Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo Perspective on Church and Missions. Thanks for joining us for episode 72 of Missions on Point. This is the fourth of a series of four on missions funding. Today we're going to talk about the question, how do we distinguish between local ministries versus missions?

So the main point I want to focus on in this episode is the distinction between local outreach and missions as a category. Many people make the mistake of considering all outreach to be missions, and so we find examples of churches who are doing things like a community outreach or an evangelistic program and funding it as if it were missions, but I would argue there is a distinctive between what we would consider to be cross-cultural missions, or at least evangelistic and church planting outreach beyond the scope of our church's reach. Making this distinction implies that our summer vacation Bible school program or our evangelistic outreach program or providing specific literature and services and ministries to our community in general are not considered to be missions.

Let's think about the scope of the Great commission and our understanding of the command. In Acts 1:8, it's true that the all nations of Matthew 28 includes our nation, but the grammatical push of Matthew 28 in the Great Commission is outward toward all nations. It includes that reference in Matthew 24:14 that says, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." There is a distinct theme and drive toward reaching all the language groups of the earth, all the ethnicities of the earth, which is beyond the scope of our local assembly. The only way that can be accomplished is by sending well-trained and prepared ministers of the gospel to go and take the gospel to them. That is distinctively cross-cultural in nature.

Now, I understand that all cross-cultural settings are not necessarily a function of distance. There are cross-cultural minorities and ethnic groups living close to us and around us all the time. Let's take a peak at Acts 1:8. Luke, who is the author of the Book of Acts, the history book of the New Testament quotes Jesus as saying, "But you'll receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Sumeria and to the end of the earth." This progression is simultaneous, not sequential. What I mean by that is it's not our duty to evangelize all of Jerusalem before we venture into Judea and then Sumeria and then the ends of the earth. The conjunctions are ands. That is both, and they're all involved. The church is supposed to be consciously working on evangelism as witnesses and include in that the concept in the background of discipleship, church planting, church strengthening both in Jerusalem and in Judea and in Sumeria and to the end of the earth.

I know several churches that have taken this quite literally in developing a little grid that says, here are our evangelistic and discipleship church planting related ministries in each of those four distinct areas. That is in the area immediately around our surroundings, in the people that are like us, live near us, in people that are not like us, perhaps cross-cultural like Sumeria and the people that are not at all like us and don't live near us, and that is the ends of the earth. And that's exactly what happened in the early church though it wasn't all voluntary. They were in Jerusalem, they were persecuted, they scattered all around Palestine, and then from Antioch, they began to intentionally reach out cross-culturally to other provinces and areas of the Roman Empire until finally Paul could say in Romans 15 that all of those areas had been touched by the gospel with intentional ministry towards seeing biblically healthy churches planted in all of them.

It is absolutely incumbent upon the local church to have regular local outreach to their community, always displaying the attractive gospel of Jesus Christ and proclaiming it in a variety of ways to all ages wherever the local church reach is within their community or metroplex. But the question today is how do we distinguish between that kind of ministry and something that we specifically call missions that has this flavor of cross-cultural in nature? I would encourage you to think a little bit about the dynamic of implementation and how this actually operates.

In local ministries, local outreach ministries, there are lots of people, we trust, the majority of people in the local church actively involved in sharing Christ in a variety of ways with their neighbors, their classmates, their fellow workers in the workplace, their hobbies, their places where they do business. The good news of the gospel should be in our hearts and on our lips all the time in how we relate to people and point them to Christ as a solution to not just their life needs, but their salvation from sin and god's just condemnation.

Here's the thing, it is our local responsibility to have that kind of outreach and ministry in whatever means, in whatever ways we can do it. However, it doesn't take a lot of money per se to involve lots and lots of people. It takes just minimal training and encouragement to get them on track or to create the environment in which it becomes easier for them to do those things, and most everyone in the church who are members should be actively involved in that kind of gospel proclamation. But it becomes missions when you add the component of cultural distance, different languages, geography, and the difficulty of getting into some countries that are relatively closed to Christianity, then the workers who are doing that kind of ministry have a lot more preparation, a lot more dedication, a lot more commitment. They're putting their life and perhaps their career on the line to take the gospel to those kinds of places.

