February 12, 2013

Are Mission Agencies Hurting Missions?

We have seen a sad development in modern evangelicalism. Churches believe that they exist to make disciples of their own local community. Churches send money to a missionary society in order for that society to make disciples of other nations. We have cut off the local church from its commission to make disciples of all nations.

It is the local church that is commanded by Christ to go and make disciples of all nations. It is the local church that we see on the pages of the New Testament sending, supporting, and equipping church-planting missionaries to go where the gospel is not yet known. The missionary movement has never been divorced from the local church—it is the church.

Just because a church is small does not prevent it from being strategically involved in international missions. The scope of the missionary challenge, coupled with the force of Christ’s command given to the church to go and make disciples of all nations, suggests that every church—no matter how small or remote—is obligated to grapple with the question “How are we being faithful to the Great Commission?”

I pastor a relatively small church in a relatively small community, but I thank God that we have not allowed that to hinder our vision or reduce our capacity to take the gospel to the nations.

The reality is that being obedient to make disciples of all nations requires us to be a going and a sending church. We do not have the option to be passive about the nations. To do so is to be disobedient to Christ’s command. We are to be actively calling out, raising up, and supporting our own people as missionaries.

So then, how does a small church in a small town develop a commitment to the nations?

Preach the Gospel: Only the Gospel will move the believer to act. When the believer is confronted with the fact that many are born where the gospel has never been preached they are challenged to respond. It is by preaching a great God who owns the whole earth, who desires the worship of all people, and who is glorified by the proclamation of his son that has led our members to become enthusiastic about missions. Preach a biblical theology that presents the missionary thread that we see running throughout all scripture.

Pray for the Nations: Pray for the nations during worship. Pray an informed prayer. I will often use resources like Operation World to highlight a particular people. Lead the church to pray specific prayers for missionaries you are in contact with. Use Skype or pre-recorded videos messages to allow the church to interact with missionaries directly. Adopt a particular people group and keep informed about them.

Partnerships: Commit to an international partnership. Our church has a partnership in Scotland through 20schemes and this partnership has become an essential part of the life of our church. Make short-term and long-term goals as you develop this partnership. Maybe the Lord would have you send workers to the field. We should be dissatisfied if our church is not raising up and sending out missionaries.

Provide Opportunities: You must go, and the pastor must lead the way. Be cautious. Go as a partner to the workers already there and respond to their direction. Work with trusted missionaries and agencies. Be sure that the work you do is gospel centered with the goal being to build a healthy, gospel-centered church.

If we trust in the sufficiency of the gospel and affirm our call to go to the nations, then we must accept that every church has great missionary potential. So missionary agencies, on the whole, are not the problem. We need experts to provide support, training, guidance and a credible infrastructure within which gospel workers can work. The problem is when the church sees the agency as the “sender” of the missionary and therefore becomes detached from the responsibility the church has to make disciples of all nations.

We at 20schemes are seeking churches to partner with us, as we seek to build gospel churches among Scotland’s poorest communities. We desire partners to help sustain the work, to raise up and support workers to serve as part of our church-planting teams, to adopt a specific Scottish housing scheme in order to pray for and minister among that community. Perhaps the Lord is calling you and your church to build a gospel church in one of Scotland’s schemes? We trust that he is.

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