I am a pastor of a local church that sends missionaries. I have been a missionary sent from a local church. Let me be clear that as a sending church pastor and as a local church-sent missionary that I am a supporter of mission agencies. I had the privilege of working with a wonderful agency for 5 years (Association of Baptists for World Evangelism) and would require that any missionaries that we send out in the future be with a mission agency. Agencies provide expertise, financial accountability, fellowship, education and many other wonderful benefits, but there is also a dark side. The dark side has its origin not in the agency but in the local church.
The efficiency and skill of the modern missions agency has led many pastors to take a hands off approach with regard to missionaries. I remember very clearly the sharp jolt I experienced when I went from being a local church associate pastor to being a missionary. It “felt” as if I was no longer part of the local church and was being seconded to another’s care. Part of this was my responsibility as I will share later, but much of the problem is rooted in the modern missionary culture that has developed. The Great Commission is the commission of the Church and the reaching of the nations for Christ is the mission of the Church. Just as a father cannot biblically delegate his responsibility to discipline his children, nor a husband delegate his responsibility to love his wife to another, so neither can the local church delegate her God given responsibilities to shepherd, discipline, lead, and direct her missionaries to the professionals. The 8 Dangers which I hope to develop more thoroughly, are briefly listed with more detailed explanation to come:
- The Missionary Call–the role of the local church in calling, affirming, and sending.
- Ministry Accountability–the responsibility of pastors to affirm the ministry of the church in missions and lead the missionary in his work. Ignorance is not bliss–it is death.
- Financial Responsibility–the responsibility to proactively know and meet the needs of the missionary.
- Member Care–the responsibility of the local church to provide spiritual care, and oversight from afar.
- Authority–the biblical authority of the local church and its role in providing guidance and protection to the missionary.
- Home assignment–the need for pastors and churches to provide for and protect the missionary during their time off the field.
- Training–the need for the church to prepare the missionary for fruitful service.
- Post Field Transitions–the responsibility of the sending church to plan for the transition of the missionary off the field.