Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. Hello. Welcome to episode 41 of Missions on Point. This is the second of a series called Three Central Truths, or Radical Realization of Three Central Truths. The background to the series is the thought that if I could only give three concepts that would radically change your commitment to biblical Christian life and ministry, what would those things be? Here they are. The church is the central means and ends. It's the local church. Missions is the central mission of the church. And the gospel is the central message. Now, these three things include a lot of foundational theology and biblical information, but these three central truths will challenge you to radically refocus your understanding of and commitment to biblical Christian life and ministry. The central truth for today is the centrality of missions in local church ministry.

We need to radically realize that missions is the central ministry of the local church. A couple of notes here. Missions is plural as I pronounce it, and I mean that. I'll distinguish that from mission in a little bit. And the word realize is important because it not only means to become aware of, but it means to grasp, to fulfill, to achieve. We need to radically realize that missions is the central ministry of the local church. We're building on the centrality of the local church in God's program and plan for today. So the natural question is, if the local church and local church life is central to God's purposes today, what is the purpose of the local church? Two little footnotes here that are important. One is, think about it, we can worship God more perfectly in heaven. Once we get to heaven, we will be more holy. There's no sin there. So the thing that he has left us on earth for is this ministry of evangelism and missions, we'll say.

Secondly, it was the local church that was given the Great Commission. I realize it was the apostles, but they planted local churches as an expression of their obedience to this Great Commission, not mission agencies. I realize that mission agencies, or nonprofit Christian organizations, are valuable and important in the cause of missions, but they are not ultimately the ones to whom the Great Commission has been given. It is to the church. Insomuch as nonprofit mission agencies and organizations serve the local church to do their responsibility and fulfillment of the Great Commission, they're doing what is right and good. Insomuch as they travel off on their own trajectory and independent of the local church, they are not practically fulfilling God's purposes through the local church.

If you listen to the previous episode, you'll understand that church planting, local church planting was core to the disciples ministries after the resurrection of Christ. When Jesus gave the Great Commission, the Great Commission itself, especially as expressed in Matthew 28, encapsulates the formation and development of local churches. And apparently, those early Christians understood that, because that's what they did. They planted, they established new local churches everywhere they went. So I want to say that there is a sense in which church ministry should be church planting ministry. That is evangelism, discipleship, teaching, training, development of leaders, strengthening and reproducing healthy biblical churches. Even our efforts to disciple others, as in Colossians 1:28, that we proclaim Christ admonishing and teaching every man with all wisdom so that we may present every man mature in Christ.

Every effort to set the churches in order to raise up biblically qualified leaders in the church, all these things are parallel to the goal and ends of missions locally. They are the stuff of church planting. Though not technically missions, they are the seedbed and gym for growing and developing skilled missionaries to do that work cross-culturally among those who haven't had access to the gospel. The purpose of an individual church has to do with what we call the three Es, and they're found in the basis of the Great Commission. That is E, exalt the savior. Second E, equip the saints. And third E, evangelize sinners. But it is extremely important to realize that this is not an inwardly focused thing. This is not just growing and developing and adding numbers to our local church. It has an external view as well. It must be outwardly focused or it is not balanced. It's like an airplane with only one wing. It just won't fly. In fact, I would say, maybe dangerously, that a totally inwardly focused church is bound to end in implosion because it is not truly a healthy church.

Quickly, there are two things that are important to note right here. One is that an external focus, or at least a balanced focus on a passion for missions as core to the local church ministry is incredibly powerful and attractive to people. People from outside looking in at a church that is all me focused and all inwardly focused are going to be weaker Christians. And it is not going to develop a strong local church that is growing in spiritual maturity. The second little note is that pastors often object that too much emphasis on world missions, for example, is going to detract. It's going to take money away from the local outreach. It's going to make it hard for us to grow because of this external focus. I object to that. Every time we've seen a local church move from a totally inward sort of focus to an outward focus, the church has actually grown. The money has continued to come for their needs. It has not been a detraction or a negative factor at all. It's been a positive factor.

