What is the essence of a good, biblical sending church?

First of all, I think 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 missionary, regardless of their ministry on the field, should exhibit the maturity, discernment, and character of a biblical elder. Even a single woman or a wife should exhibit character parallel to that of a biblical elder. 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.

While the local church will not likely be competent to itself 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 candidates 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, moral purity, responses to receiving and giving supervision, personal initiative 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 success of effectiveness of the candidate in the process.

So, the 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. Missions agencies do not send missionaries; local churches do. Missions is the mission of the church; and the (planting of the) church is the mission of missions.

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 supervising 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 work and plan.

A good sending church will also be prepared to provide shepherding in 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 any one of the leaders of the church, by himself, must be that representative.

  1. Has, at least, a written outline for the process of becoming a missionary sent from the church;

  2. 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. Establishes a mentor and/or Barnabas Team advocate person or group beyond the general oversight of the elders.

  4. Sets a mutually acceptable comprehensive support schedule and helps the missionary raise those funds through accountability, advocacy, and active assistance.

  5. Commits to appropriate communication and shepherding on the field.

  6. Intelligently interacts with ministry decisions and strategy on the field.

  7. Provides annual evaluation

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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