Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions On Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. Hello, thanks for listening to episode 84 of Missions On Point. We're beginning a short four-part series on sending missionaries from your church. This series will be an overview of the process of sending missionaries from your church, all the way from identifying candidates through ministry training and qualification to direction and guidance, and finally, partnership and shepherding with them on the field. We've touched on this on other episodes. Episode number five dealt with the big overview of the local church's role in missions, which is very significant for you to understand. Go back to episode number five and listen to it. Episode 56 was a one part issue of help, we have a missionary candidate, now what do we do? There is a short six part series on episodes 63 to 68 called The Vision of Ascending Church, and it goes into some more detail.

The series that follows this one will be a larger series specifically on church-based missionary training. So listen in and kind of gear up, get your mind set for understanding the church's role in sending a missionary and what is the process for doing that. This four part series will be the overview of sending missionaries from your church. So the first issue we address is identifying candidates. Who might be a candidate for missions work and missions ministry from your church body? With regard to identifying those who might be missionary candidates, let's look at some categories and even some biblical examples and try to pull some principles from that and then we'll get real practical. So the first one and the most obvious one is self-identification. Someone says, "I feel called," through whatever means, whatever circumstances, they say, "I feel called." Take that seriously. However, you also need to have some caution.

This is a serious time for shepherding and discipling this potential missionary candidate. On the one hand, only about 15% of those who say they feel called to missions actually end up going. Many of those end up leaving the field not too long after they arrive. So we want to avoid that kind of natural attrition. Because of that attrition, we need to affirm to this person that just because they didn't make it to the field or didn't survive long term on the field, they're not a loser. God in His sovereignty has planned all these things in their life to glorify Himself and to advance His glory on the earth. So the things that they've learned and the process they've undertaken to prepare to go to the field are still going to be used for Him in ministry and in their life. It's not like settling for second best.

It's all first best in God's will for them. If they understand that on the outset, they will be so much better off when problems arise that may keep them from pursuing that aspiration to go to the field. Let me run through a couple of biblical examples of means of identifying people. The second one, besides self-identification, I'm calling the John Mark method. This is a person drafted or conscripted to go along with missionaries to the field. In Acts 12, Barnabas and Saul were in Jerusalem and it says in verse 25 Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, their appointed task, bringing with them John whose other name was Mark. So they basically drafted John Mark to be an assistant or a deputy or a servant in their little missionary team. The next one is I'm calling the Timothy Method, and that's not too far away in Acts 16.

They're wanting to go out to the field again, that is Paul and this time Silas. Paul came to Derbe and Lystra in Acts 16, and a disciple was there named Timothy, a son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well-spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places for they all knew that his father was a Greek, and so Timothy joined the team. He was recruited. Paul was looking for someone. He told the church leaders I'm looking for someone. They knew someone who was of high quality of commendable character and they actually put Timothy on the team.

The fourth one is a little bit more subtle. It's later in Acts 16, and Luke, who is the author of the Book of Acts, is writing about Paul's journeys and his connections and the people connected with him, and it says that Paul received a special vision at night and he came and told these other friends who were with him as part of his missionary team, and Luke identifies himself as being part of that team when he says, "When Paul had seen the vision immediately we," the plural pronoun we, "sought to go on into Macedonia concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them." Luke's method was just joining the team. He apparently was a believer. He believed in the mission that Paul was doing and he voluntarily joined up with this missionary team to do the task that they were moving toward then in the province of Macedonia.

The fifth one as an example, is Aquila and Priscilla, and this is later in Paul's ministry when he has a long-term teaching ministry in chapter 18. After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth and he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla because of persecution, and he basically discipled them in the context of their workaday world and in the context of doing Bible teaching and discipleship there in the area of Corinth. So they were discipled and mentored by a missionary to be missionaries themselves in whatever their work was, and we see them a couple of other times in the record.

It's interesting to note in this big picture and drawing principles from scripture that missionaries did not lay hands on themselves and appoint themselves as qualified to go to the field. It's always done in the context of the local church sending or commending or raising up people or in relationship to the missionary himself, teaching, training, mentoring, discipling people who are joining the team for the sake of ministry. Go back to the self-identified candidate. If someone in your church says, "I feel God's called me to be a missionary," we have a whole other discussion about the term call and missionary call. But if someone says that take them seriously. Help them to understand that they are not a free agent. They can't make all the decisions and guidance for themselves and their ministry and self-identify as fully qualified as a missionary. It's done in the context of the local church in communication and fellowship with the local church.

