The Congregation As Missionary Recruiter
Note: This is the last of seven articles on becoming a sending church that started with “Cancel the Missions Program”.
A third “domino pusher” is the people in the church. The entire congregation can get involved. There is a tendency to view the “call” into ministry as a solo act. Our independent spirit views going into ministry as something that we decide for ourselves. The congregation however could have a large part to play in identifying future missionaries.
First of all, every believer needs to view themselves as a recruiter. Jesus gave one strategy for getting more missionaries when He said: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2). That means every Christian of any age or role in the church can get involved in recruiting missionaries. It starts with prayer.
Mission agencies have “representatives” and full time “recruiters” but you don’t need to be a Mission Rep to get involved in recruiting. Imagine what might take place if everyone in your church was praying every day that God would raise up workers. We are merely thrashing around if the process is not saturated by prayer.
Secondly, the New Testament indicates that identifying missionaries was a group activity. Acts 13 records the launching of Paul and Barnabas to the mission field. While we recognize that Acts is a book of transition and we are careful to distinguish between sections that are prescriptive and descriptive, this church at least gives us an example of what could be done.
Acts 13:1-3 tells the story. “Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”
A fascinating part of this story is that the Holy Spirit was not speaking to Paul and Barnabas. It would seem logical that the missionaries should be the ones “hearing” the call. The text doesn’t identify who the Spirit is speaking to but we know it wasn’t the future missionaries. Perhaps it was the leadership of the church listed in verse one or maybe it was the entire congregation but one thing is clear, the Spirit was not communicating to the ones who were supposed to go. Apparently others got involved in discerning direction for future missionaries.
This doesn’t fit well with our independent spirit. We don’t really want someone else telling us what to do and where to go. Since America is not a collectivist culture, we may struggle with this idea. This is not to suggest that people should be hearing voices or that we should become a missionary simply because someone claims to have heard from God. We could at least assume it would be healthy to have other people speaking into our lives. We could surely accept that if I feel “called” to the mission field that the rest of the congregation would affirm that. At a minimum we would condone the idea that the leadership of the church must affirm that a person is qualified and that God seems to have His hand on this individual. This happened with Timothy (2 Timothy 1:6) and Paul’s team members were identified by the church from which they came (Acts 20:4). The local church has some part to play in this process.
What might happen if everyone in the church was first of all praying daily and fervently that God would raise up missionaries from their midst? It seems obvious that there would be heightened sensitivity to the work of God in other people’s lives. Everyone would be trying to determine who should be the next missionary. It is powerful to have the encouragement and affirmation of others as a person steps into international ministry. If the entire church was proactive in recruiting, it might just result in more recruits.
A church that is going to send missionaries will have the entire congregation engaged in the process. We have typically asked everyone to give money but their involvement could be so much more. A sending church will seek the participation of every member in the recruiting process.
This seven part series of articles has argued that the local church should have a single mission and be ruthless in aligning every activity and dollar around that mission. Doing this will normally require some changes that will be uncomfortable and possibly costly but ultimately, unless the family, the pastor and the congregation are pushing on the first domino, the rest of the line of dominos will not fall. “
Supporting churches” are wonderful, but they should also aspire to become a “sending church.” They will make that move when they cancel the missions program.