Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions On Point, the Propempo perspective on Church and Missions. Hey, we're very thankful that you've joined us today for Missions on Point. This is episode 131. We're in the middle of a series on your church missions handbook. The previous episode was on biblical basis, which is always exciting to me to start with the scriptures and this great overarching theme of all of the Bible pointing to God's purpose for his glory among all nations. Through all of history eventually culminating in that great scene in heaven where people from every tongue, tribe, and nation are around the throne worshiping Christ who alone is worthy. Today we're going to deal with the scope of authority of the mission's team, the scope of authority that will be put into the Church Mission's handbook that describes sort of the range of how the mission's team works and what is its ultimate purpose.

This topic is more conceptual, but the nitty-gritty, practical outworking of it has a lot of impact on the rest of the things we'll talk about for the mission's team and the mission's handbook. There is some overlap with other topics, but this is foundational to how we think about the missions team in general. The first thing to wrestle with is to understand the distinction between local outreach ministries and missions, meaning cross-cultural and usually international ministries. Many churches wrestle with this. If your church has not wrestled with this, it probably will, especially if the Ministry of the Missions team is thought to be the outreach and missions team together. You've got to think about how to delineate the difference between those two things because even though you could argue that the Great commission includes all nations and that means the people that are near us, that's true. However, there is a very big difference between local outreach that is based within the grasp and logistical reach of your own church and cross-cultural, usually international ministry that is certainly beyond the normal reach of your church.

The very different dynamic of the two sides of this coin of outreach is important to recognize and address. In the scope section. There are many similarities with respect to oversight, the basic message of the gospel, et cetera. However, they are very different with respect to accessibility, qualifications, training, and the cost involved as well as the desired ends. Outreach ministries tend to be inwardly focused. That is you're trying to draw people into ministries of your local church and perhaps even into membership in your local church, where missions ministries in a more classic sense or traditional sense are outwardly focused. The end results you will never see present in your local church except by way of representatives or reports.

It's absolutely okay to combine the two into one mission's team or outreach admissions team. I would argue that dealing with the international cross-cultural side of the coin in your church missions handbook first is better. You can then apply the same principles and practices to give great help, experience and content for solving the issues of the local outreach ministries. The same principles apply. This episode deals primarily with international cross-cultural missions. Here are some typical questions that need to be answered in the scope section of your mission's handbook.

Number one, to whom or to what body does the mission's team answer? Now, this seems like a really obvious question, but it's not so obvious. Smaller churches tend to have a real need for manpower and many people are doing multiple ministries. Who do you choose to be the missions team and to whom do they answer? Many smaller churches, the body of elders or the top level of leadership of the church function as the missions team. I don't recommend that because there are so many nitpicky, gnarly little questions that have to be dealt with over a period of time that the elders could easily be consumed with a lot of discussion and a lot of decision making with regard to missions that ought to be left to people who are specifically focused, even educated, and trained along those lines. It's not a perfect analogy, but think of it like this.

The missions team basically acts like an international business in order to operate an international business with all of the complexity of laws and languages and foreign exchange and different kinds of culture, all of those things come into play. They have to deal with that. Let's not encumber the elders with that on a regular routine basis. Their primary function and ministry is to shepherd the flock of God that he has given to them to teach them in the word, to guide them spiritually to disciple and equip them for ministry, not to do all of those things for somebody overseas and even their ministry overseas. Larger churches have a completely different dynamic. Often, they will have an associate pastor or a qualified layperson be the leader of the missions team that still reports ultimately to the elders for final decisions on important matters. A significantly large church will even have a designated missions pastor as part or full-time staff position.

Number two, what are the boundaries of their authority and function? In other words, what kind of decisions can they make? What kind of policies or practices can they implement themselves without having to go higher up for permission or approval? In many churches I've worked with, I helped them establish a set of guidelines or guiding principles or guiding values that are the framework under which the missions team operates, so when they stay within those values or principles, they can do whatever it takes to manage the missions of the church, so to speak, and yet the elders have to agree on those principles. It gives great freedom to both the elders and to the missions team to no one understand a small handful, four, five, six, seven at the most principles that they work under that frame the values and direction and priorities of the church in missions. That kind of foundational document, which is not necessarily part of the mission's handbook, but it could be a part of the scope section of the mission's handbook, helps the missions team decide.

