Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. Today we're gonna wrap up our scriptural principles of the centrality of the local church and missions, and exactly what that means. So far, we've taken a look at Ephesians chapter three and seen from the scriptures that the church is central to God's plan and purpose for his glory for all time. Then we looked at the Great Commission and understood it by looking at the elements and trying to figure out what does it take to actually fulfill the Great Commission in its entirety, not just a part, not just a sliver, not just a little niche, but the whole thing. And we discovered that it really takes the planting of local churches. We're not talking about building physical chapel buildings. We're talking about assembling fellow believers together on a regular basis for the teaching of God's word through evangelism, leading them to Christ, discipling them, growing them in maturity, but interacting together in order to fulfill obey commands of Christ throughout the New Testament and to serve him together.
The New Testament Story
Now we're gonna look at some other pieces of the story in the New Testament because the question comes to mind. If the original first century Christians that knew Christ heard the Great Commission, what were they thinking? How were they going to obey this mandate? What is it that would prove that they had done what Jesus asked them to do? And I'm telling you today, they planted churches. That's what they did. Here's part of the proof of that, and it really begins with Jesus. Later in the first century, decades after the resurrection, he appeared to John and John wrote what he saw in what we call the Book of Revelation. In the first chapters of Revelation, Jesus has messages to the seven churches. In fact, the whole imagery of chapters one, two, and three revolve around Jesus showing up to hold churches accountable to be faithful to him.
Jesus's messages to the seven churches speak of the significance and centrality of the local church in the perspective of Christ, even 60 years after giving the Great Commission. And then there's the churches themselves, not just the churches of the Book of Revelation, but the recipients of all of the teaching of Christ through the apostles in the writers of the New Testament, those who received the great Commission directly, the apostles, their contemporaries and their helpers fulfill the mandate by planting and organizing indigenous churches wherever they went. They understood that the fruit of obedience to the Great Commission resulted in the establishment of new local churches everywhere. And then what are the results? It's pretty easy to see when you look at the New Testament. The vast majority of the New Testament of epistles were addressed to local churches or leaders of local churches, and even those general epistles were written to leaders and believers scattered everywhere as local churches.
It presumes the local church to be the nexus of the practice of Christian life and maturity.
It presumes the local church to be the nexus of the practice of Christian life and maturity. You just can't do all the commands that are written in those books without having an active group of people that know you. You know them, and you hold each other accountable to grow spiritually in the Lord. So we see in the context of the churches, those relationships expressed in the 40 plus one another commands of the New Testament. They all refer to dynamic relationships of Christians within a local church context. It doesn't make sense for me to try to obey the one another commands from a big distance. We just can't do that. It has to be people that see each other and understand each other. They're in each other's kitchen, so to speak. They have relationships with one another. That's how they grow. That's the dynamic of the gospel being expressed to onlookers everywhere is how the church operates among themselves, how they love one another.
The First New Testament Missionaries
That's what Jesus said would be the mark of a Christian. Then we see the local church in Antioch as the scriptural setting through which the Holy Spirit worked to set apart. The first New Testament missionaries. Missionaries arose from a local church context. They weren't just volunteers kind of tooling off on their own or joining some ad hoc parachurch organization to do it apart from the local church. They did it in concert with the local church leaders commissioning them to go out. In fact, it's really interesting to read down a little bit and figure out that Paul, who was there at the church in Antioch, knew by special revelation from God that he was to be a missionary. Yet he waited and served the church and grew in Christ for approximately 12 years before they finally recognized that God was instructing them or moving them to recognize Paul and Barnabas's calling and send them out as missionaries.
Missions from Rome
Next, we find that Paul appeals to a specific local church in Rome with regard to missions. There's a good argument that says that the whole reason, the precipitating factor that Paul wrote the book of Romans was in order to ask them for support to go to the next unreached people group area called Spain. So Paul writes this, and he explains that he has this passion to reach the unreached people groups of the world, and he's already essentially accomplished this by planting churches scattered all around the Mediterranean except for this far northwest section beyond Italy. That's called Spain. In his pioneering aspirations, he looks to the local church to be his sender, supporter and faithful partner. Later we see Paul charging his colleagues Timothy and Titus to organize local churches. Paul felt it was incumbent upon him to teach local churches everywhere. He went on how to do the simple things of church leadership, church ordinances, and here he's telling Timothy and Titus to organize local churches and appoint spiritually qualified leaders in them. The goal apparently, in Paul's mind, was to see indigenous local churches as the fruit of their work together.
