Audio Transcript:

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

Thanks so much for listening to Missions on Point. This is episode 152. We're in a series on the centrality of the local church and missions, but, in particular, this subseries is restoring missions in the local church. If you've been following along, you know that we've spent quite a bit of time discussing the biblical basis for the centrality of the local church and missions, and now we're turning the corner to talk about restoring missions in the church or restoring missions to the church. A word that I really like that's a little less obvious is repatriating missions to the local church. Repatriating means returning it to its rightful homeland. Today's episode is number 11 in the total series, and it's clarifying the goal of missions. Clarifying the goal of missions. This has a number of facets to it. We won't be able to cover it entirely, but I hope at least to pique your interest in this particular topic, clarifying the goal of missions for restoring or repatriating missions to the local church.

All of this overall series is a preview of a book that I'm writing that's still in development. You'd think that clarifying the goal of missions would be an easy task, especially having gone through all the biblical material that we have in the previous episodes. However, that's not the case. People come with all kinds of preconceived ideas about what missions is. Even pastors and missions leaders have a lot of preformed ideas, or ideas formed by tradition or culture, that they think explains missions, and they don't go back to the original text of the Bible to find out what missions was all about for those first century Christians, and the teaching and example of the apostles and those who were the writers of the New Testament.

So just to put a pin in it right away, I want to say the answer is the local church. Clarifying the goal of missions? The answer is the local church. What is God's purpose? It's His glory, and by what means does He achieve it? It's through the local church. We have seen this over and over again in the New Testament, and how does God achieve it through the local church? Well, there are a lot of dimensions to that, because God wants to build in us a holy life. He wants to have us worship Him. He wants the evidences of body life in the church to demonstrate the gospel and testify to Jesus Christ. So we see, even through the letters of the New Testament, that the main things that God uses is the body of Christ, in mutually committed discipleship together, growing to spiritual maturity, and you just can't do that alone; you do it in the context of the local church.

It's not all about Sunday morning preaching, it's not all about Sunday school, or the equivalent, it's not all about just Bible studies; it's this interacting with real, human, saved sinners, just like us, that knock the rough edges off each other as we grow together in Christ and in truth. That's Ephesians 4. It is interacting with God's Word, and applying it to our hearts and lives, so that we can obey and follow God's Word in our lives, and be a testimony to all those who watch us from outside, and then that gets extended to other local churches. When we plant a new local church, or we reinforce, and develop, and encourage, and strengthen local churches, we're doing it so that this testimony of Christ for the glory of God is lifted in the vision of not only the believers who attend and are members, but everyone who sees it.

In order to build missions in and through the local church, we must clarify the goal of missions, and it is related to church planting, church establishment, building other bodies of believers as local churches that can be a testimony, and a witness, and a worship center for believers in that space. All of missions should be intentionally aimed at building a local church or building the local church, building local churches in every nation, tongue, tribe, ethnicity around the world. So you may ask, "How does this play out in our church missions ministries?" Many people who think of modern missionary work think of solutions to needs that seem so desperate around the needy world, including things like this: well drilling, water supply projects, medical clinics, prevention of human trafficking, sports evangelism, mass evangelism meetings, community development, AIDS-related programs, translation of Christian books, agricultural development, internet evangelism, even cottage industry development, teaching English in a couple of different ways, computer or IT training, electrical supply projects, reforestation, dental clinics, youth ministry and camps, sports ministry, poverty alleviation, primary healthcare, vacation Bible school or Bible clubs, music ministry, disaster relief and development, adoption services.

The list goes on and on, yet, the greatest human need is for the gospel. For example, people who are concerned about issues of justice and human trafficking have to deal with the fact that ultimate justice is the chance for people to hear the gospel and avoid eternal hell. As Christians, and even just as humans, we should be appalled by the deplorable circumstances and injustices that evidence a fallen world. We're gripped by human needs, sometimes life and death hanging in the balance. The spiritually lost may need to be rescued from death in order to even have a chance to hear the gospel, but, too often, we confuse means with ends. We mix up strategies with results. Our desire for holistic transformation of life and society can eclipse a clear biblical ambition for proclamation of the gospel.

