Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions.
Welcome to Episode 26 of Missions On Point. We're beginning a series on Keys to Effectiveness as a Missionary. These can also apply to a church and even to an individual. Before we begin with the list, over the next weeks, I think I should take some time and talk about assumptions. I am going to give a list of 13 practices, or qualities, values, virtues, that are keys to effectiveness as a missionary. I've also made some assumptions that I don't want to neglect. I need to state those right up front.
Here's a set of assumptions that we all should understand before we begin in growing the qualities for effectiveness. One is strong, personal, spiritual disciplines. It's simply having regular, devotional, quiet time life, one-on-one daily life with the Word of God, and prayer before the Lord, and following through with other good, spiritual disciplines like giving and sharing the Gospel. Second is good people, or social, or team skills. A good missionary is not a lone ranger. A good missionary is not someone who loves to be by themselves and is just completely introverted. They have good people/social skills, good team skills. Thirdly is a heart for Christ and evangelism, a loving, burning passion for Christ and sharing Christ with others, sharing the Gospel with others.
Another one is a sense of call. A missionary should have this subjective, internal sense of compulsion that God really wants them to become a missionary. We don't accept people who say, "I'm a missionary. I'm called," all by themselves without checking it out in the context of the local church and qualified individuals for evaluation. However, they should have that sense of call. They should also have some cross-cultural ability. It doesn't make sense if somebody never likes any ethnic food, only American food, to send them to a foreign country where they're going to have ethnic food every day. It's not just the food, it's the culture. An ability to embrace a different point of view, a different way of looking at things, a different tradition, and appreciating and respecting that.
It also, for a married person, requires a healthy, biblical marriage. If it is a couple who are going to the field, you want them both to feel some inner compulsion to be missionaries, but you want them to have a healthy biblical marriage. Sometimes it takes a little while to figure that out, to pry beneath the hood, to get below the surface, to find out if their marriage really is a healthy, biblical marriage. They should have good health. They're going to have lots of stress that can bring on illness. If they're starting from a deficit of illness and conditions which require close medical supervision, then maybe they should be senders rather than goers.
They need to have a proper respect for authority. This is really multi-dimensional on the mission field, the authority of the team that they're on, the local group, the mission agency that's sending them, their leaders at the church, the bureaucratic political leaders of the country and the rules involved there, and our own country. When missionaries go to the field, they have never had so many bosses in their life. They need to have a proper respect for authority.
They also need to be self-starters. They need to be initiators, people who don't wait to be asked to do things, people who see something and have a goal, and take initiative to see it accomplished. They should have a godly reputation. Honestly, if missionaries start out with a terrible track record, it's going to take longer time to prove that they have a good reputation, and a track record of integrity in their lives.
All of these are the assumptions, the baseline, before you start talking about the keys to effectiveness that we're going to talk about in the next few weeks. I may remind you about these assumptions as we go through, but I wanted to state them upfront. This is the starting line. This is the beginning. This is the basis for, then, recognizing and developing keys to effectiveness.
The first key is a strong ecclesiology, a strong understanding of the local church. Let me define what I mean by that. The missionary should understand that the local church is God's primary agent of fulfilling his purposes on earth. The local church, in so many dimensions, expresses what God wants, and how God achieves what he wants through his people. We learn from the Scriptures that Christ died for the church, he loves the church, that he's concerned about local churches, that the local church is the expression of his body, the bride.
The local church is the local flock of Jesus Christ, and he is the great shepherd. The elders and pastors are the under shepherds. A strong ecclesiology means that the missionary should have a good handle on the key functions of the church with regard to fellowship, discipleship, ministry to one another, expository preaching on a regular basis as the mainstay in the example of good teaching, a strong biblical theology and understanding of the Gospel and of evangelism and how that works, the ins and outs of having a believing membership, what it takes to be in membership and out of membership. There needs to be a strong idea of biblical, qualified church leaders, and their function as elders to teach, and to guard, and to guide, the flock. The missionary needs to understand a basic definition of, "What is a local church?"
So just for the record, let me give some elements that are essential to a local church. It is a mutually committed body of local believers worshiping together, regularly, around the teaching of the Word of God and prayer, observing the ordinances of baptism and communion under the leadership of biblically qualified shepherds, while being active witnesses of the Gospel in their community and in their world.
