Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions On Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions.

Thanks for joining Missions on Point for episode 165. Come on in. We're in a series on local church-centered missions implemented after having discussed a lot of biblical evidences for it in earlier episodes, which frame a preview of a book I'm writing on local church-centric missions. This episode is number 24 in the series, and it's about the missionary training school. This could be a Christian college or seminary. It could be a specific training school for missions. It could be a training program or an experiential exposure program for missionary training.

The primary question we'll try to answer today is a good one. If you're a missionary training school of any sort, what difference does it make that missions should be local church centric? When we understand and see from the scriptures how central the local church is in all of God's program and His great big overarching purpose in bringing glory to Himself among all nations, then what difference does it make for the missionary training school?

Of course, we're thinking of those who are applying as missionaries or students who think that they want to go into career missions. However, by extension, it could apply to anyone who is in a track of training for ministry as a vocation. Certainly, seminaries would fall into that realm and anyone involved in youth ministry or even church administration, women's ministry, children's ministry, Christian education, all of those might apply because we want the highest level of Christian conduct and character serving in the local church with the local church or alongside the local church to have a similar principle of understanding the local church's role in their development and in their quote, unquote "sending" into that ministry. This is the guiding principle for schools that are training missionaries of any sort, recognizing the biblical principle of a local church-centric missions ministry philosophy.

So how does it start for the missionary training school or institution? I think it starts before they ever come to the school in the application process. The student needs to understand that they need to have a vital relationship with their local church, their home church, which presumably would become their sending church. It probably starts with having the right kind of pastoral reference form for the student in the application process. Now, it may not be the lead or preaching pastor of the church, but it is someone in a pastoral role that knows the candidate well so that they're able to answer questions about their conduct and their consistent Christian life about their service in the church before going to the school. Yes, even a high school graduate applicant should have a track record of ministry service in the local church before they go into training for full-time ministry, and if it's for missions or missionary ministry, it ought to have a missions flavor to it. There ought to be some kind of contact with missions in their resume.

Second, I would suggest that the person that fills out that fairly detailed form with good information in it would be the key point of contact of the school for that student perhaps throughout their student life in the training school. It's not just a one-off reference form, it is a continual relational reference form that continues right through their training so that this person who is the pastoral reference becomes a key to understanding what the student is learning and experiencing in school and reinforcing that with learning experience and character development within the local church. That's a key element in this local church-centric missions ministry philosophy is that the church knows them very, very well. So it's not as if the student can kind of go off hundreds of miles away to a school and be relatively anonymous to the local church for a year, two years, three years, four years' time, and then come back and automatically get a stamp of approval to go to the field.

Thirdly, the school should tailor the relationships at the school to fulfill the functions of the master list of training, which includes all about character, that is being, knowing, that is information, and convictions that are biblical and theologically sound, but also doing, that is being exposed and following, pursuing a particular track, leading them to the place where they would eventually go to the mission field. So that means a lot more hands-on personalized kind of discipleship for each student in the missions track.

Again, I argue that if the school is really consistent with this local church-centric ministry philosophy across all vocational ministry training, then the same kind of discipleship might apply to those as well. I've heard too many stories about pastors who get this kind of simple reference form, often not very detailed, and they're asking if the pastor would recommend this student to be admitted into the school, and the pastor is thinking, well, I don't know them very well. I haven't interacted with them very well. I don't know what they've been doing in our local church, but they're from a reputable family in our church, and surely they must be really good people because they want to be a missionary, so I'm going to check all the high mark boxes for that. Unfortunately, that's his vacant of real information and ought to be corrected by the school and by the referral person, the referent.

Thirdly, assuming that the training school is at some distance from the local church, the home church of the missionary candidate, that school ought to make sure that the missionary student actually is involved in a local church similar to their own near the school. What that means is the student is not allowed to just church hop and sort of consumer-like visit whatever church he or she feels best on a particular Sunday, including the infamous practice of the student listening to Pastor Pillow on Sunday morning that is just sleeping in and not going to church at all. If the adoptive home church while in college or the training school is in touch with this missionary candidate's desire to go into missions, certainly that church needs to have more directed discipleship toward that person as well with regard to an increasing level of involvement in the church and exposure to missions opportunities through that church.

