Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo Perspective on Church and Missions.
I'm so glad you've joined us for Episode 142 of Missions on Point. This episode will begin a rather lengthy series on the centrality of the local church and missions. This first one is just going to be our introduction. Those of you that know me know that this is my heart. I often say in public that although I am a missionary, if you cut me, I bleed local church.
I'm going to ask you for three things right away. First, please do listen attentively. Second, recommend this series to your friends, church leaders, missionaries, mission leaders, donors, anybody who is connected with and loves world missions. Thirdly, please pray for me. This series is actually an encapsulization of a new project that is a sort of lifelong goal of mine to write a book on this topic, the centrality of the local church in missions.
The concept that we're talking about in these episodes as a basis for the book project I earnestly pray will become a major factor for change in the mission enterprise in the western world. It's perfectly aligned with the purpose of this podcast. Missions on Point is the propempo, that's a New Testament word, propempo perspective on church and missions, and that term captures the local church-centered philosophy of missions. Missions on Point communicates paradigm-changing aim, vision and practical implementation strategies for sending workers to the challenging Gospel-neediest people on earth for long-term service for God's glory.
The first set of episodes of this series is going to be about biblical ecclesiology with respect to missions, particularly. It's really the open secret of the local church. So while I want to talk about primarily the biblical and practical foundations of the local church and missions, there are also huge implications for the dynamic of the local church in general. Hopefully, it will blow your mind, rattle your cage. It should shake your understandings and change your paradigm with regard to how you think about the local church.
Paul uses the term mystery revealed. When a mystery is revealed, it can be startling, unexpected, mind-bending. There is an aha moment. The unveiling of a mystery takes what was previously unbelievable and supplies information or perspective that makes it understandable. Together with understanding comes humbling thoughts of, "Why didn't I see that before? Why couldn't I have figured that out? It seems so simple now." From that revelation onward, all the pieces fit together perfectly. You can't imagine how it remained a mystery for so long.
Here are some of the symptoms of the problem that we hope to solve. For too long, world missions has been driven by parachurch organizations. The local church has largely given up its biblical role and responsibility for missions to these mission agencies. Even though most mission organizations were originally formed to serve local churches in their geographical, cultural, institutional, or technical specialty, they typically become an independent enterprise. They have a life of their own. They hope and pray and expect churches and donors to support the agency's ministry, rather than the agency enabling and facilitating the local church's missions ministry. Vision, field strategy, personnel management and accountability are all initiated by and for the benefit of the agency. They tend to become self-perpetuating machines with little to no respect of the rightful role of the local church in missions.
This series and, Lord willing, by God's grace, the book to follow will take a fresh look at biblical evidences for the centrality of the local church in missions. It awakens and challenges church leaders, missions leaders, missionaries, and everyone involved in the support and propagation of missions to realign with God's plan for His glory in and through the local church.
I'll give lots of practical principles derived from biblical values and decades of my own missionary field and missions leadership experience to these stakeholders. In the process of unpacking the biblical foundations for what I teach in these respects, I will also try to identify some contemporary threats to a clearer vision for the church's role and responsibility and missions. There are theological, ecclesiological, organizational and methodological threats to implementing the centrality of the local church in missions.
In the end, by God's grace, if we are successful, here are some of the results that I'm looking for. It should start a tidal wave of change for the better in the entire missions enterprise. Churches will demand respectfully, with good reason, a place at the table. Missionary candidates will be better prepared and supported to do the work of missions ministry having a more clearly focused end goal. Mission agencies will be compelled to engage in written partnership agreements with sending churches. Donors will have a guide to help them choose ministries that are more local church-centric, more effective and having longer term results. Professors will not teach missions as a cold historical development of the Gospel. Rather, they will lead their students to hearty engagement and in maturing relationships with healthy sending churches.
This biblical local church-centered philosophy of missions will solve a lot of problems. One of the greatest problems in missions today is preventable attrition, that is missionaries leaving the field for preventable reasons. The statistics are staggering. Out of the minority of those people who feel called to missions making it to the field, a huge majority of those making it to the field don't last more than five years. How are we going to reach and plant indigenous churches among the hardest remaining unreached people groups unless people are committed to staying a longer time and seeing those indigenous churches raised up and strengthened, having biblically qualified leaders?