What it is not, is a group of paid pastors and staff. It is not simply programs, or a Sunday school choir, a youth group. It's not a printed curriculum. It's not the buildings themselves. It's not offering plates, or a particular style of music, or even having electronic musical instruments. It's not a particular size of congregation or audience. It's not just the corporate worship on a Sunday morning. It's not just a mid-week prayer service. It's certainly not all the accoutrements of modernization with LCD projectors, and sound amplification, and spotlights. It's special understanding of how leadership operates with the congregation in loving and shepherding them, in guiding and teaching them, and protecting them, in looking after their souls. It is understanding that the congregation is a group of volunteers, basically, who come together to function together as a local body so that the gospel would be portrayed and proclaimed to their friends and neighbors, their coworkers, their communities, and ultimately to the nations.
It is the basic unit from which missionaries are developed and sent out according to the Scriptures. These concepts are important for any local church, and local church leaders as well. It is wise for local church leaders to both study and understand the best practices of local church in their biblical, principled context, and to explain that and continue to teach that to their congregation. We live in a society that is largely farther and farther removed from the principles of Scripture and practices that are scriptural and God honoring, with regard to the conduct, and activity, and function, of the local church. So, it behooves us all to study, and grow, and continue to grow and mature, in our understanding of how it all works.
Obviously, for an individual believer, it's important to come to grips with how important the local church is in your own personal development, in both what you contribute to the local church and what you get from the local church, so that you can develop in a well-rounded, biblical way. If we as individuals want to become more Christ-like and mature, we are going to have to change some of what we are, how we think, what we do. It takes a local church to do that.
Here are some possible shortcomings in lacking a strong ecclesiology. Many missionary candidates come, rather quickly, out of a college experience. They're recent college graduates, and they feel God's call to go into missions. They haven't really spent time in a local church. They haven't developed an appreciation for the wide variety of ministries, and interaction, and body life, of the local church. If that's the case, they're going to need to take some time to develop a strong ecclesiology.
I remember reading, recently, a couple of articles having to do with weak ecclesiology on the field, missionaries, and even team leaders of church planting teams, who are unable to give an unequivocal definition of, "What is a local church?" That's so much more the case because of modern trends for disciple making movements, or rapidly multiplying church movements in which they consider a group a church, whether or not they're believers, just because they're meeting regularly to discuss God's Word. In a number of cases, we've discovered from longer term missionaries, who go back and check on those stories, that the little groups formed are completely dissolved, and whatever statistics they accrued for their reports are evaporated.
Friends, it just takes real time to develop a genuine, biblically healthy, local church, partly because it takes time to disciple the leaders so that you have indigenous local leaders for those bodies that are mutually meeting together regularly around God's Word in prayer. That takes time to develop. It's not something that happens with an instant recipe. Believe it or not, turning to ourselves, there's lots of room for developing a strong ecclesiology in our own culture.
There are so many church leaders that are mistaken in thinking that a healthy church is just one that is adding numbers to their regular attenders. They have no concept of a regenerate membership and biblically qualified leaders. Their process and polity is not even close to what the Bible shows, and models, and teaches, as ideal for a local church. In fact, if they were to give a definition of a local church, it might differ very much from the dynamic non-building, non-paid staff oriented definition that we shared earlier.
So, local church leaders need to grow in their understanding of biblical ecclesiology. The church as a whole, the people in the church, need to understand, "What is a good ecclesiology? What is a good biblical church?" Let me tell you, if you can't find one where you are right now, you maybe need to go looking for one. There's probably one not too far away from you, but certainly you need to study to know the reasons for it, for the individual to understand body life and how God wants you to plug in to a local church and become a vital member, and how that membership helps, and encourages, and stimulates you to be growing in Christ, and growing in godliness and personal holiness, as you seek to please the Lord within the local church context.
What is the suggested remedy? Well, get into the learning mode to discover the marks of a biblically healthy church, not merely a trendy, or growing in numbers, or seeker oriented church. Read the Bible. Read The Book of Acts over and over again. Read the epistles to churches as if you were receiving it as part of the local church that it was written to. Read solid biblical works on the church, on church membership, and unhealthy church structure. It will revolutionize your outlook on your own life and work as a Christian, the local church's life and work as a church, ultimately of missions and what should be going on in the field with missionaries owning the key to effectiveness in a strong ecclesiology.
Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. I trust that you'll find more help and resources on the website, propempo.com. Please preferably consider supporting this ministry. Now, to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, forever and ever. Amen.
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