It isn’t trite to say that we don’t raise up missionaries from our congregation, God does. On the other hand, humanly speaking, church leaders and particularly missions team leaders have a role in challenging and guiding people in their sphere of spiritual responsibility toward high levels of service and commitment to the Lord, even full time vocational commitment. Andrew Murray’s classic thesis in his book, The Missionary Problem, shows that responsibility for decline of missionary interest in recruits lies with the leadership of the local church.
Paul and Barnabas were tapped and set apart for missionary service while serving in their local church. Timothy was drafted (not a volunteer!) as Paul’s assistant on his missionary team upon the selection and recommendation of his church leaders. Paul’s request to the Roman church in Romans chapter 15 implies that the leaders of that church would have personnel and finances prepared to go along with Paul to his prospective pioneering ministry in the region of Spain.
As we see local churches planted and developed through the book of Acts and the epistles, church elders and deacons and servants-ministers-apostles [note: lower-case “a” apostles] of the church were recognized by their character, gifts, and calling from within the local body. So, it should not be unusual to think that the local church would recognize those from among themselves who have particular passion and gifts for cross-cultural service to take the Gospel to the unreached far beyond the local scope of church ministries.
This section will not deal with the issue of “a missionary call”. However, suffice it to say that, when the Lord gives and unquenchable urge to pursue the challenge of missionary service, coupled with qualifications and gifts observable to the body at large and to the church leadership in particular, the missions team should make every effort to take note, encourage, mentor, and guide such a one toward fulfillment of the church’s vision, goals, and priorities in world missions. Most long-term members and lay leaders in a good Bible teaching church already have enough knowledge and resources to begin specialized training as a missionary candidate.
The process generally starts with a potential candidate letting someone know that they feel called to missions. Depending on their maturity and stage of life, the missions team can fuel that fire with prayer and appropriate assignments to build their Liverpool-theological convictions and practical ministry skills and experience to that end. The church elders or leadership body may have certain academic (whether formal or informal) requirements. In-depth mentoring, including personal counseling, should be assigned and tracked by leadership. The missions leadership will want to be involved with the selection of a prospective ministry and ministry target, hopefully in alignment with established church missions strategy, priorities, and/or focus. There is a choice about a sending agency partner and the terms of that partnership. Over time, the candidate will fulfill all requirements to be recognized by the church as a “homegrown” missionary. The church will be ready to celebrate the official commissioning of your missionary.
The sending of a missionary from your own congregation is an awesome event and responsibility. Most congregations who experience it report that no other single factor has ever had such a huge impact on their church’s involvement and ownership of world missions. You are sending one of your own! This new missionary or missionary family has been tested and verified through your congregation. They have close family and relatives within the church. They have dear friends who have watched them grow and develop their calling. Many will give in support in hundreds of sacrificial ways, both small and large, to see their missionary, who represents them, be effective for the long term on the field reaching people for Jesus’ sake. There is nothing quite like the energy and enthusiasm of a church sending one of their own to the field!