by Jeff Jackson, Shepherd’s Staff Missions Facilitators
The statistics seem overwhelming when reviewing the global status of evangelical Christianity. While work is continuing among the unreached, thousands of people groups have not heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a culturally relevant way. So what should be the response of the local church in America to this challenge before us? Should the local church simply send money? After all, the Lord has blessed us with an abundance of financial resources to apply toward completing the Great Commission. Or maybe the church in America should rely on the steadily increasing evangelical missionary force from South America, Asia, and Africa to complete the task. Wouldn’t this approach be more effective since these missionaries could adapt more readily to the various cultures in which they would be serving, unlike we spoiled Americans? The issues above have been topics of discussion for many church leaders and for those of us interested in moving forward toward the goal of completing the Great Commission in our lifetimes.
Former missionary and author, Robertson McQuilkin, covers them very effectively in his article, “Should We Stop Sending Missionaries”. In his article McQuilkin raises important points and concerns about churches’ participation in missions simply by sending money, and not their sons and daughters; however the point that resonates most, and I believe is most applicable to the American church, is the following:
“It’s not just that North American missionaries are still needed to complete the task, however; the North American church needs to send its own for the sake of itself, its own spiritual health. The sin of disobedience to the heavenly vision can’t be atoned for with dollars, and the spiritual loss is highly visible in a self-centered, materialistically-minded people. The original mandate has never been rescinded; the Pauline role of pioneering is still the primary mission of the church toward the world. Biblically, no church anywhere can claim exemption from the mandate until every person has heard with understanding the way to life in Christ and a church has been established in every community.” The fact is that many American church leaders long for their churches to send missionaries to the foreign field, particularly those who have been exposed to world missions prior to their current church assignments. In many instances God has given these leaders a strategic vision for reaching the unreached. Their challenge is to put the vision in motion while igniting a passion for foreign missions in their churches, which can be extremely difficult in our American church culture of today. That said, the mission of the American church is missions and the church’s model for missions is the incarnational Christ. So the answer to the question of whether the American church should continue to send missionaries is an unequivocal yes! Yet, in a practical sense, effectively mobilizing a church toward missions, with the goal of ultimately sending missionaries to the ends of the earth, requires considerable time and resources that are not sometimes available as part of a church staff. Such steps in the process may include: 1. Seeking God’s confirmation of a missions vision (focus) for the church 2. Arranging and leading short term trips to expose church members to cross-cultural ministry 3. Developing a written policy on how the church will engage in missions and what steps must be taken by prospective missionaries in order for them to be sent from the church 4. Equipping long term missionaries for cross-cultural ministry 5. Equipping church members as senders 6. Putting in place a process for handling missionary support funds
To help with the current challenges sometimes faced by American churches, God has placed strategic resources at the disposal of churches to assist each church in fulfilling the specific missions vision God has given it. At Shepherd’s Staff, we believe that the local church is the primary vehicle through which God has chosen to make disciples of all nations, with the primary role of the local church to send missionaries into the harvest.