Now, the question comes to your mind, wow, that seems like a lot of added layers of administration. And I'm saying not really. An interested admissions professor should have that kind of interest in their students. It doesn't mean that all of the students have to fall to that professor for their experiential and educational and character accountability. However, it does mean that there has to be something wound into that so that even in the dorm level, the RAs of the dorm or the dean of men or women or the missions professor or an administrator in the missions department, all of these work in some kind of coordination to keep a master list of how the student is doing and growing in their actual missions training program. I think that if that were the case that a lot more students would get a lot more out of their missionary training school and the missionary training school would be preparing better missionaries in the long run for long-term service on the field.

Next, the missionary training school needs to inform and equip to some degree the student to understand that the training they get in their school is not the end all. Just because you get a degree in intercultural studies doesn't mean that you're adequately equipped to be a missionary. There are so many other skills and character issues and development and lifelong learning needed to be a really good missionary for the longterm in unreached people places. So the school needs to include the student in this mentoring, discipling process through their time of studies at the school to understand that this is just part of the big picture that God is doing and using in their life to make them effective and faithful ministers of the gospel in whatever role they're going to have on the mission field.

That includes things like good relational skills. So even though the academics of missiology are significant, Bible and theology are super important, but relational skill building is very important, including having good godly relationships with people in the student body, but also respectful and godly relationships with people from other cultures. There may not be immediate opportunity from the training school for the student to get access to cultures that are like the one or from the same region of the world that he or she is intending to go. However, cultural acquisition is not just about a specific culture. It is valuing and understanding different cultures even in our everyday world.

When I was a student, I actually helped for the entire time that I was in Bible school, a church that was a multi-ethnic church. It originated as a mostly Scandinavian-based church, but as the city grew to its edge, the whole community and neighborhood became more and more Hispanic. Thankfully, this church had the vision to try to reach their local neighborhood and the Hispanics there. So there I am, a Southerner in a situation in which there was a very disparate cultural difference between the majority Scandinavian people and the Hispanic people locally. I praise the Lord for that experience. Yes, early on there were times when I had cultural whiplash. However, it was formative to help me understand and even see and perceive the cultural differences from one to the other.

Most missionary candidates need to have some formal training of some kind, even if it's at a distance. So the formal training school needs to take into account this local church-centric missions ministry philosophy, incorporating that and building that into their whole program so that it moves seamlessly from both informal training to formal training, to character convictions and competence ministry skill building. What a joy for everyone involved to work together in this kind of harmonious task of doing the best preparation for missionaries possible, including the local church-centric missions mindset. Because it's the local church, ultimately that is going to affirm the qualifications and fittedness of their missionary whom they're sending out to the field and supporting and caring for through their years of ministry to come to the place of graduation from the missionary training school, and moving on into some of the other training that has to take place for them to be fully qualified to get to the field.

There is one other element that often missionary training schools have that needs to be fitted into this local church-centric mindset, and that is the missions conference. When a missionary training school has a missionary or missions conference annually, they should emphasize that the agencies coming to represent and display and recruit people should be oriented toward establishing the local church or home church of the candidates that they're signing up. It almost should be a requirement for every single preapplication inquiry that the student names who is their local church contact, where it is, and the name of that church.

If we're going to be consistent as a larger missionary sending community, we need to connect those dots and complete those connections so that the agency is not working without knowledge of the local sending church, and the missionary candidate understands that the local church is going to be included in the whole discussion. I can easily visualize that orientation session for all the mission agency representatives at the missions conference where the person who is the faculty member of missions, who is in charge of the missions conference or even the student who's in charge of the missions conference program, is able to say to all of them, "Hey, listen. You've got to keep the sending church engaged and involved in your process of recruitment."

In the next episode, we're going to talk about the stakeholder of the missions mobilizer for local church-centered missions implemented. If you have comments or questions, you can contact me at email address I will include some links on the description for this episode. One of them is a link to a very simple form to indicate your interest in the publication of the book when it comes out. Thank you so much for those who support this ministry to make all these things possible.

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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