Number three, what decisions can the missions team make independently, and number four, what decisions require approval or affirmation from some higher authority? So you want to know what those guiding principles or values might be. Here is a sample. Your church may write them slightly differently, but almost every church I propose the same sort of set of guiding principles and values for missions, and they adapt them for their particular church. Number one is doctrinal alignment. Every church or ministry should have substantial agreement with the statement of faith of your church. If they do not or if they have a left turn somewhere theologically, you shouldn't be supporting them. Number two, missions ministry should have a priority of aiming at ministries that support the planting and development of indigenous local churches, things like Bible translation and pioneering church planting. In today's world in difficult countries, there may be a business involved in order to have a visa.

All of those things count, but if it's educational or medical, technology or technical services or community development kind of ministry, it all should be intentionally aimed toward the end goal of strengthening and planting of indigenous local churches.

Number three, proper pre-field training missionaries who are representing the Gospel and Christ and your local church should be properly trained to qualify as leader servants in your church. If they're not elder qualified, they probably shouldn't be in a ministry that predominantly is teaching God's word. If they're not deacon qualified, then they probably are not qualified to be the kinds of servants that would be self-motivated and diligent even when someone's not looking over their shoulder, checking up on them all the time, as is the case on the mission field. I help churches understand that.

Number four, there should be some relational familiarity with their local church. In other words, they're not somebody that's cold calling from another state who's saying, "Hey, help me raise support. I want to go to the mission field." But people who have some sort of direct line of relationship with the church so that the church can have a stronger partnership ownership relationship and accountability with that missionary over the long haul.

Another guiding principle has to do with strategic focus, which could be quite different for different churches depending on how God has wired them for different kinds of ministries and skills and inclinations, even overseas relationships.

Another guiding principle is that fewer missionaries get more support. This is pretty radical for some churches. I've run into churches that want to give a little bit to a lot of different missionaries and ministries scattered around the globe Somehow they have the idea that it's better to have more pins on the map, but I'm telling you from both sides of that equation, it's better to have fewer pins on the map with people that you go deep with and have an understanding and a love for their particular ministry than it is to just see how many countries you can cover with pins.

Fewer missionaries get more support means that the whole church owns it more, which is another one of those guiding principles you really love to see the whole church. Sunday school classes, small groups, youth groups, men's and women's groups know and understand their missionaries well enough to actually know the names of their kids and pray for them regularly so that they have a whole church missions ownership of those missionaries and ministries that you support.

The last one is that short-term missions dovetails into this. However you construe short-term missions, it's not just to give people an overseas experience. It's certainly not just to have a spiritualized kind of vacation, but is dovetailing into the purposes and the relationships you have through missions and ministry support already. It works like this. When the elders or highest level of authority in the church agree on these guiding principles or guiding values, and the missions team works within that framework, they have a lot of latitude and all the elders have already pre-agreed through the guiding principles that these are the things that they will affirm and approve and promote within the church.

Included in the scope section should be something about how and how often the missions team reports on their activities. Number six on this list of questions to be answered is how does the missions team relate to supported missionaries and ministries?

Number seven is who approves a missionary or ministry for ongoing support and what about just one time support or special needs or emergency contingency kind of support?

Number eight is not a small question, and it maybe could go to the head of the list. What is the goal or purpose of the existence of the missions team?

It's not simply an administrative functional thing, although that is important, but they need to have something in their mind and everybody needs to know what is the reason for existence of the missions team. As we walk through this series, there may be some overlap that I trust that as you build your church mission's handbook, you eliminate redundancy so that it's clear and everything gets covered.

I hope you'll tune in for the next episode. It's about definitions. It should be enlightening to you, and you'll probably learn a few things. If you have any questions or comments, please email me

Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point. We trust that you'll find more help and resources on our website at and We are so thankful for those who support us, enabling us to produce this podcast.

Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

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