Unsplash: Fikri Rasyid

On a Missions Mission

By Megan Fowler, Sep 7, 2021

Mission to the World recently asked its global field directors and team leaders a series of questions about their hopes and dreams for ministry: If you had unlimited resources, where could you expand your ministry? How many people would you need for a successful ministry expansion?

The MTW leaders responded with their dreams of where they would love to see new churches established and what it would take to make them a reality. Two things hold them back: money and manpower. Not only does MTW not have the missionaries it needs to expand; it lacks new missionaries to replace those who are retiring.

As a result MTW set an ambitious goal to plant 486 churches, including churches in 192 new cities and 63 new countries. Of those churches, it hopes to plant among 39 unreached or unengaged peoples. It also hopes to establish 29 new campus ministries. All in 10 years.

The person charged with bringing in the human capital needed is Mark Bates, who joined the MTW staff March 1 after years as senior pastor of Village Seven Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Bates is now MTW’s senior director of U.S. Operations.

Having served for years on the Committee on Mission to the World, including as committee chairman, Bates has a deep passion for MTW’s work. When the former director of U.S. operations recently stepped down, MTW Coordinator Lloyd Kim developed a profile of the ideal candidate to oversee MTW’s mobilization efforts, marketing and communication, events, candidate departments, and regional hubs — essentially serving as the outward face of MTW to the denomination.

“As I thought about who had these unique characteristics, the first person who came to mind was Mark Bates,” Kim said.

Having served for years on the Committee on Mission to the World, including as committee chairman, Bates has a deep passion for MTW’s work.

At age 59, Bates understands both sides MTW’s problem. He’s a baby boomer whose peers are nearing the end of their full-time ministries. He also sees that MTW doesn’t have a deep bench. But Bates’ love for missions coupled with the extensive network he’s built during 33 years in ministry give him a platform and resources to help fill the ministry’s needs.

As of 2020, MTW had 619 long-term missionaries in 102 countries, 248 interns and short-term missionaries (almost one-tenth of the 2019 level due to the COVID-19 pandemic), and 822 indigenous church-planting partners. In the past 10 years, more than 100 MTW missionaries have retired. As of 2021, MTW had 91 long-term missionaries over age 60, meaning they will likely retire in the next 10-15 years.

“We do see a large group of older missionaries nearing retirement age, but it is difficult to know when they will decide to retire as retirement age keeps getting older,” Kim said.

At the same time that seasoned missionaries are thinking about retiring, fewer young missionaries are coming to the field to replace them. This gap stems, in part, from a de-emphasis on foreign missions setting in at seminaries and churches.

As younger generations become more ethnically diverse, they have different opinions on the history of missionary work. When Barna Group researchers asked engaged, churchgoing Christians about their feelings toward overseas mission work, 38% of Christians age 18-35 agreed that in the past mission work has been “unethical,” compared with 22% of adults over 35. Christians age 18-35 are also more likely than Christians over 35 to believe missionary work has been tainted by its association with colonialism (41% vs. 28%).

Other missionary experts believe the church has diluted the call of foreign missions by equating mission work with all of life. “Though well-intentioned, the view that everything is missions and every follower of Christ is a missionary comes with significant and unintended mission-impacting consequences,” Jeff Jackson wrote in a 2019 piece for Mission Frontiers. Jackson believes when churches talk about all of life as mission work, it can diminish the significance of the Great Commission and going to all the peoples on earth with the gospel.

International missions has always played a role in Bates’ pastoral ministry. When he was planting University Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Florida, his congregation included missionaries with Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ in the U.S.) and Wycliffe Bible Translators. Later at Village Seven, Bates pastored missionaries with The Navigators. Because of his personal knowledge of missionaries within the PCA and without, Bates is particularly worried about the trends in world missions.

“We’re not seeing the younger generation as excited about world missions as the older generation,” he said. The lagging enthusiasm has Bates worried.

“One of the challenges we have is putting global missions back into the forefront of many seminaries, pastors, church leaders, and congregants’ minds. It seems there has been a slow de-emphasis in global missions in the last several years,” Kim said.

But getting opportunities to share MTW’s vision and exhort young Christians to step out in faith and join the mission field requires a depth of connections and access to the pulpit. As a pastor, Bates has both. Though he hasn’t formed a detailed strategy yet, he’s up to the task.

He’s ready to pass off senior pastor leadership, too. Though Bates has loved his years in pastoral ministry, he readily admits that serving as senior pastor of a 1,600-member church such as Village Seven is demanding. As he approaches 60, he no longer wishes to keep up that pace of life and welcomes the chance to hand off pastoral leadership to the next generation and embrace a different, though still active, ministry with MTW.

“There are a bunch of people who can do the job that I’m doing at Village Seven. We’re blessed with excellent preachers in the PCA,” he said.

And so Bates will pass the baton to a younger leader at Village Seven and go seek younger leaders to whom MTW can pass the baton, too.

This article first appeared on and is reposted with permission.

Please login to continue
Forgot your password?
Recover it here.
Don't have an account?
Create an Account
Sign Up for Free
Choose Password
Confirm Password


On Mission Leadership Summit | October 31–Nov 1
Youth Ministry Leaders
Member Care Coordinator: Americas

5 Ways to Care for Missionaries During Home Ministry Assignment

HMA can be a stressful time as missionaries uproot their lives and ministry. But it also gives the church an opportunity to care for them.


A Parish Church Model in Thailand (VIDEO)

Trey was drawn to a ministry style where he could take his kids on walks and more easily get to know people in the community.


Anxious About Support Raising? Remember These 5 Things

Don’t let the fear of raising support keep you from pursuing a call to missions. It may not be easy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good.


Pray for church-planting work to increase and bear much fruit in strategic cities around the world that are filling with diverse international populations.

Pray for a small group men's study in the Middle East as men seek to learn truth Scripture while wrestling with the realities of what ISIS has taken from them.

Give thanks for the church leaders that God has been raising up in Bogota, Colombia. Pray that this growth will continue. 

Pray for the victims of the devastating earthquake in Nepal, and for MTW as we determine how best to respond. Pray for our national partners pastoring churches there.

Pray for eradication of the Ebola virus in West Africa. Pray that those living in the region would continue to follow health protocols even as the spread of the virus diminishes.

Pray for the young men and women who are enslaved in the sex industry in Cambodia. Pray also for the ministries we partner with who are helping victims find freedom.

Pray for the safety of believers in Ukraine. Pray for God to use the crisis to strengthen their faith and bring more Ukrainians to Christ.

Please pray for MTW's coordinator Lloyd Kim and his family. Pray for godly wisdom as he leads MTW forward.

Pray that churches would care well for missionaries on home ministry assignment, and that missionaries would tangibly feel God's love. 

Pray for a new parish-style church in Bangkok, Thailand, where the missionaries and church members are able to live in close proximity to one another and more easily minister to the community around them. 


Good news in your inbox, once per week.