiology is a result of good ecclesiology,” said DeAssis. “If the church is our base camp and we deploy people around the world, then we have to have people that value the church and serve the church.” He spends about 35 percent of this time with the local church, because, “I don’t want to be just the mission guide.” He encouraged mission leaders to be interested in other areas of the church, like discipleship or children’s ministries.
- “Keep growing, networking and learning from others. You have to have a mentor in mission work,” he said. DeAssis encouraged those in the workshop to spend a little time away from what their local churches are doing. “We get so focused on what is on our desk today, that we quit networking … In two or three years, you will be dry.”
- “Mentorship is critical,” said DeAssis. “For you to invest time with the youth of the church is critical … I’ve been doing this for years now. To see some of the young people I have mentored being involved in missions now is one of the biggest joys of my life.” It not only helps mission leaders to refine what they think, it “helps to find what we do, because they pay attention to us.”
The Connecting Mission Leaders Conference, sponsored by The Outreach Foundation, The Antioch Partners and Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship, was held Sept. 19-21 at First Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, Texas.
The event was attended by mission leaders from the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) and ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.
Carl Medearis, author of Speaking of Jesus: The art of not-evangelism and Muslims, Christians and Jesus: Gaining Understanding and Building Relationships, was the keynote speaker, and breakout sessions on various mission topics were also held.