It requires much more funding in order to fund them to be able to do that. It's not just putting a handful of tracks in their hand or having a program that you have hosted in your own church facility. They are going by God's grace to create something new because of the transforming power of the gospel in bringing the gospel to a different people in a different culture and seeing God raise up a local body of indigenous believers who are worshiping and proclaiming the gospel in their place. This kind of thinking means that we shouldn't try to balance the budget or expenses of ministry so that 50% goes to local outreach and 50% goes to overseas cross-cultural missions. It's not about equality of dollars. It has much more to do with the heart and the commitment of the individuals involved locally and those few that are called and trained and sent into international missions.

So this distinction is pretty important. In local outreach ministries, lots of people can be involved with minimal training and few dollars compared to very few people specifically trained over a long period of time to be adequately prepared to go serve the Lord in cross-cultural ministry in that kind of setting to reach all nations, and usually that requires much more financial support.

In both cases, we want to be consistent with the biblical message of the gospel, proclamation as a key component to that ministry and long-term faithfulness to see fruitfulness in those ministries. We have to ask the question, are they actually communicating the gospel? If not, then they're just doing good. They're just doing community service. They're just doing community development of some sort. Outreach or quote unquote "ministries" that do not have a solid gospel element and do not point toward that final goal of strengthening and establishing healthy, biblical churches probably ought not to get the church's money, and as an individual Christian, I need to ask those questions for myself as well.

What kind of ministries am I supporting and do they have the message of the gospel and the end result of what I'm looking for? The better you ask those questions and evaluate the better your commitments will be. This applies for everything from children's ministries to youth ministries to campus ministries to adult ministries within the community. It also applies to overseas ministries on the field. The methodologies and strategies that they use are a reflection of the biblical integrity and proclamation of the gospel and its desired end results.

Let me give you a tough but realistic example. Ask your local college campus ministry. Do they have a priority on proclamation of the gospel and integrating the fruit of that evangelism into healthy biblical churches? It is so great to be involved with churches through Propempo that learn how to make these distinctions and move forward confidently knowing that they are putting their priorities in the right order. They are checking the Acts 1:8 grid, and they're being faithful evangelists in both their local community, in nearby communities, in communities that are not like them, and the communities that are overseas or cross-cultural and international in nature.

I have known of churches that challenge the ministries that they support along these lines and encouraged and help them to make the transition even in their own experience of ministry, to be more focused on the right things. Having this kind of partnership and ministry is excellent for all involved. The church and you as an individual should not hesitate to ask the hard questions and find out what the ministries are doing that you're supporting. What are the people doing that you're supporting?

There are a couple of churches that support us and have for decades that send us an annual questionnaire. In this annual report they expect us to answer the original questions again. Do we hold to bright doctrine? Do we have an element in our life and work that proclaims the gospel? Are we aimed in the right direction to see the desired end result in ministry and what are our needs? So it is both a shepherding and pastoral tool, but it is also a checkpoint and confirmation that we're staying on track. As a faith support a missionary, I understand that I have a stewardship obligation to those who support our ministry. It's right that the donor is a stakeholder in our ministry, and they do have perfect right to ask those kinds of questions.

Now, let's do a little review of our missions funding issues. In episode 69, we talked about how do we get more funds for missions, and this dealt more with principles regarding methodologies and structures than it did specific fundraising ideas. In episode 70, we talk about how do we determine the right amount to give, and this introduced three metrics or principles on which to gauge how we might give more to those that are closer to us doing the highest priority ministry and having the biggest gospel impact than others who might not score as well on those scales. In episode 71, we talked about how do we know who and what to support? We talked about four perspectives that help us understand how to discern the best choices and how to discern those that are not the best choices.

Finally, in episode 72, we talked about distinguishing between local ministries versus missions. I think there is cause for separating those local ministries or local outreach funds from those that are actually missions funds for cross-cultural missions. And as we teach our congregation these things they'll understand also.

I hope this has been practically helpful to you and your church. If you have questions or comment, just email us at Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, the Propempo Perspective on Church and Missions. I trust that you'll find more help and resources on the website, Please preferably consider supporting this ministry. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

Comments (0)

Please login to comment.

Register for an account