Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions On Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. This is episode 132 of Missions on Point. Thanks for joining us in this series on Your Church Missions Handbook. This series is designed to help you review, revise, or even write for the first time, a church mission's handbook, which is very important in the overall picture of your administration, management, and vision for missions through your local church.

This episode we're going to tackle some key definitions which will be important to include in your mission's handbook. We've already introduced the concept and talked about biblical basis and scope of authority. Today we're going to talk about definitions. One of the beautiful things about having clear definitions for key concepts in your church missions ministries is it saves a lot of time of rehearsing, discussing, or even arguing and wrangling about specifics because the definitions make it clear for everyone and everyone should accept those definitions that have been produced by the church leadership and communicated to the church membership. Now, this doesn't mean that you never review and improve those definitions or anything in the mission's handbook, but it does mean that generally speaking, they should be timeless, long-lasting kinds of principles to which everyone in leadership agrees. One of those anchor definitions is simply a definition of missions. Now, you may think that writing a definition of missions is a very simple thing because everyone agrees on what is missions, right? Not so. In my experience, even people that come from very similar backgrounds in churches have quite different ideas, whether personally or historically from their traditions, or their unique experiences and influences.

I think it's very important to get people away from thinking of missions as this great big mission of God, the missio dei or mission singular, not missions plural. That is pretty much everything that we do as a church outside of our walls may be regarded as missions to them. There is a lot of current thinking floating around out there that would want to push the church to think of pretty much anything having to do with gospel ministry or reaching your neighborhood and community as missions. However, I think you have to make a distinction between what is local or domestic or foreign cross-cultural kinds of things. We're going to do that in our definitions today.

I want to suggest that there's three basic areas that people may regard as missions, and particularly if your missions team or missions committee is also supposed to be the team or committee for local outreach. So the first distinction is about local outreach. What does that mean? It is the effort of the body locally to reach their local area, whether that is in their neighborhoods or through vacation Bible school or perhaps in the nearby metroplex. Then there's a whole idea of domestic ministry, and that can include anything sort of within the national boundaries. It may include campus ministries or student high school kind of ministries. It may involve a lot of things having to do with community welfare and humanitarian concerns locally and domestically. It might also include things like camp ministry or church planting within the United States, but it's still with our culture and our nationality and our language.

The third major category is cross-cultural missions, and that's our forte. That's what we talk about when we say missions with an S. We talk about fulfilling the great commission and the aspect of reaching all nations. Now, admittedly, there may be some overlap between these three things. Perhaps there is ministry to university students that are from foreign countries. Perhaps our church building is the place where a Hispanic congregation meets or Korean congregation meets or an immigrant population from some other country meets, and because these major areas often get blurred even by church leaders, it's important to be clear about what we mean when we say local outreach or domestic ministry or cross-cultural missions.

Some churches might just make a simple distinction between domestic missions in general and worldwide missions. Here is an example of a simple clear definition of world missions. Missions is any cross-cultural ministry beyond the normal reach of the local church, which has as its purpose the fulfillment of the great commission by making disciples of Jesus Christ and planting churches and or the training of indigenous leaders to do the same. Period. A couple of key components there. It is cross-cultural ministry. It is beyond the normal outreach of the local church, and it is ministry that has as its purpose planning churches or the training of indigenous leaders to do the same.

Implicit in this definition are the kinds of things that make it possible to do so. For instance, just the sending of well qualified missionaries to do that, but also implies that there is a Bible or a New Testament, at least in the language of those people. So translation is included in this definition. It does not in and of itself rule out a wide variety of ministries that supplement and support the work of planning churches among people groups that have not yet been reached or the training of indigenous leaders to do the same. Your church may decide that you need the stepping stone definitions leading up to that. For instance, what is a basic definition for all the membership for community service? What is the definition for local outreach and what kinds of ministries we would support or endorse or partner with?

Another helpful definition is simply the definition of a missionary, which may include qualifications for a missionary under this kind of definition of missions. Very similar to what we would expect if we hire a pastor at the top level of pastoral ministry in our church, we would expect at least categories of qualifications for missionaries, things like bible training, theological training, local church involvement, spiritual disciplines, physical health, interpersonal skills, training in conflict resolution and crisis management, language learning capacity, cultural learning, technical skills and proficiencies, what is the best agency to work with, and then some kind of field survey or experience on the field to test and approve that they are heading in the right direction.

