Audio Transcript:

You have found the Propempo Prospective podcast. Hi, welcome to the Propempo Prospective Podcast. This is episode number three. We're in the second part of a series on the biblical centrality of the local church and missions. We already talked about the central role that the church plays in God's purpose from Ephesians three, and now we're gonna launch into the priority of church planting in missions. The essence of the church being central is that the result of proper biblical missions is local churches, indigenous churches, wherever they are continuing to support themselves, reproduce themselves, have their own leadership. We're gonna talk about the priority of planning and church missions and start with some concepts from the Great Commission. I can almost guarantee that some of you may be upset by some of the things I'm gonna say because it will rattle your cage. It will change your assumptions about missions.

I just ask that you stay faithful to the scriptures. I do want to stir your hearts to grasp the importance and significance of this seemingly almost lost principle. The planting of indigenous local churches should be the priority and intentional end result of all missions ministries.

The planting of indigenous local churches should be the priority and intentional end result of all missions ministries. 

We're gonna start with the reality of the Great Commission in Matthew 28 and fill it out in the next podcast with some more support from the New Testament. We're gonna start with the Great Commission as found in Matthew 28:18-20. Here's what it says. "

"Jesus came and said to them, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age."

Making disciples

So some of you that are very familiar with this, the things I'm gonna say about some elements will be familiar, but when you put it all together, we're going to arrive at a conclusion that will, I said, rattle your cage. Making disciples is the main verb in this passage, but making disciples involves both the evangelizing and the teaching. Training of believers making disciples is aimed at all nations, which defines the scope of this task of missions. That is every ethnic group in the world making disciples comes with that going that we see earlier in the passage. There's an implication that we keep pressing toward the unreached places, the edges where the church does not already exist on its own. Baptizing comes as a result of making disciples. And normally we think of baptizing as one of the two ordinances of the church administered by or under the authority of recognized church leaders.

People just don't go out and baptize themselves, that usually involves a mature or recognized church leader. It's the identifier of a new believer with Christians.  "Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" implies commitment to consistently meet together for teaching. And teaching obviously comes from people who know how to teach or are gifted to teach or know something more than those that they're teaching. All the commands of Christ is a key element of the corporate meetings of the church and the commands of Christ by extension through the New Testament. And other New Testament writers would indicate that it is the writings that we find in our Bible that's the commands extension of Jesus, not just the red letters that we see in the red letter Bible of Jesus', actual words recorded, but the fuller teaching of the gospels and the epistles and the historic books and so forth for the whole New Testament.

No lone rangers

It's interesting that a Christian cannot really fulfill the commands of Christ or obey the commands of Christ without being part of a fellowship of people that meet together regularly and know each other. And just an example, I would commend you to the commands of Christ in the one another commands of the New Testament. There is no way to fulfill the one another commands of the New Testament and be a lone ranger. And you can't even be hooked up in a very flaky kind of way with several congregations. You have to be a part of a group that knows you, of mutually committed Christians to help each other grow in Christ. So you can't fulfill those one another commands without being really part of a local church if someone ministers in such a way. So is to fulfill these elements. You have all the foundational elements by definition of a local church that is a group of mutually committed believers.

People who have been evangelized, trusted Christ for salvation and discipled, having biblically qualified leaders and teachers observing the ordinances of the church meeting regularly for worship and fellowship and teaching and edification, seeking to obey the commands of the New Testament. So the Great commission all by itself is a package when examined carefully demands that priority be given to the planting of indigenous local churches without which the great commission could not be obeyed or fulfilled. And here's an interesting application of that. If you come across people who believe that they're fulfilling the Great Commission simply by evangelism, they're wrong. If you come across a parachurch organization that says, we're doing the Great Commission because we disciple people, unless you're finding churches planted as a result of that ministry, that's not correct either. The only aim that we have is for all of the evangelism, the discipleship, the fellowship, the worship, all of those elements to be put together into local assemblies of believers that are working together, striving together to be more like Christ, to understand the scriptures, to obey all the commands that happens week by week by week.

