Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions.
This is episode 155 of Missions on Point. We are on number 14 of a series on restoring missions in the local church, or repatriating missions to the local church. It's a part of a bigger series on the centrality of the local church and missions biblically and practically. This episode deals with prioritizing support of missions. In fact, a number of church leaders have used the information in this episode as a means of determining exactly how they will support and how much they will support missionaries, whether they come from their own church or come from other sending churches.
Strong missions churches, regardless of their size, are often looked to as a great treasure trove find for missionaries looking for support. In fact, it's one of those secret skills of the leading pastor and/or the missions leader of the church to have the gatekeeping responsibility for saying no to requests for coming to make a presentation about any kind of missions work or ministry work at their church.
The reason they must say no is so that they can say yes to the best things and not get dispersed and diffused in all of their mission support and relationships so that they're basically ineffective at a strategic focus, which we've already dealt with. It's not that the pastor or missions leadership shouldn't be interested in general in the work of sound missionaries wherever they are, it's just that you shouldn't allow them to then win the hearts and minds of your people if they're not in alignment with your priorities.
So the starting point for getting to know a missionary with the possibility of support is to ask them to fill out a fairly comprehensive application form that explains who they are, what their training is, what their experience is, and they've gone through the steps of their sending church, which might be your church, in identifying exactly what kind of ministry they're going into. At least on paper, you've got to deal with the character, the convictions, and the competencies we've already talked about. That is being, knowing, and doing.
You also have to find out if they're in alignment with your church and your guiding values or your guiding principles as a church in missions. So they need to have very substantial conformity to your doctrine and the kinds of methodologies that your church would approve of. They need to have some kind of relationship with your church. They need to have a reason for coming and spending time with your church family, besides the money.
They also need to have an intentional focus on the end result of multiplying healthy indigenous churches. That is either church planting or something directly related to supporting of the church planting process. Or they need to be involved in strengthening and encouraging church leadership so that indigenous churches are being planted by them in their people group or language group.
Now let's get into a conceptual mechanism for helping you to prioritize support of missions. When I'm teaching in person, I most often refer to this as the X, Y, Z or the three axes of support. But for the sake of this podcast, I'm going to use the image of columns. I think you'll be able to picture it a little bit better.
So we're going to have three columns. We'll call them X, Y, Z columns. The three columns describe three key components of priority for supportive missions. The top of each of the columns is the highest level that one could achieve in evaluating their support. And some churches have actually placed dollar numbers associated with those, and as you go down the rows of each column, one, two, three, four, five, there are declining amounts of funding for that. So someone who is going to get the absolute most funding is someone that scores the highest in each of the columns of relationship to the church, ministry priorities, and access to the gospel. That's the three columns.
Here's what I mean by relationship to the church. The very top cell, the highest you can score is someone that was raised up in the church. Maybe the church has been around long enough that there have been children that were raised in the church, they became acquainted with missions at a young age, they inquired and went through the training and preparation and ministry skills process with the church leaders, and now they're ready to go out to the field. So this is someone that the church family would know quite well. They've seen them grow up. They've seen the sterling characteristics of godliness and a walk with the Lord and the desire for evangelism and all of the things that you want to characterize a good missionary. And now they have skin in the game. They're sending someone of their own, from their own church family, and they want to support them at the highest possible level.
The rows under that top level are increasingly more and more distant in relationship to the church. The next cell, for instance, might be someone who wasn't raised in the church, but came to the church in the last handful of years. They're members, they are faithful, certainly a part of the church family, and they have gone through whatever steps the church wanted them to go to to be fully prepared in all of these areas of being, knowing, and doing, of character, conviction, and competencies.
The next level or the next row down in the cells of that column would be people who are acquainted with the church. Maybe they are very close to the church. Maybe they're a part of a like-minded church in your city, region, or your county area. Maybe they're someone who is actually physically related to families in the church, and they've spent some significant time in the church and getting to know the church families, and they get to know the missionary candidate. That person is not someone who is actually a member of the church, but they have well been vetted by other friends and family and like-minded churches within the scope of your church's larger relationship in the world.
The next step down in the next row in this column of relationship to the church might be someone who is a more recent acquaintance of the church, whether it is through schooling or maybe they are a summer intern. Maybe they have had some relationship with the church in a shorter chronological fashion, but they have won the hearts of the church in their faithfulness, in their godliness, and their spiritual giftedness.
