Planting Churches is the goal of missions

The local church is central to God’s plan for ministry and missions to all nations!

Here is a simple overview of biblical principles showing the centrality of the local church in understanding its priority for the task of missions. Briefly:

  1. Those who received the Great Commission directly–the Apostles, their contemporaries, and their helpers–fulfilled the mandate by planting and organizing indigenous churches (see all the book of Acts!). They understood that the fruit of obedience to the Great Commission resulted in the establishment of new local churches everywhere.
  2. Those who received the Great Commission directly–the Apostles, their contemporaries, and their helpers–fulfilled the mandate by planting and organizing indigenous churches (see all the book of Acts!). They understood that the fruit of obedience to the Great Commission resulted in the establishment of new local churches everywhere.
  3. The vast majority of New Testament epistles were addressed to local churches or leaders of local churches. This presumes the local church to be the nexus of the practice of Christian life and maturity.
  4. Jesus’ promise to build His church (Matthew 16:18) and biblical teaching regarding church discipline (see Matthew 18:15-20, and all of 1 Corinthians) is set in the context of the local church.
  5. Jesus’ messages to “the seven churches of Asia” (Rev. 2-3) speak to the significance and centrality of local churches in the perspective of Christ, some 60 years after the giving of the Great Commission.
  6. The 50+ “one another” commands of the New Testament all refer to the dynamic relationships of Christians within a local church context.
  7. The local church in Antioch is the scriptural setting through which the Holy Spirit worked to set apart the first New Testament missionaries. Clearly, in the outlook of Paul and Barnabas, the local church is intended as the initiator, the means, and the ends of Gospel missions ministry.
  8. Paul appeals to the local church of Rome to partner with him in his pioneering aspirations for the last unreached area of the Mediterranean basin, the Iberian Peninsula, “Spain” (Romans 15:18-29). The reason behind Paul’s letter to the Philippians is to thank them for their ongoing financial support and encouragement. His relationship to that local church as a partner in his missionary ministry was a source of great joy and enablement. The relationship and accountability to his first “sending” church at Antioch is a model for all missionaries.
  9. With Apostolic authority from Christ, Paul charges his colleagues, Timothy and Titus, to organize local churches and appoint spiritually qualified leaders in them. His goal, apparently, was to see indigenous local churches as the fruit of his and their work.
  10. John appeals to a church leader, Gaius, to continue his church’s good work of lavishly loving and providing for the needs of Gospel workers. Indeed, this responsibility is described as the privilege and duty of the local church body, as partners in the truth with missionaries. (3 John 5-8)
  11. The local church validates and approves workers set apart for ministry. (Acts 13:1-3; 14:26-28; 16:1-3; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 5:22; Titus 1:5-9) Your best laboratory for developing ministry skills and experience is in and through your local church. Why is this ministry so foundational?
    • Changing geography won’t make you a missionary. A plane trip places you in an even more difficult ministry setting. You won’t magically begin doing on foreign soil what you haven’t already been doing at home.
    • Local church ministry simulates many situations you’ll encounter on the field, where things rarely go as planned. Personalities clash. You don’t get your way. You have to follow a leader, policy or direction you may not value. People you’re supposed to be leading might not value you or your leadership. And you may be expected to do things that you think are lowly and demeaning.
    • Ministry in and through the local church is a sanctifying instrument of God to make you more like Christ. Use it to develop field-essential perspectives, such as “What can I learn? What does this expose in my heart that needs God’s grace? How can I grow from this?” If this is your response to ministry experience, then you’ll be on track for missionary qualification. If, on the other hand, you’re thinking, “I hate this! There is no redeeming value in what I’m doing here!, Why can’t my leaders just recognize my superlative quality and send me out right away?”, then you’ll be on track for disqualification.

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