Raising Up Missionaries — Part 4
We continue to say that the Great Commission is monumental. It is monumental in its calling, in its equipping, and in its function. If that is truly the case, then our calling to ensure the continuity of the Great Commission is of the utmost seriousness. With that seriousness comes an ongoing question: Where are our next missionaries going to come from?
For several articles now, we have been addressing this question and in doing so making the connection between discipleship within the church to sending out disciple-makers from the church. Paul gives confidence to believers that the Lord has already raised up missionaries (see part one) and has exemplified this in his own relationship with Onesimus. Through his relationship, Paul disciples Onesimus, acting as a spiritual father, a pastor, and a mentor (see parts two and three). However, Paul’s intentional discipleship demands a response. He has not discipled for the purpose of head knowledge, but for the application of a heart attitude. Thus, the discipleship process is completed when Onesimus becomes the laborer on behalf of the Lord.
Function of a Laborer
Therefore, note finally in verse 13, the function of a laborer. Having proven himself useful, it is clear that Onesimus has already been serving Paul. As a result, Paul desires for Onesimus to continue, but understands that reconciliation with Philemon takes the priority. The point is this: how does one learn? By doing, which is exactly what Onesimus was doing.
Under the direction of Paul and his ministry, Onesimus was already serving to some degree. As we teach, instruct, exhort, and disciple believers in our churches to be missionaries, we must put them to work. The discipline of doing ministry is cultivated in the church. A person learns how to conduct himself or herself on the field by learning how to do it first in the church.
Lessons for the Present
The training of missionaries requires and results from an intentional discipleship that is characterized by the following:
- The love and labor of a father.
- The equipping and exhortation of a pastor.
- The instruction and investment of a mentor.
- The servitude and service of a laborer.
These four concepts are not merely what we do in building up missionaries. They are part of how we build up the body of Christ. If God has been faithful in sending the missionaries, then we should be faithful in equipping the missionaries.
Where do we find missionaries and how are we going to train them? We must look outside of the seminaries and instead look inside the churches. Missions training and service begins in the church. Which means if we are going to raise up the next generation of missionaries, our churches must be very intentional in identifying, teaching, and training up missionaries. It seems overwhelming. We get fearful in our churches, often asking the question, “I barely have enough people to keep our current programs running. How am I ever going to train missionaries?” The answer is quite simple. That answer is not another program, it is by functioning as a church according to the Bible’s standards and definitions. If we are fulfilling our role there, we fulfill our role to train up the next missionaries (and pastors, elders, etc.). In this way we are fulfilling our role in making disciples and aren’t merely raising up the next generation of church leaders . . . we are raising up the next generation of Christians.