This point is actually something that mission sending agencies need to understand. Just because someone fills out an application, they may even be going to Bible college to train to be a missionary, doesn't mean that they're fully qualified or commended or discipled and mentored in a way that allows them to have the freedom along with their church supporting them to say, yes, I am ready to prepare or go through whatever hoops you have for me to become a missionary with your mission sending agency. The mission sending agency really needs to point them back to their local sending church and/or the missionaries who have specifically trained and mentored them to be missionaries so that there is a connection there. This is done as a body. This is not an individual agent choice.

So as a church or even as friends of the potential missionary candidate, you want to come alongside them and say, "This is great. It's fantastic that you feel that God has called you to be a missionary. What a wonderful aspiration. This has a lot of good in it. We want you to excel in fulfilling that calling and to qualify yourself well biblically and practically for the field in the ministry that you want to go to. We will walk with you in that process. We will help guide your decisions and inform you about things that are good and things that are not so good, so that you are focused on being fruitful and faithful to the Lord in that calling."

On a practical level, how do you recognize those people if they don't step up and say I feel God's calling me to be a missionary? Well, a lot of times God uses some short-term missions experience to help people open their eyes and their heart to the possibility of being a missionary. Sometimes you may have an excellent young person or someone that is particularly burdened for missions in your church and you tap them on a shoulder and say, "Hey, have you considered being a missionary? We would love to help you become a missionary if you are willing to go through the process of fully qualifying to be a sound biblical missionary sent from our church." You actually approach people and work with them and find out if they're willing.

For the most part, people just need to understand that being a missionary is a possibility. It should be on their vocational list of possibilities for them to be. Maybe they want to be a pilot or a race car driver or a fireman or a teacher or a doctor or a lawyer or something like that, but on the list should be is it possible that God wants me to be a missionary? Is it possible that God would use me in that way? Even with those other skills as a mechanic, as a teacher, trainer, as a business person, God can use that on the mission field. People need to have that in their list of possibilities from a very early age. Their heroes should be missionary heroes as well as other kinds of heroes, and they should understand that life is tough on the mission field, but God is able to help them and Jesus is worth it.

I would say it is a valid thing to ask anyone coming back from a short-term ministry experience or some kind of cross-cultural experience or a schooling experience, whether it is a secular university or Bible college preparation, to ask them would they prayerfully consider the possibility that God would use them as a missionary on the mission field, and if so, would they then allow the church to come alongside them and walk with them through the path toward the mission field, including guidance and key decision points, helping refine their goal and direction so that it is a part of the local church and representative of the local church's vision and passion for missions?

You also may ask missionaries that you support that have had significant relational contact with your church members and ask them if they know of someone or sense that someone might be a valuable asset on the field as part of their team or a related team on the field, someone that may be called to missions, if you will. It doesn't necessarily mean that that person needs to commit the rest of their life to be a missionary. In some cases, it may be to fulfill a specific need. There have been a number of situations in which single ladies have gone to the field to serve as a nanny or a governess or a part-time homeschool teacher for a year or two or three to really help the missionary family over the hump of getting settled into a mission field and having appropriate resources for their children to continue on in education or special needs or whatever the situation might be.

In every one of those cases in my experience, the young ladies that did that did not regret it a bit, and in a couple of cases they have stayed long-term to qualify as full-time missionaries on the field. I remember a conversation with a retired couple who were going to the field for the first time and their friends all asked them, "Are you sure you're ready for this?" And their answer was quite profound. They said, "God has prepared us for well over 20 years to do this specific ministry on the mission field." So church leaders and friends of missionary candidates, I would say have your antenna up. Be ready to identify those people and to even recruit or draft the right people into missions and help them on their way as a whole church family so that you are sending missionaries from your church. It is an amazing thing to see a church have one of their own people go to the field.

It makes all the difference when you have skin in the game and you are investing one of your own children to go out to the mission field to serve the Lord in these uncertain times among unreached people groups in many challenges, and the church owns them because they are one of their own. Let us aspire and pray for that. 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 prayerfully consider supporting this ministry. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, forever and ever. Amen.

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