Yes, it may indeed be difficult to learn a foreign language, but one thing that English does not have is accent marks! Although English doesn’t really like to obey all the rules, English-speaking learners of other languages find those accent marks to be rather pesky. What part do they play anyway?
Those who are learning Spanish quickly discover that there are two purposes for accent marks. One purpose is to represent a deviation in the normal rules for spoken accentuation, and in so doing, the mark plays the role of showing the speaker exactly where to place the emphasis. Perhaps this purpose is frustrating for writing, but it is a perfect help for speaking the language. The second purpose of an accent mark is to change the meaning of a word. In this purpose, context is important or no difference can be discovered among spoken words. For example, the listener will hear no difference between si or sí, but the reader will see it, or it will make sense given the context clues in which the word is spoken. Thus, for this purpose, accent matters! In this case, it matters whether you intend to say “if” or “yes”, and those are pretty much opposites of each other. That accent mark really does matter!
This same truth can be applied as one considers the way in which the church does missions. Accent matters greatly! Where is it that your church puts its emphasis? Local outreach or global focus? Funding those who go or mobilizing new missionaries? Praying for unreached people groups or sustaining those who have been in reached places? The list is endless, but the church tends to put accent on something in the world of missions. The question is whether your accent really matters.
Just as accent marks may not be seen nor heard but still serve a purpose, keeping a focus in missions is a secret weapon for your church to be effective. Much as leaving an accent mark off of a word keeps it from having the correct significance, your church may be making no difference at all for lack of giving emphasis to something!
There is good news! Just as the rules for accent marks can be acquired and implemented, there are “rules” for doing missions well. Your church can tackle and tame the art of being intentional with accent on the correct activities and ministries that will truly develop an effective missions ministry. Here are a few guiding principles:
1) Make sure your church’s mission accent and emphasis follows your church’s doctrine. Just slapping the word missionary on a person no more shows that they adhere to acceptable doctrine than wearing scrubs makes someone qualified to practice medicine!
2) Make sure those tasked with leading missions in your church body are seeking involvement from others. The missions leaders are not meant to do missions on behalf of everyone, but rather, they are meant to provide opportunities for others to join in the task!
3) Fewer get more. Do you have your missions funding and support spread so thin that you are “helping” many and placing an emphasis on none? Consider the impact you could have if there was an accent mark placed on just a few!
This just scratches the surface! If you are interested in helping your church do missions life with proper accent so as to bring accent to missions life, then please consider reaching out!
Kirsten McClain serves in church missions mobilization for Propempo International and OMF. She has been serving churches and mission agencies for the last 20 years. She has a heart to see the church realize her potential in missions and is driven to be a mobilizer to this end. She lives in Georgia with her husband and three children, and she is ready to direct pastors to the various resources that Propempo uses to come alongside churches so that they can do missions well. www.propempo.com