Raising Up Missionaries: A New Approach — Part 1
This is the first of a four part series on raising up missionaries within the local church.
The Great Commission is monumental. It is a monumental in its calling, in its equipping, and in its function. Yet, we are in grave danger of converting the Great Commission into the Great Omission and so this article is not written out of practicality but necessity. As pastors, churches, and organizations seek to reemphasize it, they are left with a continuing question: “Where are our next missionaries going to come from?”
Such a question is highlighted as principal recruiting grounds for missionaries, Bible colleges and institutes, are closing at a rapid pace. Pastors, too, find themselves frustrated by the increasing demands upon their time that leave them unable to commit to raising up the next generation of missionaries. So, the question continues, “Where will we find the forthcoming missionaries?”
The answer to that question though, is not as complicated as we make it. In fact, given what we know about God’s revealed will through his word, the answer is obvious, but it requires we revise our approach. Therefore, I want to take the next several articles to answer this question by examining some valuables lessons from the insights of Scripture.
Lessons from the Past
In Romans 10:15, Paul writes, “And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” Quoting Isaiah 52:7 Paul draws from an Old Testament reading to depict a New Testament concept. While Isaiah was referring to the proclamation of Israel having been redeemed and returned to its homeland, Paul expands it as a proclamation of the redemption of people returning to their homeland through the gospel message. Underscored within this passage is the need for hearers to respond to the gospel message and the need for workers to proclaim the gospel message. But where are those workers?
Jesus decried that the laborers are few (Matthew 9:37; Luke 10:2). That’s a simple truth we always need more workers. This is why Paul’s words in Romans 10:15 are a comforting thought. In his rhetorical line of questioning beginning in verse 14, Paul is not calling churches, seminaries, or missions groups to send out more missionaries. Instead, he implies that the missionaries have already been sent by God through the work of Christ (cf. Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:14-16; Acts 1:8).
If God has already sent out the missionaries, then why do the numbers seem so dismal? Why are we having a harder time finding those workers? Because a self-oriented church body will not create an outward-oriented church work. As theology, teachings, and training have become oriented to serving self, the sufficiency, sacrifice, and service have also become oriented towards serving self. Pulpits have become a center for compromise from the truth and have diminished the desire for commitment to the truth. Which means that if we compromise the Word of God, we also compromise the commission of God. Ultimately this leads congregations to the conclusion that if we do not need to commit to the Word, we also do not need to commit to the commission of God. What then, must the church do to raise up more missionaries?
Ultimately it is God who will call, equip, and sustain missionaries. Yet, we have a profound privilege of being part of that process. It is then, the responsibility of the church body (not just the pastor) to cultivate the mandate, meaning, motivation, and message of that commission. It is a serious responsibility that is undertaken not only in our corporate time with the body of Christ, but also in our individual time with brothers and sisters in Christ.
A call to missions does not begin on a short-term missions trip. A call to missions does not begin at Bible College or seminary. A call to missions begins in the church. While it is true that one may recognizethe call to missions on a short-term trip or perhaps while away at seminary, it is also true that the call begins in the church. And so, it is in the church that we must begin training missionaries.
This series will continue next with an examination of Philemon and some lessons to be learned there. So please join me again for the continuation of raising up our next generation of missionaries.