While I am in dangerous territory, I might as well go full on. The central mission of the local church is not Sunday morning pulpit ministry. Although it is important, I believe it is inferred from scripture that it needs to happen and God blesses the pulpit ministry in specific ways, it is not the central mission of the church. It is not community service or political activism. It is not poverty relief. It is not church growth per se. It is not bringing in the kingdom in the sense of the betterment of mankind. Sound biblical missions is not mission that is inwardly focused. It's pretty well established that those who want to remove the S from missions and talk about mission as being bringing in or helping establish the kingdom of God in a political, societal development sort of way, lose the gospel within a generation.

That's why I really cringe when I hear churches talk about being on mission with God, not really being clear about the gospel or the mission's trajectory of the gospel to the whole world. It becomes a focus on me thing of building my church and my life. It is not a side issue. It is not just the local evangelism, although that is included. Missions is not mercy ministry, disaster relief, humanitarian, legal, struggle for democratic ideals, political emancipation, or eradication of war or human trafficking. Although those things may be means for articulating the gospel, they may be a methodology, but they are not biblical missions in and of themselves. Missions is not helping people in deplorable conditions have an improved life on the way to hell. Certainly a mark of a biblically healthy church is the concept of planting churches both locally and cross-culturally or internationally, if you will, through the proclamation of the gospel and teaching about the person and work of Christ using the New Testament and the whole Bible as the whole council of God.

It often is cross-cultural or across languages, ethnicities, socioeconomic barriers in some way. It is discipling new believers and organizing them into indigenous churches, raising up and training biblically qualified local leaders to continue the work of the ministry of their church and moving on into planting other churches themselves. It is envisioning that local church to do the work of evangelism, teaching the word, and church planting themselves. So let me say this a different way. If a church is totally inwardly focused, they have no plans or concept or idea of planting another church locally or overseas. If they're not involved in the work of missions in proclaiming the gospel to those who have less access to it, then they are not a biblically healthy church. Just to be clear, I'm not saying that a church is healthy and mature if they're all about missionary overseas ministry and they're just going through the motions at home. Remember the airplane illustration. They have the other wing going, but without the first wing. They have to have both.

Missions in terms of a passion to reach the lost in your community and around the world is the heartbeat of every ministry of the church. And the local church's ministries are the laboratory where Christians are grown, matured, developed, given ministry skills to be able to reach their friends and neighbors and help other Christians do the same, as well as participating in and eventually growing missionaries from that local church to go out to reach the rest of the world. Let's take a moment and consider this target for a biblical definition of missions. Missions is the ministry of local churches to glorify God by sending qualified workers cross-culturally for establishing and strengthening healthy biblical local churches where they do not exist. Someone has said that a mark of a healthy church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity. This concept is a huge paradigm shift for a lot of modern churches that seem to be focused on understanding cultural adaptation as entirely local and internally focused.

Seeking church growth by whatever name in and of itself is not the totality of the church's ministry. In fact, it's moving off center of the centrality of missions in the local church ministry. When the local church has a balance and a continuum of exercising responsibility for evangelizing, growing Christians, and sending them out into ministry, then that church is doing what I think God and the New Testament expects for the dynamic of local churches. It takes a lot of work to have a healthy church at home. It takes good leadership that are responsive and responsible for shepherding their flock. It takes a flock that is eager to express the one another commands of the New Testament. But at the heart of every ministry is this missions core mindset that we're not just doing this for ourselves, we're doing this for the Lord Jesus Christ through the local church as the central means and ends to our neighbors and to the nations.

If the local church is the goal, the target, the channel, the agent of God, missions is the plan, the method, the strategy, the activity, the charge, the calling of the church and of the Christians that make up the church. By the way, this doesn't mean that I would say every Christian is a missionary. No, that's a whole other topic for another episode someday. It does mean though that every Christian has a part in missions. Even if exercised totally at home, it is a part of the Great Commission to reach, evangelize, and disciple all nations. Honestly, it is a positive and uplifting challenge to the congregation to understand the centrality of missions in the local church ministry and what part they play in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

Hey, this is number two of three central truths that will radically refocus your understanding of and commitment to biblical Christian life and ministry. I trust that you will subscribe or follow the podcast so you don't miss anything of episodes yet to come. 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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