The First Day

Paul tells us later that it's on the first day of the week when we meet regularly for these kinds of things. So Jesus's words and his promise to build his church and his command through the Great Commission, which is reiterated again through all of the gospels in one form or another. And in the beginning of the Book of Acts, all of that leads toward the formation of local churches. It means that we need to be discriminating, discerning about what we support and how we support it. How do the pieces fit together? So I've known lots of missionaries across the world in many, many different roles. And I say every ministry that they do can be wired in by plan and design into the planting and strengthening of biblically healthy local churches. And if it can't, they need to reevaluate their strategy or frankly leave the field.

every ministry that they do can be wired in by plan and design into the planting and strengthening of biblically healthy local churches. 

That's pretty harsh words. But if they have a sports ministry that's developing relationships in order to evangelize people and then leave them cold after that and not integrate them into a vibrant local fellowship of Christians that are helping them to grow. And I'm talking about not age specific, right? So people in college ministry, they may have a college fellowship that they may even call their church, but if it's not open to people of all backgrounds and ages, if they're not actually doing the ordinances of baptism and Lord's Supper, if they don't have biblically qualified leadership that are, is indigenous to their congregation, then they don't have a really sustainable church. And the people who have that experience, even during college and leave may be so unacquainted with or disillusioned with a normal church that they never get involved again. It is not too much to expect that all ministries, all types of ministries who have a great commission purpose would be involved in augmenting, pushing toward the forming of indigenous local churches and the strengthening of indigenous local churches.

Not the Core

So let's circle back on that a little bit. What if a missionary is not directly involved in planning indigenous local churches and increasing number of missionaries and agencies primarily address issues of social justice and relief and development. And those ministries might include evangelism, but they lack a focus of intentional church planting while they're caring for orphans, digging wells for clean water and stopping sex trafficking. Those are fine, good and biblical ministries. But we would argue that the core mandate of the Great Commission is disciple-making where it occurs in a group of mutually committed Christians where authentic discipleship emerge and churches start. If the goal is not disciple making like that, it ultimately leads to the founding of self perpetuating ministries that are not focused on actually growing mature Christians, but just reproducing themselves in some way. So I'd encourage you reexamine your goals and look at the biblical priority for the local church.

the core mandate of the Great Commission is disciple-making where it occurs in a group of mutually committed Christians where authentic discipleship emerge and churches start

Missionaries can and should engage in all kinds of social justice and relief development ministries, but they are not in and of themselves. The greatest human need is for the gospel. The ultimate injustice is people who have never heard the gospel, and we should rightly be appalled by the deplorable circumstances of the fallen world. But if we're gripped by the word of God and understand its priority, people need to be saved from eternal hell in order to appreciate whatever life that God gives them here on earth and in heaven. Ultimately, as believers, we confuse means with ends. We mix up strategies with results. Our desire for holistic transformation of life in society can eclipse a biblical ambition for proclamation of the gospel.  Projects that begin as an entree to develop relationships for evangelism and discipleship and ultimately church planting. Boy, that's the way to go. If your relationships are not heading in that direction, you need to tweak your strategy to make sure that the local church is at the end of it.

The 3 "selfs"

Discipling whole nations includes gathering new disciples into self-supporting, self-governing, self propagating bodies of believers, and this is really critical as eventually the missionary leaves the field and what is left should not be an  institutional ministry that's just funneling funds overseas, but it should be a vibrant, self-sustaining group of believers who continue to then reproduce more churches where there are none. Jesus said, I will build my church. That is his soul building program for the ages. We saw that in Ephesians three. Hopefully you got a glimpse of that from Matthew 28.

We're gonna look at some other evidences from the New Testament in the next podcast. I hope that you're tracking with me. Let me give a side note. With respect to experience on the field, it's our understanding and experience and observation that ministries that produce indigenous, reproducing local churches are sustained through generations. Churches that are not focused on actual church planting but on specialty ministries and or a lot of funding from outside sources don't seem to last beyond one generation past the missionary.

Before you get angry

That is an extremely important observation as we look to flesh this out on the field in many unreached people groups around the world to fulfill the great commission. Some of you may be pretty angry with me right now. I would just encourage you to look again at the scriptures and prayerfully consider what we've said, what the scripture said, and see if it really lines up. The third thing you might do is just contact Propempo and see if you can get one of us to come to your church and explain to your pastors, your elders, your church leaders, your missions team, exactly why this is so, and how it fleshes out in practical reality in your church's missions efforts.

Hey, I want to thank you again for joining us. We'd like to hear from you. We'd love to be of assistance to help you in any way  can. You can always find lots of resources on If you register there, you'll be able to leave comments on our website, check us out at YouTube, you'll find lots of videos.

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