It's okay to define such things as what we would expect of a supported missionary in their relationship with our local church. In other words, our church gives priority to missionaries that we know well and have an expectation of having a deeper long-term relationship with as they do their ministry on the field. Having these clear definitions and categories just solve so much future stress and possible conflict because you have described it and defined it in such a way that eliminates people's wild ideas coming from every point of the compass. There are a lot of other concepts that may require some definition, not necessarily in a separate definition point, but maybe in a paragraph that's more descriptive, leaning toward understanding what are the differences between institutional kinds of ministry or humanitarian ministries and what our goal is in gospel ministry.

Also, what do we do for crises like natural disaster relief or global cycles of famine or terrorism or ethnic war? Do we have any responsibility for that? What about our relationship to proclamational gospel ministry or Bible teaching and Bible content in everything that we do? That's one of those things that makes us different than any secular or government agency. What about defining what we mean by long-term church planting and leadership development? There are a lot of methodologies out there that don't believe long-term should be in the Christian missionary's vocabulary, and how do we handle this goal of indigenization? How do we handle supporting missionaries that are in a support or technical type of ministry? And then what is the relationship of missionaries that you want to support to your own local church? Does their ministry have the inclination and capacity for allowing your church to come alongside and partner with them in the ministry in a variety of ways?

Some churches like to have a short series of definitions that deal with primarily the time duration of a missions ministry, so for instance, short-term missions should have a little definition. What do we mean by that and how long is it? There is such a thing as mid-term missions or internship kind of missions, and then longer term or career missions. But today's world also has missionaries that are functioning under a contract or a project as the key reason allowing them to get into a particular country. It's a little more subtle, but I really think that there could be in this definition section, some statement about what the church expects with regard to examining and testing a missionary's qualifications before they get support. So there is some kind of application process. There are certainly interviews, there are references, and the missions team compares and contrasts the missionary's presented qualifications with what the qualifications would be in scripture or would be for becoming a church staff member.

In talking about these things with a prospective missionary, it's okay to ask why questions. Why do you think God has called you? Why go to this particular ministry? Why be involved in such and such a way? There are a lot of other definitions that could be included probably in an appendix or at the back of the mission's handbook because there are a lot of people that just don't understand in today's world, a lot of the things having to do with missionary life and work, for instance, the old-fashioned term furlough, has now been changed to home assignment. Do people really understand what that means and how hectic it can be and what kind of time pressure there can be on the missionaries on home assignment?

Even a simple definition of church planting. A lot of people think church planting is building a rudimentary chapel that is a place for meeting. That's not church planting. Church planting is the people work, not the location where they meet for worship or services. Most mission agencies have classifications for people who are first applying to be a missionary, they're a candidate versus actually being accepted by the mission as having fulfilled the basic requirements to become a member of the mission agency. That person is normally called an appointee and they're getting ready for the field. They may have few or a lot of qualification requirements to meet before they are actually released to go to the field, not the least of which is raising their support if they're from a faith-based mission agency. And then this whole idea of support seems quite foreign to many Christians in today's world, especially younger adults have never maybe come in contact with a missionary raising support, and what does that mean and who sets that amount and why do they need it?

I could come up with probably a hundred glossary terms that would be nice to have available to people if they needed it, not at the front of the mission's handbook, but perhaps in an appendix at the back. Last but not least, is a definition of biblical gospel ministry. There is a distinction between general humanitarian concerns and actually having a biblical content component with vocal verbal relational communication of the gospel to the target audience. In some contexts, your church may need to explain that the gospel is really the only message of salvation. There is an exclusivity biblically to the gospel message. There is no other means of salvation except through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his work on the cross and resurrection. This is so clear from the scriptures. Giving a cup of water in Jesus name is not the same thing as gospel proclamation. Calling people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and congregating them together with other believers is the transforming solution to their greatest needs.

In the next episode of Missions on Point, we're going to talk about church strategy and focus. Frankly, 90% of the churches that I go to haven't an idea about what church strategy and focus really means. So please plan to listen and get other key leaders in your church to listen.

Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point. We trust that you'll find more help and resources on our websites 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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