In the Bible, missionaries were recruited a little differently from the way we do it today. We certainly don’t expect to replicate everything in the book of Acts; but we can gather some ideas. Here is how they recruited missionaries at the church in Antioch (Acts 13):
1. NO COLLEGES: The local church was the fishing pond. They did not go outside their local church to find missionaries to send or support. Today, we go to colleges and seminaries; but when God wanted missionaries, he went straight to the local church. That is ultimately where missionaries come from. While colleges and seminaries have a role in preparing a missionary, the source is the local church. What if each local church decided it was their responsibility to recruit missionaries?
2. NO NOVICES: The potential candidates are listed in Acts 13:1. Each of these men was already an established leader in the church who had demonstrated commitment and proven his ability to minister. There is sometimes an unspoken feeling that if you can’t do anything else then can become a missionary. But the church at Antioch sent some of their best men (Paul and Barnabas). What would happen if we gave teenagers a break as the primary source for missionary recruits and instead targeted the 30-50 year old leaders in our church who are already proven disciple makers?
3. NO VOLUNTEERS: The irony is that the Spirit of God did not speak to Paul and Barnabas. The text says that God was leading others to identify them as missionaries. We would have assumed that if Paul was supposed to be a missionary that God would give him a direct “call.” Instead, the Spirit of God said, “see those men over there… send them.” This seems strange since we are so individualistic; we don’t want anyone telling us what to do. Yet at Antioch, the Spirit told others in the church, not the missionaries. What if every church member was sensitive to God’s work in the lives of others to identify potential missionaries?
4. NO FOOD: There was obviously a seriousness about the missionary enterprise that is evidenced by prayer and fasting. They were serious enough to skip a meal or two. This was a big deal. Prayer seemed to be part of the culture of the church; and prayer was critical to the sending process. What would happen if a church corporately fasted and prayed for God to raise up and send missionaries from their church?
Just wonder what would happen if you tried some of these ideas from Antioch.
Paul Seger, Biblical Ministries Worldwide