Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. Welcome to episode 11 of Missions on Point. We're in the second part of a two-part series toward a biblical definition of missions. In the previous episode, we talked about a number of secular definitions and tried to glean an outline of what comprises a good definition of missions. From those, we also looked at some incomplete or inaccurate Christian definitions. We also submitted a whole variety of definitions of missions used by real churches, which include elements that are not to the point. Our goal in this episode is to get to a succinct definition of missions, which is to the point, and if you'll pardon the pun, it will be a definition of missions on point. So just to set this up, let's review those key elements that are necessary in a definition.

To Send

First of all, the basic definition of missions as a word is to send. It actually corresponds with the verb in the New Testament Propempo, which is the name of our organization to send forward or to send ahead. So here's the elements. It requires a sending authority or body. It requires sent ones, those that are sent. It requires some special training or qualifications for those sent. It implies a crossing of cultural or geographic boundaries, and it also implies a special purpose or charge looking for a specific result or end. We looked at a number of definitions of missions used by real churches that I consider to be at least slightly off mark because they include things that are not the essence of the definition of missions. Things like we don't support personnel located in USA home offices or we do include things of physical needs or institutional things like education or the whole need of mankind or excluding administrative personnel.

The reason that I consider those things as not essential is because they're not the core of the definition, number one. Although every church is an autonomous local church and can decide to put in the definition whatever they want for their church, however it blurs or muddies the water, so to speak, so that it's not simple and clear to every reader, it tends to confuse ends and means that is the end results desired with the methodologies or strategies that may be used to achieve those ends. Particularly when a definition of missions is at the front end of a church policy statement on missions or philosophy of missions ministry, it needs to be succinct and clear with no clutter, so let's talk about those critical elements one by one.

when a definition of missions is at the front end of a church policy statement on missions or philosophy of missions ministry, it needs to be succinct and clear with no clutter

A Sending Authority

First, there is a sending authority or body in secular literature. It can be used for a negotiating party seeking peace between two armies.

There is always a sense of delegated authority from the sending body. It can be used for an ambassador representing a government to another government. It can be used for a corporation seeking to build an alliance or partnership with another corporation. The sending authority or body biblically is the local church. If you listen to the earlier episodes of Missions on Point, you would get that. Another practical reason why I say the local church is the sending authority or body is because when something happens bad on the field or attrition of a missionary leaving the field for whatever reason, good or bad, they end up being the responsibility and charge of the local church. The local church has to help them pick up the pieces and get it sorted out so that they can start a regular life again on the home side rather than on the field.

Mission agencies tend to not take that responsibility. The local church where the missionary came from as being sent out is the one who works with them in counseling, in reintegrating them back into church fellowship in reentry, in helping them find housing a job and so forth. They are ultimately the sending authority or body in both biblical and practical terms.

The Sent Ones

The next critical element is the sent ones, those sent out from the local church. Now, you'll run into missionaries who don't have a sending church. There are those who are convinced in and of themselves that they have a missionary call and that Christians are sort of obligated to support them in going wherever they want to go to serve. Typically, those don't last very long on the field, and even if they do, they don't end up fulfilling what we will see to be the remainder of the definition of missions.

They're busy doing some kind of Christian activity overseas or service to mankind, but they're not really fulfilling what we'll see as the definition of missions. I love Michael Griffiths' quote on this. "The most that an individual can do is express his willingness. Others must determine his worthiness." The individual may be free to go, but only his church knows if he is really fitted to go. Which brings us to the next key element, special training or qualifications, whether in the business world or in politics or in military, a mission requires someone who is qualified to go how much more so in the spiritual world with eternal souls at stake.

"The most that an individual can do is express his willingness. Others must determine his worthiness."
- Michael Griffiths

In Propempo, we use the six Cs to kind of give an overview of special qualifications and training for missionaries.

