Welcome to Missions On Point, the Propempo Perspective on church and missions. Thank you for joining us for episode 150 of Missions on Point. We're in the middle of a long series that is sparked by a preview of a book that I'm working on. The working title is The Local Church's role in Missions or The Centrality of the Local Church in Missions subtitle, implementing God's Plan for His Glory. I am very interested in your input and feedback regarding this series and therefore the book as it's being developed. You can contact me at an email address firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you so much for subscribing, liking, or following this podcast. This episode begins the second part of the book, and I'm calling it Restoring Missions in the Local Church. This is number nine of the total series Owning Missions. I hope that you've listened to the earlier episodes of this series because it demonstrates the pervasive nature of the biblical support for the centrality of the local church in missions.
In this section, we're gonna talk about restoring missions in the local church under the assumption that the current status of missions in the overall missions enterprise is that it has gravitated away from local church direction input and involvement. Our understanding of the biblical centrality of the local church in missions is not only about the end result of missions being local churches, that is the planting of indigenous local churches as the goal, but it is also about the local church being the beginning of missions, so we begin to understand that the leaders of the local church must take responsibility to teach and lead their church in these things. Missions will rise or fall on the local church's ownership of the task, so how do we restore missions to its rightful place in local churches everywhere? Of course, we start with the local church and then we'll move through further episodes through all the other entities in the missions enterprise and how they relate to this very significant starting point.
Clearly, there has to be a change in philosophical and practical elements which need to be understood and implemented to achieve the effectiveness that I think the Bible wants us to have. So we'll help clarify key points of missions, ministry philosophy, and practical application to build this effectiveness. I'm calling it Restoring Missions in the Local Church, but there's a term that I've run across that I think actually explains it a little more clearly, although it's not as common a word. It's repatriating missions to the local church. Repatriation is the process of returning an item, an asset, or a person to their rightful place of origin. A good trend in our world today is that large museums across the world are returning artifacts that were taken during colonial days, sometimes by force and against the wishes of the people that own them. So art and sculpture and all kinds of historical artifacts are slowly being returned to their place of origin.
It's also true for people if people are caught either because they're refugees or prisoners of war or stuck in another country. The idea of repatriation is the process of beginning to take them back to their place of origin to their home country. I'm saying this is the case for missions and the local church missions was owned, I maintain, from the first century forward by local churches and over time and a lot of bureaucracy and a lot of inventive, creative, entrepreneurial people creating mission agencies have slowly pulled the center of gravity away from local churches into their own little orbit, and what I'm suggesting here is that we work toward repatriating missions to the local church restoring missions in the local church. The first step is that the church itself needs to own missions. Others who are involved in the missions enterprise need to understand that it is the local church that owns missions and not themselves in their own parachurch organization.
It's gonna take a lot of work to bring missions ownership back to the local church. I will talk about key roles for local church centered missions later, but in this particular series, a subset of the book, we're talking about restoring missions in the local church and we'll talk more about principles that are important for the whole church to understand and grasp and lean into in order to restore missions in the local church. The first one of those happens to be because of missionary attrition. What is attrition? Attrition is the falling away or losing people, people who resign from the field or leave the field in a world that is becoming increasingly more hostile to those missionary workers who are working to make disciples in all the nations. It's not surprising to find that a lot of people drop out. In estimated round numbers 12,000 missionaries leave the field each year.
Most of them, 71% is the statistic leave for preventable reasons, and it costs a lot of money to send them to the field, estimates of $300,000 plus to actually get a person through their support raising, give them the launching funds they need to set up shop and home in a foreign country, and then take language lessons and all of that to get started. Almost half of those missionaries who leave the field within the first five years and in other harder countries, 75% leave within the first five years in more challenging fields of service.
Preventable attrition rates are something like four times the casualties incurred by American Armed Forces at Omaha Beach, Normandy on D-Day 79 years ago. I teach in other places that there are two primary categories of reasons why this missionary attrition is so terrible. The first is lack of preparation. The missionaries go and they haven't been prepared well enough, and the second one is that they don't have ascending local church that knows them, understands them and cares about them enough to give them the kind of shepherding care and counsel that they need to make it through the tough times on the field.
Someone from the church or the church as a whole in a sense, putting their arms around them and saying, "I know it's tough. You can make it. We're standing here with you. We want you to succeed and be faithful for the long term and not give up, not throw in the towel, not leave the field." So those two things, proper field preparation and a relational accountability relationship with their sending church that owns them and their ministry as an extension of their local church out on the field. It so happens that I got an email just last week from a dear friend who has been a church planning missionary on a foreign field, and he writes this.
"For five decades, I have had substantial contact with missionaries from various countries, particularly from the US. I was often amazed by their incoherent approaches, their inconsistencies and their inability to comprehend, let alone identify with the local culture. Many were unsuited to serve as missionaries, either as a product of their personality, moral quality, spiritual depth, and fortitude or their training. Many never went so far as to learn the language. They found themselves in missionary cultural enclaves ministering to one another. The very few converts the Lord granted them were quickly uprooted from their culture and ill-equipped to live out the gospel in the context of their own people. I was also repeatedly surprised by the lack of the kind of interest sending churches and the congregants of sending churches showed toward those whom they sent."
This one email encapsulates the things I've just been saying, lack of thorough and proper preparation, including acquisition of the language and culture, as well as the kind of care and supervision that a local sending church should have. To know that their missionaries maybe aren't adjusting well or fitting in well and to come alongside them to help walk with them through that process so that they are well-adjusted and stay on the field.
Even though in many cases our local churches have depended upon missionary agencies to set the criteria for missionary preparation before they go to the field, it now must be restored to the local church to monitor, mentor, and follow up on that preparation to make sure they're actually getting prepared well enough to stay on for the long haul. It seems pretty obvious from the statistics that the mission agencies themselves and even behind them, some of the missionary preparations, schools, institutions, bible schools, and seminaries are not getting the job done to overcome this preventable attrition. No amount of counseling and concern at the time of crisis is gonna fix the problem that missionaries may have had for a number of years, tremendous erosion of their constitution and their will to stay. It's just too little, too late. In my observation who then picks up the pieces?
It is the local church. Mission agencies feel like they have very limited ability in long-term restoration of missionaries to be able to handle keeping them on the books and returning them or restoring them to full effectiveness on the field. Rather, they basically cut them loose or out of a conflict, the missionary resigns and they go back home to their home sending church, and they are so disillusioned and dismayed and discouraged that they don't even know what to do with themselves. Some missionaries drop out of church and some drop out of Christianity altogether because of the bad experience they had on the field. This kind of situation is unconscionable. It ought not to happen, so we need to get churches and church leaders to own missions as the local churches' purview. This belongs to us. We share it with other partners that enable us to accomplish this mission that God has appointed for us to do as a local church.
I've had many experiences with pastors who said, "I just never really understood the biblical role of the local church until now." I had a pastor that said, "I've had multiple graduate degrees in seminary and I've never been taught how to lead the church and missions." Well, stay tuned because this is what we're gonna do in the next episodes and particularly later in the book in more detail. What I'm asking you to do today, dear listener, is for yourself personally agree that the Bible teaches that the local church needs to take the leading role in missions, then work with your church leader. Help them to understand that the biblical teaching shows the local church taking this leading role, the centrality of the local church in missions. Once you take that first step and agree, then you're basing everything you're doing on obedience of what you understand from the scriptures. I'll walk you through step-by-step along the path in implementation and actually seeing it work out in your church and you will be blessed. That's my prayer.
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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