In my experience and perspective, there are two main reasons why there's such high attrition. One is lack of adequate pre-field preparation, that is new missionaries are being sent through the missions enterprise machine and getting to the field not adequately prepared to stay the long term. The second major category is not having a good sending local church relationship and accountability. So not only are they not well enough prepared, but they're practically orphaned when they leave home and go out to the field.
The singular key that solves both of those problems is having a really close accountability relationship with the local sending church that [inaudible 00:08:28] to their pre-field preparation adequately and continues to put an arm around them and guide them through the tough times on the field to stay long-term.
Here's just a glimpse of verification of what I just said. Years ago, I was addressing a room full of dedicated Christian workers in a really tough field area of the world, and when I talk to them about the importance of the local church and their relationship with their local sending church and the sending church's relationship and responsibility to them, the room was filled with tears. Only two couples out of a large room full of Christian workers came to me and said their church looked like what I described, and the rest of them wished that they had had that kind of church.
Another reason behind such horrible attrition and ineffectiveness on the field is a general lack of biblical focus. I don't mean that missionaries and mission agencies don't use a lot of scripture trying to support whatever it is that they want to do and I realize even by saying it that way, that I'm going to raise some hackles and objections and people want to give some rationale. However, what I am saying is that by failing to keep a biblically local church-centered focus as the end of missions, they get diverted in every way into doing all kinds of pragmatic, institutional, social justice, humanitarian, all kinds of good things that keep them from doing the best thing because they're not focused on using those things as a strategy for the biblical end-result.
I would suggest that the solution to that also is an involved sending church. If the sending church is involved in the missionary's life and ministry, they will guide and direct and focus their energies on the things that are most important. It just seems incredibly ironic to me that most mission agencies have in their original formation bylaws a statement that says, "We exist for the local church," or "We exist to serve churches," and yet they, over time, drift away from that initial commitment to be pretty much independent agents. That being the case, they have a real problem because they have decades and decades of history and tradition and a lot of finances tied up in doing things their way and to make the right kinds of changes, they have to draw a line in the sand and say, "At least over time, we're going to shift and make a difference to be more biblical and more biblically local church-centric in our missions philosophy."
By God's grace, if they own it and are obedient to what I believe the scripture teaches in these things, they will be able to cross that bridge of change. They will make a difference in how they do business in their missions world. I have seen churches who get it work with missionary candidates in such a way to prepare them well for hard fields, see them deployed and have an ownership in the ministry in such a way that the whole church feels like this is an extension of our local church body and so on for many churches that we've helped and missionary candidates that we have enabled the church to prepare and send, they have experienced such richness in ministry because they know their missionaries so well they own them and their ministry on the field. And the end result of the ministry that is being produced for God's glory everyone rejoices in the process even though it's hard.
I long for the day to see local churches step up and say, "This is the only way we're going to send our people. We're going to prepare them well. We're going to have a partnership-ownership relationship with them throughout their life of ministry" and local church missions leaders are going to say, "We are training the whole congregation and mobilizing the whole congregation in a way to support and sustain that kind of missions ministry," and missionary candidates and missionaries understand this is how we are sent, this is how we relate to our sending church, and this is the goal for which we're being sent out to the field, and partnering mission agencies would say, "We will not even accept a candidate unless they have that kind of in-depth relationship with their sending church, and we insist on making that sending church a partner with us in every aspect of their ministry on the field." Even donors who give to missions would understand that they have to be a little bit more discerning to support the kind of work and relationships that this biblical local church-centered missions ministry philosophy would prescribe.
How great would it be if a missions ministry training institution, a bible school, a bible college, a seminary, insisted that everyone in a missions major had to have this sort of relationship with the sending church and the institution actually has at least the major department for missions or cross-cultural communication, or whatever they want to call it, has a relationship with the sending church to track and develop all the aspects, not just the academic aspects of missionary preparation?
Again, here at the end of this episode, I'm going to ask you to please listen carefully. Please recommend this series to everyone involved in missions. Thirdly, to pray for me as I work on this series, but also write the accompanying book.
If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or even a recommendation for a great title, please email me at email@example.com. That's firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you. God bless you. May He use this for His glory all around the world.
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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