  1. Calling It is first of all this inner compulsion or calling, which we've touched on just a bit.
  2. Conviction Then conviction, meaning an understanding of the basic doctrines of the Bible so that you can explain it to people who have never heard.
  3. Character Thirdly is character, which is definitely clear in the scripture with regard to the character of a servant or leader or teacher of the truths of God.
  4. Competence Then is competence, which is skills in basic ministry. We've mentioned in other episodes that evangelism is a key skill for a missionary no matter what their specific job is, and you want them to have competence in the ministry skills, which they will be exercising on the field before they arrive.
  5. Chemistry The fifth scene is chemistry, and that has to do with relational or people skills. Spiritual ministry is broadly relational in so many ways, and you want to have someone who is a people person who is a team player who knows how to get along with people, knows how to be winsome for the sake of Jesus Christ and the gospel with people that they've never met before. They need to have chemistry with people
  6. Cross-cultural Capacity And the last one, which sometimes is neglected, it's almost humorous, but they need to have cross-cultural capacity. Sometimes missionaries get on the field and they realize, wow, this environment is hard. This language is hard. I don't even like the food. Those kind of people should never get to the field. They need some sense of cross-cultural capacity and that can be tested or at least experienced to some degree here on the home side before they're ever sent out. The qualifications may include formal training, informal training, mentoring growth in the church, in discipleship, in leadership and in ministry skills.

Those are the kind of things that need to take place before they ever get to the mission field. I would say before they even apply to a mission agency, it should be downright embarrassing to the individual candidate and to the church that they're from. For a candidate to be quizzed in the candidate orientation process about their ministry skills and some of these other things in the qualifications and find out they don't really know their Bible very well.

They've never been involved in evangelism. They've never discipled or taught somebody in the scriptures. They don't have any ministry skill experience, and yet they're expected to go to a field and to plant a church that has all of those characteristics. They're not qualified as church leaders. How can they develop church leaders if they've never seen it or done it before?

Crossing Cultures

The next key element we'll talk about is this implication in the definition of crossing cultural or geographic barriers. There is the implication in the word itself that you're going to someplace other than home. You're going beyond the reach of your local church. In the case of a missionary, you're crossing some cultural boundary or geographic boundary to reach people that have not been reached before with the gospel or the teaching or the particular ministry that you're going to apply.

Specific Results

The last key element is this special purpose or charge with specific results. We're not asking people to be a missionary by just going overseas and exercising their professional expertise as a Christian in the culture per se. We want them to aim at having specific end results in mind and charge them to do everything they can to achieve those results by God's grace with God's help. Just to be clear, I'm not talking about numbers here per se. I'm talking about a dynamic of what happens when a new Christian community is established in a foreign field.

A Definition of Missions

Now that I've walked through that, I have a couple of submissions for you to consider. The first is a longer version definition and the second one is the shorter, more concise version. Here's the longer one.

Missions is the intentional partnership of resources and personnel by local churches to fulfill the great commission, as clearly expressed in Matthew 28 through proclamation, evangelism, discipleship of new believers, congregating those believers as a local church with biblically qualified leaders for the purpose of observing the ordinances of the church and teaching God's word in order to obey teachings together in real life.

Now, it's obvious that this definition just follows the pattern of the passage in Matthew 28, and it's true, as we have said in previous episodes, you cannot fulfill the Great commission in Matthew 28 without actually planting churches. Here is the shorter definition, a little bit more concise, probably a little bit more usable.

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.

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.

Now, note that all of the key essential elements are there. The sending body is the local church or local churches. They're glorifying God by sending their sent ones involved in that qualified workers. That's their special qualifications that you expand in some other place in your policy for establishing and strengthening healthy, biblical local churches. That is the specific purpose and the crossing of cultural geographic barriers with specific results where they do not exist.

So we're talking about key workers being raised up, identified, trained, and sent by local churches to unreached people groups to plant churches where they do not exist. It doesn't mean that in their methodology they can't use humanitarian means or methodologies or institutional means, meaning educational institutions or hospitals, that kind of thing, but the clear goal needs to be the end result of seeing indigenous local churches with biblically qualified leaders started where they were not there before. That's the specific results that we're looking for. If you have a definition as succinct and on point as this later shorter form I've given you, then expand the elements so that it's very clear what you mean by each part, I think you have a great workable definition of missions.

Let me say it one more time. Here it is. 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. That I believe is a solid biblical definition of missions for your church.

Thanks for being with us for this episode. I trust that you'll subscribe to Missions on Point Podcast. I hope you found this useful and challenging for you and your church's ministry. We have so much more we want to share about the local church and missions. Hey, thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on Church A Missions. We trust that you'll find more resources and help on the website,

Comments (0)

Please login to comment.

Register for an account