Then the last cell in the column would be someone who really has no particular connection with the church. They discovered your church, was missions-minded and likes to support missionaries, and they offer themselves. It's someone that just has no direct connection with the church. If they seem like a really good candidate, then they will be willing to spend more time to kind of work themselves up the ladder of relationship, so that they actually become an insider and much higher in the ranking of this column of relationship to the church. I know of a particular church in Pennsylvania that insists that if someone comes to them that way, that they're going to have to spend three to five years working in the church actively as members for the church family to get to know them and they become a part of the church family in order for the church to send them out.
The next column or maybe the Y axis on our X, Y, Z axis is ministry priorities. And if you've been listening to Missions on Point very long, or Propempo teaching or website, then you'll know that our highest ministry priority is church planting and things directly having to do with church planting. If it's an unreached language group, obviously Bible translation is on the forefront of the kind of skills and ministry that you want to happen. But this church planting ministry priority includes things like evangelism, discipleship, leadership, training in the local church, raising up local leaders to be the leaders in the local church, and then moving on and doing it again and again and again.
Let me just say I find it inappropriate for a missionary to say that he's a church planter if he has gone to the field, learned the language, built a church around himself, and stayed on as the long-term senior pastor of that church. Usually that is reproducing a church just like he had back home on the mission field. It's not really indigenous church planting.
So what's the next cell down from priority one? The next ministry priority would be things related to and supportive of that church planting and indigenous leadership training for strengthening and multiplying indigenous churches is priority one. The next cell down the line would be all the kinds of things that support that. And it may be a variety of things having to do with development and publication distribution of vernacular materials that the church would use, whether that is song books or Bible teaching materials, discipleship materials, that kind of thing. It also could have to do with the building and development of Bible church fellowships or associations of like-minded churches in the church planting process that are springing up so that they have a structural organization around them to maintain doctrinal integrity and continue to stimulate growth. In today's world, it may have something to do with tech support. That is technology that supports the continuing development and communication and follow-up for the church for all of the things that they're doing in evangelism and discipleship.
The next cell of ministry priorities might have to do with all kinds of physical ministry that become the gateways for the contacts for evangelism, discipleship, and church planting. I put in this zone all of those things that are supportive kinds of ministries. Maybe it's medical ministries, but they know they have a conscious tie to churches and church planting. Maybe it is a larger humanitarian and community development type of project, but it's connected to church planting. Other support ministries could include things like logistics, management of resources, and support for the local church pastors, including bi-vocational kinds of training and support.
Now let's move to the Z axis. If you're Canadian, the zed axis. This would be access to the gospel. So axis, A-X-I-S, for the three-dimensional graph or the column heading, but this is access meaning availability to the gospel. The least access has the highest priority. And the least access in general missiological terms is unengaged, unreached people groups. That is a people group or a language group for which there is no known resident Christian witness at all. There's no local Christians and there's no expatriate Christians that are going in to live there and share, proclaim the gospel in that group. Unengaged, unreached people groups is the highest priority.
The next highest priority, of which there are more, are unreached people groups. So they may actually have some Christian witness available. They may even have a small church. But the percentage of Christians compared to the size of the group is so small and so weak, that they rarely have the resources within themselves, apart from a very significant work of the Spirit of God, to reach their own people group. So they need outside help. They need expats to come and help develop them, help to continue to train and teach and church plant among this group in order to have a Christian presence of indigenous believers strong enough to be able to evangelize their own group.
The next level, the next cell in this column of access to the gospel is new initiative or pioneering church planting. It may be toward the outside fringes of a group that does have a significant Christian presence in churches in their language group. However, they need help at reaching the fringes. They're weak. Maybe they just aren't very well trained and they need help to do that.
And then the last one with regard to access to the gospel is people that have access to the gospel, but they need some specific help perhaps in modernizing their concepts or their technology or their support or their leadership training in such a way that they are better able to reach their area for Christ.
Now, this doesn't seem very radical, but simply because it is an organized and thoughtful way of approaching it, it is a really easy way for most churches to adopt this kind of prioritization and help understand how their missionaries are supported. In fact, when you go back and review the missionaries that you do support, you can kind of place them on the grid, so to speak, and figure out where they lie and who rises to the top in terms of having the most emphasis, the highest priority, and the biggest support financially compared with others that are doing, we'll say, less priority things.
An interesting little dynamic is if your missionary candidates, in the process of preparing themselves to be fully qualified to go to the field, are aware of this prioritization, then they're going to aim for the top, which is exactly what you want them to do. They're going to aim to have the best insider relationship with the local church and go for priority number one kind of ministries and go to those with the least access to the gospel. That's what you want to see happen by God's grace.
Thanks for joining us today on Missions On Point. We trust that you'll find more help and resources on our websites at propempo.com and missioserve.org. We are so thankful for those who support us, enabling us to produce this podcast. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever, Amen
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