Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. We're thankful that you've joined us for episode 66 of Missions on Point. We're in the middle of this series on the vision of ascending church. This particular episode is going to deal with the I of implementation. We've dealt with values, identity, strategy, and implementation using vision is our acronym for the process of becoming ascending church. The I, or implementation phase, is absolutely critical to the success of this whole process. We need to find and equip the right people to be our agents to get the job done on the field. In this segment, we're going to talk about selection, training, and then actual implementation. Sometimes the church and church leadership is alerted to the fact that they need to learn how to become ascending church. When someone from the congregation says, "I think I want to be a missionary," or, "I think God's calling me to be a missionary."

After the initial shock, the church leaders have to say, "Okay, now what do we do?" First off is to realize that this situation is a good thing. It's a wonderful thing. It's something that we pray about and pray for. We want to see God raise up missionaries from our church. But so often, it hasn't happened with enough frequency for us to know how to do it or think through how to do it, and it takes the church leaders all the way back to the beginning steps of the vision process. That is understanding their values, their identity, and their strategy. It helps them to ask the original questions all over again, which also is a good thing. So if your church has no clue about how to send a missionary and someone says from your church, "Hey, I think I want to be a missionary," then start working on the beginning steps as you begin to work with them for equipping them for the field.

The second thing to keep in mind is, just because someone says it's so, doesn't mean it's so. Just because someone says, "It's God's will that I go to the field," doesn't mean that it's God's will. It is not normative revelation for everyone around them. Typically, someone who is actually being called to be a missionary to the field, has the reputation and experience demonstrated to those around them that they actually have an affinity for cross-cultural work, that they love people, that they love to share the gospel, that they have a desire to be used of the Lord even in sacrificial ways before they ever go to the field.

In Propempo, we like to say that the call is verified by people looking on, especially their church leaders. We also say about vocational ministry of all kinds, we don't allow people to lay hands on themselves. A person may have a significant personal, internal subjective compulsion to pursue missionary work, which God may use in their lives even if they never make it to the field. But that external call that is those verifying and affirming the call around them see that it's true and then they are the ones who equip them and commission them to go to the field.

The simplest analogy is if someone says they want to be a pastor doesn't mean that you give them the pulpit the next Sunday. They still have to go through all the preparation, the training, the education, the experience, and the verification of those around them to prove that they are qualified according to the qualifications of a church leader in First Timothy 3 or Titus 1, and that they actually can be used to the Lord and they have the tools in their toolbox to do the work of that role.

Years ago, I had a distant relative that said he wanted to translate the Bible and although he had no training, no experience, and he wasn't willing to get the training and have the experience, he tried to translate the Bible. Let's say it all didn't end well and didn't last long. So, although the selection may begin with someone who says they're interested in becoming a missionary for whatever reasons, it doesn't require someone to step forward.

This was the case for Timothy who was commended to be an attache, a personal assistant of the Apostle Paul in a second missionary journey. His church knew him well and commended him, Timothy, to be the assistant for Paul. Through your church ministries and the experiences that your church has, perhaps on short-term missions teams or projects or ministry roles, the leaders may actually identify someone who seems to have a gift and inclination in the direction of cross-cultural world missions, and that person you should talk to and have a serious conversation about the possibility of them being sent out by your church as an emissary representative of the church to do whatever it is connected with church planting, to an unreached people group overseas. One of my favorite authors on this topic is Michael Griffiths and a little booklet called Get Your Church Involved in Missions.

He says, "The candidate can express their willingness to go, but only the local church can tell their fittedness to go into missions." The major part of the selection process is this long process of showing that the candidate is fitted to go by giving them ministry experiences, by evaluating them, by spending a long time in personal and biblical counsel to find out how they fit in, what are their thoughts and concepts and how is that biblically informed with regard to missions and authority and the local church and their own role? Do they have the character that qualifies them as a servant of God and a minister of the church? They should have experience in all kinds of gospel presentation, evangelism, discipleship, teaching, training, shepherding, organizing, and administrating ministry. Many churches have a stepping stone or hierarchy where grid through which they want missionary candidates to go in order to tell who's going to make it out on the other side as an actual candidate, not just a prospective candidate for missionary work. In the next big stage, it's the training stage.

You want to do some careful looking and comparing with your strategy and your target goal as a church for the fittedness of that missionary candidate for that particular ministry. So it's likely to include some language learning or at least learning how to learn a language as well as some theological and biblical training. Many churches, nowadays, are able to use distance learning and not require that the candidate go away to seminary for three or four years, especially if they have work and a family to support. You may want to try that. If they're single and young adult and have the capacity along with the church help perhaps to actually go to a seminary and go through the intensive training and discipleship of that graduate level training, then by all means do that. Candidates often want to go to the field as soon as possible. Like they stand up or raise their hand or approach the pastor or church leader and say, "I want to go to the field," and they think they're going to go in the next 12 months for the rest of their life.

