Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions On Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. Thank you so much for joining us for episode 163 of Missions on Point. In this episode, we're going to be talking about how the mission's agency can implement local church centered missions. There are a couple of things I need to say on the front end that are extremely important to understand.

Number one, I am a friend of mission agencies. I love mission agencies and what they do when they not only say they value the role of the local church, but actually value and welcome the role of the local church within their mission agency. The second major thing you need to know right up front is that I'm going to assume that gospel loving, Christ loving, Bible loving mission agencies understand the thrust of all that I'm saying biblically about the centrality of the local church and missions and the priority of the gospel in missions and church planting as the end result. When those things line up, there should be no argument about how we can improve our relationship with local churches as a mission agency so that local churches have a larger role in the life and ministry of their missionaries for the better of everyone in the community.

There is no question when the local sending church has a strong role of support for their missionary, those missionaries don't have as big a problem as preventable attrition from the field. The best solution for preventable attrition is realistic expectations and a strong accountability relationship with ascending church that owns the care of their missionary as one of their priorities. The governing boards of mission's agency really need to take note of that because the attrition figures are so large that it ought to be startling. It ought to be a crisis situation. How do we fix that?

Basically, the mission agency doesn't need to fix it internally on their own, but I'm getting ahead of myself. If the mission agency loves the Bible and the biblical evidences that we presented at the beginning eight episodes of this long series are true, and I believe they are, then there should be no problem whatsoever in agreeing that we need to move in that direction.

I'm saying this as an experienced field missionary, an experienced field leader, a mission agency executive, and a churchman, a pastor elder in leadership of local church missions for decades. We know of good, well-known mission agency executives that have said yes, we understand biblically that the local church should be more involved and help us with not only training but shepherding their missionaries well.

However, our mission has such momentum for decades and decades of heading in the wrong direction with institutional ministry and mission agency preventative ownership of missionaries that it is hard for us to make that sort of change. I want to introduce you to a concept that I teach in churches and to mission agencies, and it is the grandfather clause. When you know the right thing to do, having a history of plans, people, projects, and institutions that don't fit the ideal that you know should be about shouldn't stop you from moving in the right direction.

To grandfather something means to exempt something that existed prior to the new rule. In business or in government or in a mission agency, it means you go ahead and move toward doing the right thing in the future, but you grandfather those who have existed before under the prior rule. Over the course of time and natural attrition, those people or situations that don't fit the new direction basically either change to fit the new direction or they retire or they leave the field or change missions or change positions in such a way that it fits the new regime.

So now to the meat of how does a mission agency implement local church centered missions philosophy. Let's take the first obvious element of recruitment or what most missions now call mobilizations. Recruitment and mobilization needs to turn back toward the local church as the primary source. That means two basic things.

One is go back to churches that have provided the best missionaries for you in the past and ask them if they have any others like them. Strengthen relationships with local church leaders so that they know that you are eagerly wanting to give a larger role to local churches in the sending of their missionaries through your mission agency. Make it a really big deal when an applicant sends in an application over the internet or even by mail that you find out about their local church, and is their local church ready to step up and take a larger role in sending and shepherding them for the long haul? That means informing this potential recruit that they need to be seriously plugged into their local church, and it ought to be a local church that is really sound in understanding the biblical gospel and the goals of missions.

So it's much more than a checkbox on the application form that, yes, I'm a member of a local church. It means that there needs to be someone else in the database, in the church leadership, the pastor or the mission's leader that is known to the mission agency so that you work together as a team in developing and sending this missionary. Missionary applicants need to know right from the beginning that you are not going to allow them to kind of skate over the local churches sending role and apply with a mission and do everything through the mission independent of their local church. So if and when your recruiter mobilizer goes to a college campus to recruit for missions, it may even be a missions conference at a college campus. They will talk to students differently because they're going to say among their very first conversational points, who is your local church and what role are they going to have in sending you?

Admittedly, this is going to mean that you will have fewer recruits at the beginning. However, I maintain that if you start right and in the right way with a good relationship with a local sending church, those missionaries that you get will still be on the field 20 years later. The cumulative effect of stronger, better qualified missionaries sent and shepherded well by their local sending church is going to have a huge impact on the long-term effectiveness of your mission and your field ministries. Let's mention just in passing the funding of new candidates and appointees to raise their funds to get to the field. If the whole church has a part in it, it's a lot different than this missionary or missionary couple struggling month after month after month to do the hard work of support raising and incrementally getting it up to the level that's required to go out to the field.