The goal apparently, in Paul's mind, was to see indigenous local churches as the fruit of their work together.
The Apostle John
Then we see the Apostle John chiming in as well. In a late, small book in third John, John appeals to a church leader Gees, to continue his church's good work of lavishly, loving and providing for the needs of gospel workers. In fact, this responsibility is described as a privilege and duty of the local church body as partners in the truth with these missionaries. So John outlines using this word empo. If you recall, the church's responsibility to own these missionaries, to put their fingerprints on them. It's not just relinquishing them, turning them over to some other organization to manage. They became full partners in the ministry of their missionary work. The last one is a little bit harder to see because it comes from a number of passages, but it's clear that the pattern in the New Testament was that the local church validates and approves workers set aside for ministry. It was certainly true in the case of Paul and Barnabas and Silas and Titus and others, that it was the local church that actually said, yes, this person is qualified to go out. This person seems good to join the missionary team, and the local church validates and approves workers set aside for ministry. It's the local church that does the same thing in the same way for elders publicly recognizing men who have fulfilled the character and spiritual qualifications of ministry and recognizing them as leaders in the church. Why should missionaries be any different than that?
So an increasing number of missionaries and agencies are realizing that the local church needs to have a much larger, stronger role in missions. In general, we're very, very thankful that a trend is increasing for local churches to step up and ask mission sending agencies to give them more of a role in the sending process, in the original application process. Sometimes churches don't even know what's going on in the lives of their people well enough to commend them or not. But agencies are discovering that if they want their missionaries to last a long time on the field, they've gotta have the vetting and the validation of their local church. That means that the missionary candidate needs to spend time in the local church working, ministering, proving themselves, proving their character, gaining spiritual maturity, realizing that there's no great silver bullet. That is a answer, realizing that there's no great silver bullet answer to problems of ministry on the field or at home, and they've gotta work with people in order to get the job done.
So we're very thankful for those kinds of trends that are slowly growing and think that churches need to take their responsibility to step up and mission sending organizations, parachurch organizations need to acknowledge and partner with local churches in order to have the best quality workers for the hardest jobs remaining on earth in order to fulfill the Great Commission.
churches need to take their responsibility to step up and mission sending organizations, parachurch organizations, need to acknowledge and partner with local churches in order to have the best quality workers for the hardest jobs remaining on earth in order to fulfill the Great Commission.
So let's take a step back and review some of the things we've talked about and put it into perspective and vision for how the local church operates. First of all, we've shown scripturally that the church is central to God's purpose and plan for all of ministry, but particularly in the area of missions, the grand and glorious - flawed on a human basis - institution of the church is the place where people grow spiritually. They mature, they develop a passion for ministry, and some of them qualify to go out to be sent as missionaries.
Then we saw the flow of the whole New Testament and how it emphasizes - without even saying so explicitly - the local church is the center of everything as the center of our Christian life, our Christian fellowship, again, our Christian maturity, our accountability to one another. But it is the very thing that the original heroes of the Great Commission did in order to carry forth the Great commission and fulfill it, they planted local churches where gatherings of believers that were mutually committed together, worship the Lord, study the scriptures, learn to obey the scriptures, and become a witness in their community. In fact, some have said even in modern times that the local church is the most effective tool for evangelism of anything else out there. Then we get to apply it in terms of how we view missions organizations and church and the candidacy of our own people. We long to see local churches send out well-qualified people to fulfill the last bits of the great commission in reaching unreached people groups everywhere and establishing Christ's church everywhere so that the indigenous people of the earth can evangelize and disciple their own by planting more churches.
Time to roll up our sleaves
The local church becomes the focus of all of that activity and ministry. It's the very thing that we strongly believe God wants and desires us to do. It does mean that the local church has to roll up its sleeves and get to work in preparing people for ministry and walking with them, helping them qualify to meet those qualifications of First Timothy three and Titus one, in order to be ready and mature enough spiritually to feed themselves on a field to witness, to discern theological error and truth in different cultures. That's the kind of people that we need out on the field to do the long term job of establishing quality, healthy, biblical churches that are going to reach their own people. So pray with us to that end. Help us, support us, that we can help other churches do that.
Hey, thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. We trust that you'll find more resources and help on the website, propempo.com.
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