Listen, mission strategies that do not intentionally start, sustain and multiply indigenous local churches fall short of the biblical ideal. Projects that began as an entree point of contact in the community in order to share the gospel can so easily become so distracted by the means or strategy that they never get to the end, and so they become an end in themselves. Disciple making is the core of the great commission, but great commission-driven disciple making will naturally result in local churches, which includes, then, the baptizing, teaching, and obeying of all I commanded you in the context of a mutually committed worshiping body of believers. That is clearly what the first century believers understood and did. All of those many ministries listed in the earlier part of this episode are good and legitimate means to the end of establishing indigenous local churches. Those strategies should ultimately build bridges and established relationships, open up opportunities,

And facilitate the goal of planting churches. Indigenous local churches are the God-ordained instruments for each people group reaching and discipling its own people group. So churches should insist that their missionaries have a conscious, intentional goal of strengthening and planting local churches through whatever ministry they have. In what way is their ministry going to be a link in the chain towards seeing local churches built and strengthened? One of the most common examples of this is churches that support local college student ministry. So maybe you're supporting a college or university student ministry. The people who are involved in that ministry need to be bringing the fruit of their evangelism and discipleship into strong, healthy, local churches. That doesn't mean they form a church of their own on campus. A campus so-called church is not really a church unless it exhibits all the characteristics of a church and is open to people from all age groups.

However, they can disciple them, and lead them, show them the way to become active, involved members in healthy local churches in their own community around the university. I would maintain that if the campus ministry people are not doing that, then they are falling short of fulfilling the great commission. They are not on target to clarify the goal of missions in their ministry, whether it's sports ministry, or service ministry of any kind, or development ministry, evangelism ministry, it all needs to be seen clearly as a stepping stone toward helping people establish relationships and membership in good churches where they can continue to grow for all of their life.

For those kinds of ministries that are on the foreign field, they ought to be linked up with appropriate healthy churches on the field. Even if they're away from those churches, and they're planting a new church, there needs to be some linkage with the nationals, the indigenous people of that area, so that as there is fruit from the ministry, whether it's just contacts, or new believers, or new disciples, they need to be plugged into the stream of what God is doing, and establishing and strengthening local churches, because that's where the action is for their spiritual maturity for the rest of their life.

I don't know any ministry that can't be intentionally linked up that way to the end result of seeing local indigenous churches raised up and strengthened wherever they are. I have known, from field experience and contact over decades, lots and lots of ministries that are not so connected. The church needs to ask their missionaries. Missionaries need to be asked, "So this is what you're doing, this is your activity, this is your ministry on the field? What are the results? What are you doing after a person comes to faith in Christ? How are you integrating that person into local church that is healthy, where they will grow and form relationships, and worship together with others like them?"

There are missionaries and mission organizations that feel like, "Well, we just do our niche. This little bit is what we do, and we do it well, and we leave the rest to whatever." I think that is very shortsighted, and actually not very biblical, because they're not thinking of that goal of missions in mind. Does it take extra work? Does it take added responsibility and effort for the relationships involved? Yes, it does, but it's worth it, because then you're passing along the fruit of whatever ministry you have into good hands to be followed up by local church leaders and shepherds who will encourage, and strengthen, and bring those new believers along to maturity.

So this question is a watershed one for restoring missions in the local church, or repatriating missions to the local church; it's for the church leaders to ask the question of every missionary, in what way do you fulfill the goal of seeing churches planted and strengthened in the national or indigenous context in which you are working or intend to work? Regardless of the means, it needs to be aimed at the proper end and not make the means an end in itself. Another facet of this is it is incredibly freeing and focusing for the missionary to have this mindset. They are okay to pursue their niche in ministry when they have the focus set on the right end goal. They're going to have so much more fulfillment, rather than sending so many kids through youth camp, or sports ministry, or whatever, even to have X number of people who become believers by saying a prayer, or signing a card, or whatever they're doing, then dropping them off, and leaving and going somewhere else.

It is wonderful to know that there is a bigger goal in mind, and it involves planting and strengthening the church, so that there will be ongoing follow-up and continuing discipleship of individuals, as families, as worshipers together in their community, reaching their own community. Part of that goal is so that they will not need missionaries in the future, because they are growing and maturing in their faith, stronger in their witness, and able to plant and multiply churches in their own people on their own. It helps the local church and missions to clarify the goal of missions, and the goal of missions is the local church.

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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