If the whole church body wraps their arms around this, then they are involved in doing the work of raising the funds. They're invested more strongly in funding their missionary from their church. The missionaries will be able to get out to the field faster because of this ownership of their local sending church. This philosophy also means that the mission administration and field leader administration needs to know the sending church by name for each of the missionaries on their team, on their field. The sending church needs to be at least informed, if not included in significant decisions about that missionary's ministry and allocation and wellbeing on the field. It should be normal for a field leader or team leader to get a phone call from a mission leader in a sending church asking about how their missionary is doing, and is it okay if we visit this year?

Those kinds of things. It also means that there probably should be a standard church partnership document with the mission agency that everybody signs and checks up on with some level of frequency, at least every year or two to find out how we're doing in our partnership together. It behooves the mission agency to get ahead of the curve on this in order to have a standard sort of partnership agreement that is signed by all parties. I commend you to and the Here to There book because those have samples of simple local sending church missionary agency partnership agreements. It probably means that you'll have to reorient your representative's staff around the country and your mobilization recruitment staff to give more priority to visiting with and establishing sound relationships with good sending churches. It's true, working with churches is more complicated than working with college students and picking them off, so to speak, individually.

But let me tell you, if the local church is doing its job and has been listening to this podcast, they're not going to allow you to pick off their students individually. You will have to come to terms with the local sending church. Instead of picking up individuals for mission's commitment, you'll be picking up whole corporate bodies of churches for mission's commitment. In the long term, it's going to produce more missionaries and better missionaries for you by giving that kind of focus to sound sending churches.

Now, I know that some mission agency leaders are scratching their heads and going, well, how can we do this? We can't give up our legal responsibility for so many things, confidentiality in employees and all of that, and I have said this in other Missions on Point podcasts, that's not the case for so many other aspects of mission's life as a nonprofit business. Mission agencies delegate all kinds of processes and responsibilities to others legally, financially, HR benefits, all of those things are usually outsourced.

Why not outsource with each missionary a lot of their shepherding care to the sending church who owns them most? It's true, the mission agency may have to fill in some gaps where a church underperforms in their responsibility, but part of the filling of the gap is teaching, training, encouraging the local church to step up and do it. It may mean actually training some of their leaders in what to do and how to do it. Doing these things is going to change the basic mindset of the mission agency from being pragmatic and statistics and demographic oriented to being more faithfulness and effectiveness oriented. It probably means that you'll have some work to do with your major donors and your board members to have them recalibrate their gauges for how to measure success. It's not about how many missionaries you recruit. It is how many well-qualified missionaries you recruit.

It's not about how many statistics you accumulate. It's how faithful your missionary staff and teams and ministries are pursuing genuine biblical outcomes over the long haul. In your meetings with pastors and church leaders, you should probably sponsor something like that to bring them together during your candidate orientation training time. You're not going to be focused so much on winning their affection for you as a mission and all the cool contemporary trendy things that you're doing and the humongous goals that you have for the future. You're going to be presenting yourself as a servant to them accomplishing their mission's vision.

It's okay to have good goals and to invite them to partner with you in that, but your role is not to champion that alone, but to champion the church's role and how they are accomplishing what God wants them to do as a church by sending their missionary through you to do biblically faithful things on the field for God's glory. In the administrative nitty-gritty you need to have in your database, who is the sending church? Who is the main contact in the sending church? And welcome those people when they show up on your mission headquarters property or on the field.

You're probably going to end up having astute pastors on at least your advisory board and not simply as an honorific or a rubber stamp to what you really want to do. So in closing, I'll say the same thing I say to local churches. Think about what the ideal is biblically and philosophically with regard to local church centered missions philosophy. Then move in that direction. Over time, you'll be amazed what God is able to do in three years, five years, 10 years. I'm praying that though this is a pretty radical proposition, that local church centered mission's philosophy biblically and practically is going to be a great joy to you as a mission agency. Let me just say at the end, you may have questions, you may have objections. I could go much deeper on a number of things with regard to the mission agency and what differences it would make to have this local church centered mission's philosophy. Email me, Let others know about this podcast episode and series and start having conversations about it. I'm certainly willing to help.

Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point. We trust that you'll find more help and resources on our websites at and 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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