What are the Qualifications of a Sending Church?

How can we be a good missionary sending church?

First of all, it’s important that a prospective sending church understand their role in raising up, equipping, and preparing a missionary from their midst to go out to the field. The church should exercise the same diligence and care as if they were training and installing someone to become a full-time staff member among the leadership in the church.

Michael Griffiths writes, “The most that an individual can do is express his willingness. Others must determine his worthiness. The individual may be free to go, but only his church knows if he is really fitted to go.” Good biblical examples of this are their respective local churches sending Paul and Barnabas and Timothy.

The church assures and verifies the qualifications of their missionary candidate for the prospective field ministry. The missionary, regardless of the type of ministry they anticipate on the field, should exhibit the maturity, discernment, and character of a biblical elder. Even a single woman or a wife should exhibit godly character and maturity in a similar way. Such screening and recognition can only occur with close relationship, proximity, and observation of the candidate both in the local church ministry setting, in their family, and in the community. It can only happen over a period of time with sufficient probing in an atmosphere of love and concern.

The church may use appropriate delegation of training. While the local church will not likely be competent in and of itself to provide all the training required for missionary preparation, the local church leadership should be directly involved in guiding, monitoring, and selecting the best reasonably available resources for the candidate’s preparation. This is a matter of wise delegation and management of the individuals training. Pre-field training should include attention to biblical, doctrinal, cultural, linguistic, methodological, strategic, medical, educational, security, supervision, and various other practical concerns.

During the period of time from initial consideration for missionary service through to commissioning and launch, the elders of the sending church should be involved and informed regarding the progress and development of their candidate. In addition, there should be mature mentoring and personal encouragement support through someone delegated from the congregation and/or a “Barnabas team” of people especially concerned for the successful completion of the process of the long-term effectiveness of the candidate in the process.

So, the would-be sending church is involved from the very beginning of the candidate’s consideration for missionary service. The church should be involved in the selection of a field, as well as the specific perspective ministry, and the partnering mission agency (if one is to be used). The local church should not assume that any other entity, namely school or agency, is responsible for validating the worthiness, fitness, and preparedness of their candidate. The missionary is, after all, essentially an extension staff of the church and fully represents the church on the field.

The local church must also be prepared to assist their prospective missionary in the process of raising support. This includes activity and advocacy on behalf of their missionary from determining readiness for beginning the process of support raising to its completion and ongoing support raising needs. If the local churches directly supervises their missionary, there must also be a mutually accepted and objective means of determining a standard for the level of support, benefits, and all ancillary expense categories connected with service on the field. “Living by faith” or “going out by faith” does not mean foolish presumption or thoughtless failure to plan.

A good sending church will also be prepared to provide shepherding and ministry supervision from a distance. Generally, it would be expected that some representative from the local church would visit their missionary on the field at least every two years. This is part of the cost of being a good sending church. It does not mean that the senior pastor must be that representative. It does not even mean that one of the leaders of the church must be that representative. It means that the church will select and/or appropriate someone who will adequately represent the church in visiting the missionary on the field, providing shepherding and accountability there, and returning a discerning report to the church leadership upon their return from the field visit.

Qualifications of a Sending Church 2

Here are some suggested standards:

  1. The sending church has a written outline for the process of becoming a missionary sent from the church.

  2. The sending church understands and accepts the obligation of the church to guide and manage the development of their missionary in: character, ministry competency (including language and cultural acquisition and adjustment), doctrinal integrity, and direction/allocation on the field.

  3. The sending church establishes a mentor and/or Barnabas Team advocate person or group beyond the general oversight of the elders.

  4. The sending church sets a mutually-acceptable comprehensive support schedule and helps the missionary raise those funds through accountability, advocacy, and active assistance.

  5. The sending church commits to appropriate communication and shepherding on the field.

  6. The sending church intelligently interacts with ministry decisions and strategy on the field.

  7. The sending church either elicits or otherwise provides an annual evaluation of the field missionary, their ministry, family, and working relationships.

Now, if this list seems daunting, that is a good thing. Too often local churches underestimate the complexity and difficulty of functioning as a good sending church with such a depth of relationship to their field missionary and their ministry. However, there are many good resources to help the church fulfill their function and role. There are many ways and means for equipping and training prospective missionaries, including exposure to culture and language learning, practical and experiential courses, both formal and informal academic training.

Propempo International can train and advise your church in the process and the choices along the way.

When the church has met the requirements above and their prospective missionary has fulfilled whatever training and qualifications necessary to be sent by their church, application can be made to the mission support agency for consideration of the candidate for membership as an appointed missionary.

David C. Meade

David is the founder and General Director of Propempo International. He has over forty years' experience in church planting, pioneering field ministry among UPGs, and leadership both on the field and in non-profit organizations. He is local-church-oriented, serving as missions pastor/elder for over twenty years. He loves teaching and mentoring church leaders and missionaries preparing for service in the tough places of the world.

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