Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. Today we're gonna start a new series on the role of the local church and missions and the role of the sending agency.
The Local Church Owns the Great Commission
First of all, we'll deal with the role of the local church in missions, and I wanna tell you that the local church owns the Great Commission. There are plenty of parachurch mission leaders who have claimed to own the Great Commission in some way, or individuals feel like they have been called in a special way without any validation that they have been assigned to have some responsibility in the Great Commission. But as we've seen from scripture already in earlier episodes, the local church is central and there are some really good biblical and practical reasons for that. The first is that the local church equips missions. Church leaders are charged, and Ephesians four, "to equip the body for the work of service" or the work of ministry.
We also see in the pastoral epistles that it's the local church that validates and installs someone into ministry leadership. Certainly, missionaries comprise a group that is ministry leadership in a specialized way. Just because someone says that they're called to missionary ministry and yet may not have been tested or validated by experience and godly Christians around them doesn't mean that they should be sent into the cross-cultural ministry of unreached people groups. They may lack a lot of preparation and skill. The local church is the laboratory for equipping them in those skills and for testing them and guiding them and helping them become competent and qualifying. The local church validates the missionary call. No one who steps up and says, I think God's called me to preach, is given the pulpit the next week and say, go for it. There is a lot of training, both academic and practical as well as character and values or virtues, which distinguish someone from being a truly called pastor or shepherd of a local church flock.
The local church is the laboratory for equipping them in those skills and for testing them and guiding them and helping them become competent and qualifying.
And the same should be true of missionaries. Missionaries are no less qualified than pastors in terms of their individual character and the skills and the convictions that they have to have for ministry. And the best place to do that is in the context of the local church where people know them very, very well. People see them day to day, week to week, month to month and year to year, exercising their gifts and calling in ways that demonstrate that God's hand is on them in a special way for ministry. So the local church validates the call. I say from Ephesians three that you have to have that internal compulsion. I think God's called me, I'm urged to go, I feel this compulsion that I must go to the mission field, but it is also validated by the body of Christ that's observing you and seeing if that's really true.
The local church partners with other churches and sending agencies
The local church partners in mission with other churches and sending agencies in sending the missionary. Most often missionaries are not sent from a local church, 100%. There are others that participate, and the local church that is their sending church partners with other sending churches, and usually with a missionary sending agency to the special field or special ministry or special area of service for that particular missionary. The local church shepherds the missionary. This is a really big deal on the field. The missionaries who receive attention from their sending church and love in such a way that their needs are met even beyond the financial needs and the unseen prayer needs and partnership, but in very practical ways, the missionaries that receive that kind of love and support and shepherding from their church are the envy of all the other missionaries on the field. I've seen it time and time again.
Missionaries can wither and inside, emotionally, psychologically, even spiritually die on the field without the special care and nurture and shepherding of a sound local church taking responsibility for that. The local church guides decisions on the field so that the missionary doesn't kind of go wonky and go off doing something or be involved in something that is a huge distraction to the ministry. I've seen many missionaries on the field that get hugely distracted because they don't have a wise godly counselor like a local church saying, you know, need to stick with the primary stuff, stick with the priorities, and do that. The local church guides those decisions and helps them with discernment, discerning what is cultural and what may be, or what things in their own life they need to change in order to be most effective in field ministry, and really only the local church that is their loving, caring, shepherding, sending church has the platform both in relational foundations and the inside knowledge to know how that works.
They know the personality of the missionary, the local church ends up being the result of field ministry. We've talked about this biblically with respect to how the local church develops out of the obedience to the Great Commission. But it is a natural result. When you win nationals, the target population to the Lord, and you disciple them and grow local leaders, and you teach them regularly and you fulfill the ordinances of the church with them in terms of baptism in the Lord's table, then what you have is a church that naturally develops and the special relationship of the home sending church, partnering with that missionary and the local indigenous national church that develops is very special, and that's what needs to take place. What happens if the missionary needs to go home permanently for whatever reason, it's the national church that then carries on because they have the ongoing spiritual momentum, the indigenous leaders, the structure of a church to continue in fellowship in teaching, in evangelism for their own community.
it's the national church that then carries on because they have the ongoing spiritual momentum, the indigenous leaders, the structure of a church to continue in fellowship in teaching, in evangelism for their own community.
