Sodality -- unusual word, important concept

Mission Briefing: Ideas that shape world mission outreach today

In the early 1500s, the Protestant Reformation burst on the European scene. Preaching salvation by grace, Protestants stressed the authority of Scripture.

However, despite the Bible's repeated calls for world evangelism, 200 years would pass before Protestantism geared up for significant foreign missionary activity. Why? How could Protestants remain disengaged from world evangelism for so long? Missiologist Ralph Winter concluded that Protestantism's world mission paralysis stemmed from its lack of sodalities promoting and supporting world evangelism.

That word, "sodality," sounds strange to most Protestants. Indeed, it is seldom used outside of Roman Catholicism. It is simply a label for a group of people committed to one particular aspect or ministry of larger organizations such as churches.

Over the years, Roman Catholic sodalities (or monastic orders) have carried on that denomination's world missions ministry. When the Protestant Reformers spurned monasticism, they did not ask, "Now, how do we Protestants reach 'every nation, tribe, people and language'?"

They should have asked that question. In the absence of groups focused on promoting and supporting world evangelism, early Protestants ignored far-away, unevangelized people groups. Reformation leaders assumed individual believers would somehow fulfill the Great Commission on their own. Sadly, as the proverbial saying goes: "What is everybody's business is nobody's business."

Eventually, Protestants like William Carey began organizing missionary societies or bands or unions as some were called to beat the drum for world evangelism. Carey's Baptist Missionary Society was not composed of celibate monks. Still, it performed the same world evangelism functions as monastic orders like the Benedictines and Franciscans. Once Protestants started forming their own missions sodalities (a.k.a. missionary societies), their global outreach mushroomed.

"Okay," you may be saying, "that's interesting. How is it relevant to Nazarene missions today?"

That's a good question. I've never heard NMI (Nazarene Missions International) referred to as a sodality. However, that's what NMI is. NMI activists are Nazarenes passionate about world evangelism who band together to promote, mobilize and support ends-of-the-earth church planting.

Sadly, sometimes NMI groups go dormant. Passion for world evangelism then tends to dissipate. People quit praying for the global harvest. Financial support for missionaries comes to feel like an onerous tax. People begin grumbling that sending people and money to evangelize the ends of the earth hurts local churches. They do not challenge children and youth to get involved in Great Commission fulfillment or to listen for God's call to missionary service.

Some will assert that all the world would be reached if every believer would just evangelize his or her own neighborhood. Sadly, churches employing that strategy usually wind up back where Protestantism was for its first 200 years: unengaged in world evangelism.

To truly obey the Great Commission, every Nazarene church needs an active NMI missions organization (which might begin with just one person!) promoting global outreach, calling the rest of the church to intercessory prayer, and recruiting and supporting global missionaries.

We do not necessarily need to remember that NMI is a sodality. The label does not matter. What does matter is that churches have a passionate small group deeply committed to getting other believers involved in world evangelism.

Discussion questions

  1. Why did Protestants not engage in significant foreign missionary activity until 200 years after the start of the Reformation
  2. What is the significance of the term "sodality" in the context of world evangelism and missionary activity?
  3. How did the formation of missionary societies or bands contribute to the growth of Protestant global outreach?
  4. How can Nazarene Missions International (NMI) be considered a sodality, and what are its functions in promoting world evangelism?
  5. What are some of the challenges that local church NMI groups may face, and what are some effective strategies to ensure their continued passion and commitment to world evangelism?


Sodality is a label for a group of highly committed individuals who band together within a larger institution or community to promote and support specific objectives or emphases. Sodalities are usually characterized by a shared passion or mission. Members of the group thus work collaboratively to achieve their common goals. These sodalities play a crucial role in mobilizing and supporting believers to engage in global outreach efforts.

Nazarene Missions International (NMI) can be considered a good example of a sodality for several reasons:

Overall, Nazarene Missions International exemplifies many characteristics of a sodality within the context of the Church of the Nazarene, serving as a dedicated organization focused on mobilizing and supporting global missions efforts worldwide.

    -- Howard Culbertson,

This mini-essay on sodalities is an article in the "Mission briefing" series published in Engage magazine.

Mobilizing churches for world evangelism

"So that all nations might believe and obey him." -- Romans 16:26

World missions: How the local church goes global

Tips for effective missions mobilization in local churches

  1. Team up with other people. You alone will not change the direction of a church.
  2. Do your praying for world evangelism in small groups, individually and as a family. [ more on prayer ]
  3. Practice what you preach. Make sure that people can look at your life and say, "He/she is sold out for God's global missionary purpose." [ more on passion ]
  4. Choose a few close friends and "disciple" or inspire, train, and mentor them as missions mobilizers. This often will be more effective than trying to mobilize the entire church by yourself. Remember the leadership principle Paul gave in 2 Timothy 2:2: "Pass on what you heard from me . . . to reliable leaders who are competent to teach others" (The Message
  5. Don't put "programs" before "changed hearts." It is only when our hearts are fully in tune with God that we can fully embrace what it is that He is embracing. [ Jonah's story ]

Missions goals for local churches: Purposes for missionary events and programs

  1. Solicit prayer support
  2. Intentional involvement of children and youth in world missions education and prayer support
  3. Have a minimum of 10% of local church income going to world evangelism
  4. Run ongoing programs of global missions education, inspiration, and mobilization (rather than one-and-done experiences)

Mobilizing: The strategic choice

Missiologist Ralph D. Winter was quoted as saying that a believer can go or send or mobilize. However, he said, if you have a choice, then choose mobilization because it will be a more strategic contribution to missions since you can mobilize ten people to go rather than just you are one person going.

"I feel I'm being led to begin a weekly missions class for the children of our church. Your website has been so helpful! I'm trying to incorporate information on different countries and cultures for the kids, and I am also seeking info on missionaries for the kids to write, to make it personal." --Paula M., West Virginia, USA

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