Sometimes it seems like they have it in their head that if they say they want to go, the church owes them financial support and they are going to mysteriously magically, somehow, become a fully qualified missionary when they land overseas. They have no concept that the guy we know as the Apostle Paul took something like 12 years from the time he was first converted and God told him that he was going to be a missionary to the Gentiles, to the time when he was actually set out by the church in Antioch. I remember a church elder of ours when we went to the field saying, "I've never seen anyone go so directly to the field," but it was seven years of preparation and life experience and ministry between the time my wife and I graduated from Bible school to the time we actually left for the field.

Regardless of what language and culture your candidate is going to, in the end, they can still get some language and culture acquisition training here at home, and I'm not just talking about a visit to Taco Bell or the China restaurant. I'm talking about genuine interface and relationships with people from other cultures and countries near where you live. If you're from a remote rural place, it's going to take more effort, but there are ways to do it. Part of what you're looking for is initiative and tenacity to stick with the tasks before them so that they will have the same kind of initiative and tenacity without someone looking over their shoulder when they're out there virtually alone feeling on the field. Don't short circuit their exposure and learning in areas of theology and Bible because whatever foundation they have here will be tested, at least in its framework, by the culture and the environment that they are going to.

They need to be able to distinguish between what is sinful practice and what is cultural practice. Different cultural practices are not necessarily sinful. Vice versa is also true. Our American sinful practices are not simply cultural. When we get into this third step of implementation proper, at that point, we need to address if it hasn't already been addressed, what kind of facilitation or partnership or mission agency are we going to look to to help facilitate our missionary on the field? You want to have a mission agency or a facilitating organization, an umbrella organization, perhaps in the foreign country that you're going to, so that you have coverage in many ways for initial language school, for Visa and immigration advice, for a pathway toward cultural learning and even just settling in housing and transportation. We strongly recommend that no church allow their candidate to go to the Mission Agency's candidate school without having a written partnership agreement or partnership letter of understanding with the mission agency so that the local church will continue to have a long-term role in shepherding, in major decision making, in guidance of their missionary on the field.

You are not just handing over your people to someone else to take care of and to manage. A mission agency is going to provide tremendous help for you in the background stuff of supporting of that missionary through the way they handle finances and insurances and retirement and other HR concerns. They're also going to provide a framework on the field for some level of field supervision, if not direct pastoral care. And you need to know those people. They need to know you. It needs to be okay with each other for you to interact with your missionary on a regular basis and get reports from evaluations of how they're doing on the field, in language study, in activities, in methodologies, so that it is an agreement with your church. Just that step of implementation can take a significant amount of time and research and conversation so that you arrive with the best fitted mission agency or organization.

That is an agreement, again, with your values, including your doctrine and how you think about the target priorities of ministries on the field. Let me just suggest some timelines to be aware of. In the selection process, if you have no one presenting themself as a candidate at this time, it could take several years for that to arise to the top and for you to be able to recognize someone who might be a candidate.

The training part can take anywhere from two years to five years depending on how much formal education is involved, and it needs to be well monitored and managed training of all types. The implementation stage could easily take a couple of years. Some of these things may be overlapping, some may have answers earlier than others, but all together, I'm saying the implementation process, by itself, assuming you've already done the good hard work of the values, identity, and strategy beforehand, could easily take two years to six or seven years depending on the age and flexibility and intensity of the candidate in their training.

Don't be discouraged by this timeline. God is in control. He's sovereign. Every step of progress you make is going to be used by Him for His glory in your candidates and your church's life. Even if your candidate never makes it to the field, it is a good thing to walk through this process and think through the steps involved. It's good for them and it's good for your church family. So I just want to tell you, go for it. Do your best. Think through it. Get some resources from Propempo and other places. Learn how to grow and develop missionaries from your congregation. There is nothing like having skin in the game. I would be remiss if I did not recommend to you the book called Here to There, Getting to Your Mission Field for Your Missionary Candidates. It's available on Amazon and it's available from our website, Here to There, Getting to Your Mission Field. Not only is it a handbook for the missionary candidate, but it includes a lot of ecclesiology for the church leaders to manage their candidate through the process.

Also, there's a very helpful article as a blog post on called The Six C's of Missionary Qualification. It reviews in some detail calling character, competence, convictions, chemistry, and cross-cultural capacity. Find it on 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.

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