A Special Role
So it's a local church that's a result of field ministry, and therefore the local church from the homeside has a very special role in that process, guiding, developing, and then partnering and fellowshiping with the field church. The local church has a special role in encouraging the field team, even if it's not just their missionary, just their people that are working on a team overseas. They have a special role in modeling the kind of fellowship and one anothers with their missionary and that missionary's team in such a way to have an impact on embracing and helping the whole team to be effective long term in serving together and doing the work of missions together, the local church provides hospitality and some sense of restoration to the missionary when they come home on home assignment. This is very true in third John, where it's mentioned, this kind of lavish hospitality and serving them and taking care of them.
It's also true in Romans 15 where Paul expected that the church in Rome would take care of him and restore his soul as it were, maybe even restore his health and strength to go out again into the new area of Spain. It's certainly true in the whole book of Philippians. Philippians is written kind of as a prayer letter of thanking them for the partnership in funding and encouragement that they had had for a long period of time with Paul. And Paul is saying that they had a very special role in providing for him and warmly in a relational way, restoring him, encouraging him, and helping him to continue on in the work of ministry because of their role.
they had a very special role in providing for him and warmly in a relational way, restoring him, encouraging him, and helping him to continue on in the work of ministry because of their role.
The local church also helps those who come back from the field and they stay home, they don't return. This reentry time is a time which is critical in the life of a Christian and his family, and it's important for the local church to step up and take care of them, to help them reintegrate into American culture, into church life, into a job, perhaps housing, transportation, communication through internet, cell phone, schooling for their children, health needs.
All of these things are situations in which the local church can step up and play a primary role in helping their missionary fulfill the calling that God has called them to. The church has affirmed and wants to see done on the field.
The characteristics of a good sending church
Let me reiterate in a different way the characteristics of a really good sending church, and here are some suggested standards. There are seven of them. Some of them overlap the things I've already said.
- First of all, as sending church has a written outline for the process of how to become a missionary sent from the church. It seems pretty easy, but very few churches have this.
- Number two, the sending church understands and accepts the obligation of the church to guide and manage the development of the missionary in character in ministry competency, including language and culture, acquisition and adjustment in their doctrinal integrity and in the direction or allocation on the field. So you don't allow someone to, we say, lay hands on themselves, appoint themselves to go to wherever they think they wanna go, or be challenged by a chapel message in some Bible school to commit their life to go somewhere they'd never really thought of before, and then just go. The local church has a word, has a role in that guidance and selection process to both best fit the missionary candidate and the church's vision and direction.
- Thirdly, the sending church establishes a mentor and or an advocate group beyond the general oversight of the elders to help them. They need extra help and care for a wide range of special needs and considerations as they prepare and then actually go to the field.
- The sending church, fourthly sets a mutually acceptable support schedule and helps the missionary raise those funds through accountability, advocacy, and active assistance. So we would say the sending church has a part in the fundraising for the missionary. It's not the missionary just doing it all on his own or with the help of the Lord, but the church is taking an active role in finding partners to help send them to the field for their needs financially and spiritually.
- Number five, the sending church commits to appropriate communication and shepherding on the field. This probably means that some spiritual leader from the church is gonna show up on the field to visit them, to shadow them, to figure out what their life is like, to taste and smell, and ask questions and see what their living situation is like and see if there's any way that the church can appropriately help with the environment and concerns and needs of the missionary on the field that are not all in writing. They don't show up in newsletters all the time.
- Number six, the sending church intelligently interacts with ministry decisions and strategy on the field. Sometimes local church leaders need to be informed and educated about what those issues are. Certainly the mission agency may be more familiar with it, but mission agencies always aren't 100% reliable, and the church has to take an proactive role in doing that, in helping them with key decisions and direction on the field.
- Number seven, the sending church elicits or otherwise provides an annual evaluation of the field missionary, their ministry, family, and working relationships. Typically, mission agencies do this, but the local church needs to be a part of it needs to see what those results are so that they can help them if they're struggling with culture stress or their children's education, or even husband wife relationships on the field, the local church needs to get into the kitchen, get under the skin, really develop that kind of relationship. That is a special insider relationship with their missionary on the field. That doesn't mean every person in the local church. It certainly does mean the leadership of the local church.
So there is a big quick overview of the local church's role in missions. Come back next time, we'll talk about the Mission Agency's role. Hey, thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, the Propo perspective on church and missions. We trust that you'll find more resources and help on the website, propo.com.
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