7 Ways Your Local Church Can Send Missionaries
So your church wants to be involved in training and sending missionaries. You’ve caught a vision for why local churches should take an active role in sending forth laborers into the harvest.
But how do you go about doing that?
Here are seven specific action steps you can take:
1. Create a church environment that fosters spiritual growth.
First and foremost, sending missionaries begins with inspiring people with a love for the Lord and a passion for the gospel. Leaders can’t guarantee that church members will be led to serve as missionaries, but they can do their best to nurture spiritual growth.
As Ephesians 4 tells us, pastors and other spiritual offices are given, not to do the ministry on their own, but “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (4:12, ESV).
In a phone interview, Brian Peterson, the pastor for preaching and vision at Lebanon Baptist Church in Roswell, Georgia, put it this way: “Ultimately, the whole church is your interns, and you’re just trying to help them grow.”
If the Lord can use you to nurture growth, your church will have the kind of people who could serve as missionaries.
2. Plan corporate prayer.
When the Holy Spirit called Paul and Barnabas as missionaries, they and the rest of the church at Antioch were at prayer. In fact, Acts 13 records the Holy Spirit as speaking to the church collectively—not just to Paul and Barnabas.
This isn’t a coincidence. Throughout the Scriptures, the Lord frequently uses corporate prayer to make known His will (e.g., 2 Chron. 20:3-17, Acts 4:31, and 1 Tim. 4:14). Coming together in corporate prayer helps focus God’s people, not just on their individual needs, but on their needs as a community. And it’s when people begin to see beyond themselves that they begin to catch a broader vision for the work of the church.
3. Communicate regularly and consistently about the importance of missions.
In life, there are a thousand different things to attend to, and we get easily distracted. If you don’t deliberately ensure that you’re regularly communicating about the importance of missions, chances are that your people aren’t hearing it—or at least they’re not giving it the same priority that you’d like to see.
In his book Gaining by Losing, Pastor J. D. Greear remarks, “Repetition of the vision, in multiple mouths and multiple levels, is crucial to effecting change. . . . When you are sick of saying it, the leaders in your ministry have probably just heard it. When your leaders are sick of hearing it, then everyone else has heard it for the first time.”
To cut through the noise and distractions of daily life in our information-soaked world, you’re going to need to repeat yourself.
Doing so can go a long way toward imparting a vision for missions in your church.
4. Bring in missionary speakers.
One way to emphasize the importance of missions is to invite missionaries to speak at your church. When you bring in a missionary speaker, you not only highlight the importance of missions work, but you get someone else to do that for you.
In other words, your people are getting a second opinion.
Speaking on The Global Missions Podcast, global ministries pastor and author Steve Beirn commented that “just the fact that [a guest speaker is] modeling being sent is a powerful and healthy thing.”
Missionary speakers offer concrete examples of people who have surrendered to the call to missions. They also help calibrate overly idealistic notions of missionary service against flesh-and-blood realities. This makes it easier for church members to imagine themselves serving the Lord in this way—and that, in turn, makes it more likely that someone in your church will one day respond to the call.
5. Organize short-term mission trips.
Another effective way to make missions a much more realistic option for your people is by organizing mission trips. Getting people overseas gives them a taste for cross-cultural ministry and a much deeper understanding of the vastness of the need.
Most people who go on short-term mission trips, of course, don’t become full-time missionaries. But the experience can still translate into a passion for the need.
In Gaining by Losing, Greear writes, “People who see missions firsthand typically give more in missions offerings. . . . Money spent on short-term trips multiplies itself by creating greater willingness to give in the future among those who go.”
6. Target your missionary outreach toward a few specific regions.
The world has about 7.7 billion people spread across 195 different countries. Every one of these countries features a variety of ethnicities and cultural traditions.
The need can sometimes be so mind-boggling that, like the national debt, the human brain deals with it by refusing to think about it at all.
That’s why, if possible, you might consider targeting your missions budget toward a few specific regions. Concentrating in a few regions helps your people learn more and ultimately relate more to the people in those regions. Again, this makes missions more feasible, and makes it more likely that one of your number may seek to serve the Lord in one of these fields.
Brian Peterson’s church has decided to focus its mission efforts on two specific regions outside its immediate vicinity: Indonesia and the Salt Lake Valley in Utah. The church supports missionaries in both regions, and it has also conducted multiple mission trips to these regions with both pastors and lay people.
As Peterson put it, “We can’t be everywhere, so we could put a number of our eggs in the same basket and really help people get a picture of two places.”
7. Develop competencies among potential missionaries.
If people in your congregation are growing spiritually, are praying, and are exposed to the value and reality of missions, potential missionaries still need one basic but tremendously important thing: ministry skills.
Most successful missionaries develop their basic ministry skills before they are identified and sent out, not after. Effective missionaries, for example, arrive on the mission field already knowing how to communicate the gospel and mentor others. True, they are still confronted by the daunting task of language acquisition and cultural assimilation, but they are already mature in the ministry.
This is why Steve Beirn emphasized that “the church needs to focus on competencies”—that is, specific skill sets necessary for executing the work of ministry. On The Global Missions Podcast, Beirn identified four fundamental components for building missions competency: “One is assessment—developing a strong sense of self awareness. A second is spiritual growth . . . Thirdly, ministry experience, helping them get their feet wet . . . And then finally, mentoring.”
When your church intentionally works to build competency in maturing Christians, you’re in a much better position to evaluate whether someone in your church can or should pursue missionary service. You may even be in a place where the Holy Spirit can use you to be part of His call.
If you have caught a vision for raising up the next generation of missionaries in your church, it’s not enough to simply desire that it happen. You’ve got to take specific action steps to follow the Lord in obedience.
By (1) creating a church environment that fosters spiritual growth, (2) planning corporate prayer, (3) communicating regularly and consistently about the importance of missions, (4) bringing in missionary speakers, (5) organizing short-term mission trips, (6) targeting your missionary outreach toward a few specific regions, and (7) developing competencies among potential missionaries, you can, with the Lord’s help, put your church in a position to start sending.
Wherever God may have placed you, your church can be the next Antioch.