Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. Welcome to episode 25 of Missions on Point. This is the introductory episode to a lengthy series about keys to effectiveness as a missionary. I get lots of questions from churches and sometimes mission agencies as well as wannabe missionaries, that is missionary candidates or missionaries in training, about what makes an effective missionary. I want to say in this series that we're going to cover 13 keys to effectiveness as a missionary. This series is about qualities and practices of effective missionaries. There is a sense in which these same qualities and practices would apply to US-based ministry staff or even to local churches as a whole unit or even to individual believers who want to be mature and effective in their Christian life and ministry. So I trust that as we look at some of the keys and defining those will also contrast shortcomings, why that is a problem, and suggested remedies.
How do you build or accrue or aspire to having those qualities and practices that would make you effective as a missionary. There is also a sense that this list, if you will, could be used for evaluating possible missionary candidates and encouraging them to stick with their preparation until they exhibit these qualities in an observable way. It's also a way for evaluating the ministry of a missionary on the field when you go to visit or when they come to visit you, looking at these qualities as a marker of effectiveness for long-term ministry. We'll spend more time talking about the keys to effectiveness as a missionary as we go week by week, but here is the list I'm working from. It's not in any particular order, but these are the ones that I would like to talk to you about.
Number one, a strong ecclesiology, a strong understanding of the church from biblical principles. It seems incredible to me that so many young missionary candidates want to go to the field to plant churches among unreached people groups without ever having solid church ministry experience themselves and not knowing about the real nitty-gritty of how church leadership works over time. These are the people that your church is entrusting to plant churches and develop sound, biblically qualified church leaders in a foreign culture. How can they do that if they don't understand ecclesiology right here?
Number two, a clear biblical vision for the ministry. What I mean by this is a vision that is informed from biblical principles, not merely pragmatism. We're not trying to plant churches and duplicate ministry overseas that's exactly like what it is at home. We're trying to have a vision for ministry that is contextualized to them using biblical principles. Number three, simple priorities. What I mean by this is keeping it simple and refusing to be distracted by the inevitable fads and man-centered trends that come around on the mission field. So many times, missionaries may be misguided in mixing up means versus ends. Know what the end result is and keep the main steps between here and the end result simple.
Number four, knowing the target audience. For the missionary, this is primarily knowing the language well and knowing the culture. For the church, it's knowing the sheep. Number five, theological discernment. On the field, this means having enough theological depth and understanding the structure of theology in such a way as to be able to discern whether practices on the field are actually sinful or just cultural and personal preference things. It also is being able to see behind the veil, if you will, of some practices to what their theological roots are and address them biblically. Number six, Bible knowledge. This seems like a no-brainer, but you don't know how many missionaries arrive on the field without having a sufficient Bible knowledge to know which parts of scripture to apply or to go to find the principles to apply, because they just don't have Bible knowledge. You're in trouble if the missionary has to look at the table of contents to find a book of the Bible.
Number seven, value for indigeneity. The raising up of indigenous that is local or national leaders for the Christian community is essential for missionary effectiveness. The broader term is discipleship. Missionaries and church leaders and individual Christians should be making disciples intentionally, which requires some thought and care. Number eight, a future vision. This speaks to not only planting a healthy church, but seeing that church plant other churches and have a vision for the long-term future of being a missionary sending church or a reproducing local church. It's kind of curious how missionaries, when they come home are expected to preach missions, but when they're on the mission field somehow neglect preaching that topic.
Number nine, reproducible methodology. This is an important missiological key to effectiveness so that the local believers can actually reproduce the materials, the curriculum, the teaching, the training, the style of presenting biblical truth and applying it in their lives. So many times Western missionaries take Western methodology into the field and it's just not accessible or affordable or easy for the locals to adopt. Number 10, authority of scripture over man. With this point, I just commend the practice of the missionary pointing converts to the authority and sufficiency of scripture rather than giving their own opinion or interpretation as the final word of truth. Number 11, the practice and priority of prayer. Everyone concedes that prayer is very important and necessary as part of the ministry, few actually do it.
Number 12, stamina or durability. While most missionaries go to the field thinking that long term is desirable and maybe their end goal, too often they get so discouraged with the tribulations and problems and even suffering of the here and now that they don't stick with it. They have to have a significant heart commitment to longevity. Longevity even has its own value on the field, so we can say a key to effectiveness is stamina and durability. And the last one, number 13, the priority of biblical teaching. That is a ministry that focuses on teaching the word of God, not just popular or man-centered series or a better life versus a holy life as defined in the scriptures.
We'll wrap up at the end with the summary of these things, so I trust that you will stay with us. Buckle your seat belts, it's going to be an exciting journey. Before I launch into the keys to effectiveness, I just want to say, who am I to prescribe remedies for the shortcomings of fellow believers? We are going to talk about shortcomings of the practice of each of these keys and then remedies. I fall short in so many ways myself. I remember reading just about every book on humility or on prayer starting with a preface or introduction by the author saying that they feel extremely weak themselves when it comes to those areas.
Maybe I should have a 15-week series of key qualities and overcoming my own shortcomings. Yet, I do think that these common keys, the shortcomings and the remedies as I see it need to be stated. I feel this partly because you never hear anyone else doing it. There are so many people out there that give undeserved accolades to people who want to become missionaries and never really sit down with them and critically think about do they have the strengths and the priorities and values and qualities to make a good missionary? What can we do before they leave for the field to help them acquire those kinds of qualities and practices? Missionaries often receive a pass on thoughtful scrutiny and evaluation. Missionaries are regarded with an aura. Yet, while the facade wears thin on the field and onlookers begin to see gaping holes over time, we must not ignore or cover up the shortcomings.
Welcome the reality. Reality always wins. I do want to talk about the positive side of the keys and try to figure out a little bit of a pathway toward helping missionary candidates in particular, but even missionaries on the field acquire and build in these qualities for greater long-term effectiveness for the glory of God. In the big picture, we want to minimize missionary attrition and maximize missionary effectiveness. So many times when a couple or a family returned from the field permanently, one of the first questions that is asked is, is this preventable? And what might we have done to prevent it? In the rough and tumble of real life and high stress on the field, it's impossible to know exactly what might have been prevented after it's done. However, there is a sense in which if we know what the keys to effectiveness are, we can build that into our experience, our curriculum, our mentoring, our discipleship, in such a way as to fill in the gaps where there is something missing, or lacking, or needing, reinforcing.
I know this episode seems like just a list. However, I want to encourage you to listen to the series because not only will it help us understand missionaries and their effectiveness or lack thereof, it should also help our churches to be more effective and ourselves. You and I can grow in every one of these areas and be more effective as a Christian, so please tune in. Please subscribe. Please listen. Let's grow together. 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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